Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Interview wrap-up: Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy, Part 3

Here at WWBT, I've decided to embrace the terms "outsider narrative" and "insider narrative," to offer some context on books grounded in specific cultures. I use them without suggesting that one is better than the other, but with the recognition that they are different, and that we need many stories about a single place or people. Each kind of story poses its own challenges, and both challenge readers of all cultures to cross boundaries of attitude and assumption. When I can, I'll be talking to the writers of both outsider and insider books for young readers. E.g., see my interview with Monika Schroder on Saraswati's Way. For an insider viewpoint, watch for my conversation with Sheela Chari on her delightful forthcoming middle grade novel, Vanished.

Here's the final part of my interview with Trent Reedy, VCFA alum, whose novel, Words in the Dust came from his experiences as a soldier in Afghanistan.

[Uma] What's the role that compassion plays in this story--your own, in being driven to write it, as well as in your fictional character's life as she grows and embraces change?

[Trent] I think in some way all stories come from compassion, as writers must have some degree of sympathy for their characters so that they can understand why their characters behave as they do. My war experience taught me a lot about compassion. It certainly gave me a great appreciation for the need for more understanding just about everywhere in the world, but certainly in Afghanistan.

Zulaikha has a lot to learn during the summer in which the events of Words in the Dust take place. She has placed a lot of importance in what I call “The Afghan Fairytale,” the idea that marrying the right man and having lots of children is the ideal existence, the most that can be hoped for. This is especially difficult for her because with a cleft lip, her marriage prospects are dim. A lot changes for her through the course of the novel, but without giving too much away, I think one of the most important changes is her increased understanding for different members of her family.

[Uma] Words in the Dust speaks to a society in transition, and a girl with hopes and dreams that are aligned with her place and time. What choices did you make about the positioning of Afghan characters in the book that prevent it from becoming just another "rescue narrative"?

[Trent] When I began writing Words in the Dust I was determined to write a novel without any bias. I didn’t want a story that condemned U.S. and coalition military forces in Afghanistan. I certainly didn’t want to write a book in which the American soldiers were portrayed as blameless saints who enter Zulaikha’s village, teach the Afghan people American ways, and generally save the day. I tried to avoid judgment of Afghan culture.

The problem I encountered in trying to avoid bias is that real people are always biased. People have opinions, and so I couldn’t have my characters running around agreeing with each other spouting platitudes such as, “This is my culture. This is the way I like things to be.” That would take away most of the conflict, robbing the novel of a story.
I’ve heard people engaged in the cultural authenticity debate say that strong female characters who seek out their own destinies aren’t realistic in certain cultural settings. This assumption troubles me in that it implies that every member of a given group is exactly the same. I think most people would agree that no matter how strong the cultural influences, there will still be plenty of differences within any population. So while some Afghan women might be more passive and have little interest in education, there are many who are very active or who want to be more active in choosing to pursue opportunities. This latter group helped me realize that characters like Zulaikha’s mother and Meena are possible.

While I believe that American troops and their coalition allies are helping the situation in Afghanistan, I knew that any solutions in this novel must come from Zulaikha. Thus, even though the Americans offer her surgery for her cleft lip, that alone does not make everything better. The money from American construction contracts, while helping to improve the local economy in the village of An Daral, also brings problems. In earlier drafts, the American Captain Mindy offers to pay for Zulaikha’s school. This was later revised, making that potential solution come from Meena instead. Zulaikha’s ultimate decision is entirely her own, a surprise to some people, as it was to me, but I hope that it is one that strikes true to the person Zulaikha is. I wish her the best.

[Uma] Thank you, Trent. Any last thoughts?

[Trent] Thank you, Uma, for interviewing me for your blog. I’m grateful to have the chance to talk about Words in the Dust here. It’s a special honor for me since your wonderful novel Naming Maya was one of the books I studied as I was learning how to portray different countries and cultures in a novel meant primarily for an American readership. I hope to talk to you someday back at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

[Uma] I look forward to that as well, and I'm very glad that my book played a part in your journey.

Watch the book trailer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interview follow-up: Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy, Part 2

Here's Part 2 of a three-part interview with Trent Reedy, VCFA graduate and author of Words in the Dust.

[Uma] You use a sprinkling of Dari words in the book, but you use them without italics and you make the meanings clear in context. This makes the narrative feel more surely grounded. There isn't a sense of the narrator stepping out of her story to explain or translate. Can you talk about those writing choices? Why and how did you come to make them?

My strategy with the inclusion of some Dari words is a clue to a little of my personal bias. For the most part, I tried to limit the inclusion of Dari to those words such as “toshak” or “rubab,” that lacked an accurate English translation. However, I could have just as easily written “good bye” when Zulaikha said “khuda hafiz.” I could have written “thank you” when she said “tashakor.” I wanted to keep those words and a few others in Dari because my fellow soldiers and I used them so often during our time in Afghanistan.

I did my best to provide clues to the meanings of these words within the context of the story without having a character stop and explain what the words meant. The good people at Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic were kind enough to allow the inclusion of a glossary to offer more help.

My editor and I then entered into discussions about italicizing those words that would likely be foreign to most readers. In the end, we simply decided to use italics for Dari words only when they were spoken by English speakers, and for English words when spoken by Dari speakers. In this way, the use of italics could signify the words being spoken with heavy accents.

[Uma] That reminds me of the convention An Na used to convey foreignness in A Step From Heaven, with quotation marks reserved for the English speakers whom Young Ju has to work hard to understand.

This novel was your creative thesis at VCFA, right? So you had to learn to write a novel, the craft of it, even while you were figuring out how to write this novel. What stands out in your memory? Any turning points? What were some big realizations or understandings you took away from working on this project with successive advisors?

[Trent] Words in the Dust was indeed my creative thesis at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I had a lot of doubts about being able to write it. During my first residency at VCFA, I was visiting Katherine Paterson. I asked her if she thought I could possibly write a book like this. She said that she thought I should try.

When seeking out an advisor to work with that first semester, I talked to Rita Williams-Garcia. She has written novels dealing with a wide array of complicated topics. I thought if she was that fearless, she might be willing to try to help a guy like me write a novel about an Afghan girl. I was blessed to get to work with her while I drafted the novel in my first semester. She was kind enough to let me stumble through, gently pointing out problems when I began to stray too far from salvageable material.

I worked with Jane Kurtz and David Gifaldi for my next two semesters, struggling to improve my writing while I worked on some other projects.

In my final semester I worked with Margaret Bechard. She’s a genius for asking all the right questions, and for helping me gain a better understanding of what could really be accomplished in revision.

The most important (and embarrassing) example comes from early drafts, when the character of Meena lived in a cave inside the Citadel wall. One day Margaret asked, “Why does she have to live in a cave?” I tried to explain the circumstances that had brought this woman to this desperate situation. Margaret struggled to make me understand that as the writer, I could simply change the story so that the woman lived in the back of her sewing shop. The ability to make this sort of change may seem obvious, but at the time, it felt like a cheat. If I could change that so arbitrarily, what else in the story could be completely altered, and how did I know if the choices I had made were the right ones?

While working on a new novel manuscript with my editor Cheryl Klein we came upon another of these seemingly arbitrary radical revision ideas. I was happily surprised with this change that solved a lot of problems with the story, but felt that I might have found it much earlier if I’d only been more understanding of what I now call the “Bechard Factor,” the idea that a writer needn’t stick to the original order of events or circumstances in a story, that during revision, the writer can change the entire story world at any time.

Here's a two part interview in which Trent talks to his editor Cheryl Klein:

Tomorrow, the role of compassion and why Words in the Dust is not just another "rescue narrative." Thanks, Trent.

Monday, June 27, 2011

ChLA 2011

Thank you to the organizers of the 2011 Children's Literature Association conference held at Hollins University June 23-25. What a packed, busy, stimulating three days!

The highlights for me:
Finally, because I promised, here is the list of books I referenced in my Diversity Panel paper, No Joke! How Humor Subverts and Interrogates the Imperative of Assimilation in Middle Grade Novels

Alba, Richard and Victor Nee. “Rethinking Assimilation Theory for a New Era of Immigration.” International Migration Review. 31.4 (1997): 826-74. JSTOR. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.

Alvarez, Julia. How Tia Lola Came to Visit Stay. New York: Knopf, 2001. Print.

Berger, Peter L. Redeeming laughter: The comic dimension of human experience. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1997. Print.

Krishnaswami, Uma. The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. Illus. Abigail Halpin. New York: Atheneum, 2011. Print.

Look, Lenore. Ruby Lu, Brave and True. Illus. Anne Wilsdorf. New York: Anne Schwartz/Atheneum, 2004. Print.

--. Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything. Illus. Anne Wilsdorf. New York: Atheneum, 2006. Print.

Leitich Smith, Cynthia. “Multicultural Humor, Seriously.” Cynsations, 27 July 2004. Web. 14 May 2011. <

Leitich Smith, Greg. Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo. New York: Little, Brown, 2003. Print.

Pinkwater, Daniel. The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print.

Wong, Janet. Minn and Jake. Illus. Geneviève Côté. New York: Frances Foster/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2003.

--. Minn and Jake’s Almost Terrible Summer. Illus. Geneviève Côté. New York: Frances Foster/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008.

Pictures to come.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview Wednesday: Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy, Part 1

Please welcome writer and VCFA graduate Trent Reedy to Writing with a Broken Tusk. Starting today, over the next week, I'll be posting Trent's replies to questions about his novel set in Afghanistan, Words in the Dust.

The series of interviews will explore the impulse to write, the challenges of writing across cultural and geographic borders, and more.

Note that Kidlitosphere Interview Wednesday is being hosted this week at Just Deb...reading and writing for children and teens

[Uma] It's very hard to pull off an "outsider" narrative, and you chose first person, which is also in itself a difficult and constraining viewpoint. Talk about the challenges of writing across gender, first of all, while simultaneously writing across cultural lines. What cautions or tips would you offer to writers who may feel drawn to write in this way?

[Trent] Several elements in Words in the Dust are inspired by events I experienced during my year in Afghanistan with the Iowa Army National Guard. In particular, the story of Zulaikha’s reconstructive surgery is inspired by a girl with a cleft lip that my fellow soldiers and I were able to help in Afghanistan. I made a promise to tell the story of that girl. Thus, I began the process of writing this novel with a promise and not much else. To say that I chose to write Words in the Dust in first person is a bit of a distortion. When I began drafting the novel, I didn’t have the experience to make an effective conscious decision about which perspective would best serve the story. In other words, I do not think there was a particular moment when I decided that first person was the best. I simply started writing.

I knew I wanted Words in the Dust to be Zulaikha’s story and not that of American soldiers. “Zooming out” into third person might have given me more freedom to tell the story in different ways, but I think that then the focus might have been drawn too far away from Zulaikha’s struggle. For example, in third person, I might have included the experiences and reactions of the American soldiers to Zulaikha’s surgery while she was still unconscious, but that inclusion would shift the focus and sympathy toward the soldiers. We would know that Captain Mindy loves Zulaikha. We would know that Corporal Andrews will spend the rest of his life wondering if Zulaikha is going to be okay and weeping for the memory of bad things he saw. It would make Words in the Dust more of a story about American soldiers and I wanted the novel to reflect my belief that the Afghan people are at the heart of the struggle for peace, hope, and freedom in Afghanistan.

By writing Words in the Dust in first person, I could limit information and understanding, building distrust between the Afghans and Americans. I imagine that my fellow soldiers and I might have scared that Afghan girl when we came to her little village with all our weapons, looking for her. How could she have possibly imagined that we were on a mission to help her? I wanted to include that sense of confusion and fear in Words in the Dust, and that might have been diminished with a broader perspective.

[Uma] And writing in a girl's voice? Talk about that.

[Trent] People have asked me how I wrote a girl’s voice. I wish I had a good answer for this. I don’t really know how I did it. I don’t remember any specific changes that I made in order to make Zulaikha seem more like a girl. Maybe I’m just weird.

Maybe boys and girls aren’t as different as some in the children’s literature community would have us believe. It seems to me that the struggle to capture a character’s voice is about understanding who that character is as a person, regardless of gender. Writing from the perspective of an Afghan girl required some understanding of gender roles in Afghanistan, but beyond that, Zulaikha almost seemed to want to tell her own story.

Writing across cultures was more of a challenge than writing across genders. During my year in Afghanistan, I was blessed with the opportunity to live for some time in an Afghan house. I had the chance to eat Afghan food and to interact with hundreds of Afghans. And yet, Afghans are very private people, living with their families in their compounds behind their walls. I compensated for the gaps in my knowledge with a lot of research.
I’m reluctant to offer advice for those who are considering writing across cultural lines. Too often the debate surrounding this issue involves some writers telling other writers what they should or should not do. I would only ask other “outsiders” to seriously think about the many and complicated implications of what they are considering.
I am very aware of the potential problems that might arise when people write across cultural lines. These problems are magnified when members of a wealthier or arguably more privileged culture write stories about characters from cultures in which the people are typically less wealthy. In an American book market this usually translates to white people writing about races or cultures that are minorities in the United States. At their very worst, such stories can be horribly inaccurate racist propaganda. Yet, even among those writers from the “privileged” culture who are doing their very best to be kind, understanding, and “culturally authentic” in writing about their subject culture, there is potential for myriad unintentional problems.

I think perhaps the biggest problem is that even when a white writer crafts a “culturally authentic” novel (if “cultural authenticity” is truly possible) he is still, in a sense, stealing stories from his subject culture. If his subject is a great deal less wealthy than he is, it could be argued that the writer is profiting from the poverty of others.

I can only hope that my novel might help more people understand what is really at stake in the struggle in Afghanistan. I am also donating a portion of my royalties from Words in the Dust to an organization called Women for Afghan Women, a group that has been working for ten years to help improve educational and vocational opportunities for women and girls in Afghanistan.

I would like nothing better than for the real Afghan girl with the cleft lip to write her own story. However, by many estimates the illiteracy rate for Afghan women is above 80%. That situation may be gradually improving, but too many Afghan girls are simply unable to get their stories out. In spite of this, or perhaps even because of it, I believe it is very important for more stories about Afghanistan to be told, as a greater understanding may help foster peace.
The last time I saw that girl in Afghanistan, she was riding off of our base in the back of a truck. She could not hear me or understand my words, but I promised her that I would do all that I could to tell her story. It was an important story that deserved to be told, and I felt that if I didn’t write it, nobody would. In the army we keep promises. We simply have to. So as I faced doubts about whether or not it was morally right for a guy like me to write a story about an Afghan girl like Zulaikha, while I struggled with the cultural details and endless revision, while I later dealt with rejection letters from agents and editors, I could continue working to make this book a reality, knowing that I simply had to keep my promise to a certain Afghan girl. 

Trent's editor Cheryl Klein writes about the book: "I believe passionately that for those who do find the book and allow themselves to be open to it, Words in the Dust is a book they’ll love, and a book that can change hearts and minds in the very best way possible: forming a connection with someone different from you by hearing their story."

I'll be away for a few days, speaking at the Children's Literature Association conference, but we'll be back next week with more conversation about Words in the Dust.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 22: Reading Like a Traveler, The Brain Lair

And so we come to the final day of this 22-day marathon blog tour for The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. It fits nicely with the PaperTigers Reading the World challenge.

The Grand Plan begins in Takoma Park, Maryland, a small, quirky community with its own unique flavor and sense of architecture and art and culture. It straddles the District line, so like everything in the book, even the place that Dini and Maddie call home is a fusion all its own.

This is India?
So is the place Dini goes to in India. Swapnagiri. Means Dream Mountain. It's a fictional place but it's based on several real small towns in the Nilgiris. Nil=Blue. Giri=Mountain or Mountains. Blue Mountains.

Where's the Taj Mahal?

Hey, I came to see palaces!
 Today at The Brain Lair, last thoughts on the mindsets we bring to reading books set in particular places with particular cultural contexts. If they're unfamiliar to us, should we read them like tourists? Or travelers? Inspired by this NPR interview with Pico Iyer and Paul Theroux on making travel meaningful.

Thank you to all the bloggers who took part in this tour. Permanent links to all the blog stops on The Grand Plan BlogTour will be up here in a few days.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 21: The Brain Lair

KB is a middle school librarian who reviews middle grade and YA books, and blogs at The Brain Lair. I was hooked on her site the moment I found out that "The Brain Lair" is an anagram for "librarian."

Today, she posts the final review on this blog tour. Snippet:
Krishnaswami's multicultural tale of friendship and support is packed with humor and students, aged 9 and up, will identify with Dini's movie obsession and want to sign up for their own bollywood dance camp.  I only wish Mera Jeeran, Tera Jeeran (my life your life) was a real movie!
We take this final blog tour weekend off (to breathe, dance, plan, whatever) and conclude with a guest post, also on The Brain Lair. If you heard the Pico Iyer/Paul Theroux interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation, you'll see what sparked this post, in which I'll leap from real travel to the armchair variety.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 20: Le Loop

On Day 20 of this blog tour, I'm talking to Meena Vathyam at Le Loop, an online magazine of South Asian arts, culture, and community worldwide. Audience, the writing journey, the journeys of characters and more.

And on Darcy Pattison's Fiction Notes, you will find three videos that have appeared elsewhere on this blog tour, including the one that acknowledges my debt to Darcy's shrunken manuscript technique.

Tomorrow, a review of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything on The Brain Lair. We'll conclude the tour on Monday, June 20 with a guest post on The Brain Lair, on the ins and outs of reading across culture and geography: How to Read Like a Traveler and Not a Tourist.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 19: Generation Ginger

Generation Ginger is a brand new site providing a fresh perspective on the evolution of Indian culture in America. Why ginger? Ritu Nanos, creator of the site, says, "Generation Ginger is a generation growing out from its roots...We are molding what it means to be Indian American." Thank you, Ritu, for hosting today's stop of The Grand Plan book tour. Audio recording included of me reading the first few pages of the book.

Day 20: Meena Vathyam posting all the way from Shanghai on Le-Loop.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 18: Mitali's Fire Escape

Today I'm thrilled to visit with dazzling, talented, prolific, award-winning writer Mitali Perkins. I'm honored to call Mitali my colleague and friend. I like to think that our books dance together in similar spaces between cultures. Day 18 of The Grand Plan blog tour takes us to Mitali's Fire Escape.

Next, Day 19 at Generation Ginger.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 17: Jacket Knack and Scribbling, Still...

Today the Grand Blog tour stops at Jacket Knack.

 Look for more on the cover art of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything including a note on the tangled arrows on the back jacket.

My student Katia Novet Saint-Lot is now in Bangladesh and blogging again. She's had Blogger issues (who hasn't had Blogger issues, lately?) but look! Here at Scribbling, Still..., we find The Grand Plan on Katia's global bookshelf.

More, more, more. A Weekend Book Review on the PaperTigers blog. Snippet: Krishnaswami’s brilliant, multilayered book will delight her readers. Younger ones will love the story for itself, while older girls will also appreciate her nuanced message, plot dissection, and linguistic in-jokes.

Finally, another grand review from the BookPeople Kids blog. Snippet: ...this book is fun, sweet, and compelling.  The characters are funny and very real, especially Dini’s desire to orchestrate her life just like a movie. Austin book-lovers will understand why my idea of heaven is BookPeople!

Tomorrow, Day 18, we get to look at the world from Mitali's Fire Escape. Congratulations to Mitali on her recent ABA awards. Yes, that's in the plural! Go, Mitali!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 16: Coincidence and Metafiction at The Pirate Tree

The Pirate Tree is a collective of children's and young adult writers interested in children's literature and social justice issues.

Now I realize that on the face of it Dini and Maddie and Dolly may not seem to be aware of, much less interested in, social justice. But wait a movie minute! There is Sampy, the watchman who longs to learn to read, and Dini, you know, steps right up with a plan! Dini is nothing if not large-hearted, and did you think that the Everything in the title was just there for a joke or what? More on coincidence, metafiction, and the joys of diversity today at The Pirate Tree.

We...see how knowing Dini and being immersed in her culture has enriched Maddie’s life. This is a major benefit of diversity—by getting to know people from other places and cultures, we enjoy all of the wisdom and creativity that people the world over have to offer.
Take a breath. We're off for the weekend, back Monday for the final week of The Grand Plan Blog Tour, starting with Jacket Knack, where the conversation is all about book jackets.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 15: Minor Characters and Voices in Dialogue at Write Now

Like many of my students, Paula Kay McLaughlin has kept in touch with me since she took my classes. As part of my teaching in those classes, when students posted work in progress, I often did as well. So Paula read some of the scenes in The Grand Plan to Fix Everything when, let's just say, they were a bit ragged around the edges. Today on Write Now, she asks me about minor characters in the book, and voices in dialogue. The post includes a draft of a passage that's not in the book and a picture of my running character notes/visual plotline.
Here's another exercise I discovered by adapting what Darcy Pattison calls a shrunken manuscript. Tip: it helps to be in that lovely category of middle age where if you stand up and place material on the floor it is possible to read it but if you hold it under your nose it's all a big blur.
Tomorrow, Day 16 of this blog tour, The Pirate Tree.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 14: Best Friends Day at The Drift Record

Today, June 8, is Best Friends Day! I wouldn't have known if Julie Larios hadn't pointed it out.

If you don't know Julie's blog, you're in for a treat. Julie's a poet, a master of the playful and whimsical, a juggler of words and riddles and imagery and shape. In a starred review, Booklist says of her Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary, From "a green frog / on a green lily pad" to a "gray mama goose" and her "gold baby," the animals featured in these well-crafted poems flash with color and emotion. Julie can extract the odd from the ordinary, the elegant from the elusive. She's one of those consummate wonderers who can open doors to the varied, shifting forms of words.

I'm so lucky! I get to chat over a cuppa at Julie's virtual kitchen table today, at The Drift Record. I just wish I could strike "virtual" out and make it all real.

More on the real and the imagined, tomorrow on Write Now.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 13: YA Book Nerd

YA Book Nerd is Jennifer Rummel, a teen librarian who blogs about pop culture, YA books, and mysteries. Here's a nice review of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything in one of her Tween Tuesday posts.

Snippet: A very cute tween read. It fits into the summer reading program's theme this year. I loved the different perspectives....

Also a guest post: Why Bollywood? Enter for book and bling giveaways before the end of June.

And because some people have been asking me this question: Is there a recipe for those curry puffs? The answer is yes. Right here in this pdf file: Downloadable Activity Kit. Have I tested the recipe? Yes, I have. It works. Really. Chocolate and all. 

Next up, a virtual kitchen table conversation with Julie Larios on The Drift Record.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 12: From the Mixed-up Files of Middle-Grade Authors

From the Mixed-up Files of Middle-Grade Authors is a wonderfully energetic community of middle-grade writers and bloggers. They're the same people who held a spring drawing for Skype visits and will hold three more before the year is out.

Today, I'm talking to Sheela Chari about balancing serious and funny, form and content, teaching and writing, and the role of coincidence. Watch for Sheela's new middle grade novel, Vanished, due out this August from Hyperion.

Next, guest post and review on YA Book Nerd.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Grand Plan Blog Tour, Day 10: Review at Brown Paper

Canadian writer Niranjana Iyer posts about Dini and Dolly and Co on her eclectic writing and books blog, Brown Paper. Scroll through the blog for more children's and YA material, romantic suspense, Canadian books with a Japanese connection, and more.

And oh my! What a funny, energetic, just plain grand not-a-review review Niranjana (don't call her "Niru") has written of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything! It includes The Grand List of Everything Specially Indian about the book, and a thumbs-up to Abigail Halpin on that very funny image of Dolly dancing in dreamland.

Also up this morning, on the special-access blog Engage/Teacher to Teacher, for members of the International Reading Association, an interview with Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Yes, you will need to be an IRA member to access this blog.

And finally--oh, I can hardly stand it!--another grand review on Shelf Elf, to be followed tomorrow by a guest post on the place of dreams and dreaming in this story.