Monday, July 30, 2012

Tu Books/Lee & Low: First New Visions Award for Writers

With their announcement of the New Visions Award, I'm delighted to see Tu Books take the lead in calling for more genre fiction by writers of color for middle grade and YA audiences. It seems to me that if writers of color venture into this terrain then characters in these genres will become more diverse, more nuanced, more blended, more multifaceted, more real.

The New Visions Award will be given for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. Authors who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published are eligible.

Manuscripts will be accepted through October 30, 2012. Eligibility and submissions guidelines here

The New Visions Award was established to help more authors of color break into publishing and begin long, successful careers, while also bringing more diverse stories to speculative fiction.
Don't you love the ring of that? Long, successful careers? Writing books with cultural grounding, slant, perspective, voice, heft? In genres young readers love?

The award is modeled after Lee & Low's successful New Voices Award, which was established in 2000 and is given annually to a picture book written by an unpublished author of color. Since it was started, the New Voices Award has led to the publication of outstanding picture books such as Bird by Zetta Elliott and The Blue Roses by Linda Boyden.

I'm anxious to see what works turn up on the editors' desk in response to this call for submissions. Over the years,
the editors and publishers at Lee & Low, and now Tu, have chosen to place themselves in an important space in the ongoing conversation on culture and literature for young readers.

Read more from Stacy Whitman of Tu Books: Is Multicultural the Right Word?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Fairies! A True Story by Shirley Raye Redmond

In 1917, when photography must still have seemed magical to people, a couple of girls in England played with the notion of truth and illusion. Cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright claimed to have seen fairies--and photographed them! Among the people who believed them was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Here's a brief interview with Shirley Raye Redmond, the author of Fairies! A True Story, a Random House Step Into Reading book. And yes, there was a movie about this true incident as well.

Oops! The VCFA residency ate my wits, obviously. I posted that intro and then forgot to post the interview--here it is. Sorry. I plead exhaustion as my excuse.

[UK] The Frances and Elsie fairy story is fascinating because it could only take place with the help of a then-new technology--photography--which must itself have still seemed like magic to people in 1917. How did you get interested in this particular story?

[SRR] Fairies are hot—in fact, the Tinkerbell books put out by Random House (Disney license) and all the lunch boxes, pajamas and other associated items, are the number one items sold to girls in the USA under the age of 10. So I wanted to write about fairies and cash in on the current rage. As nonfiction is my “true love,” I searched around for a nonfiction angle, discovered the Cottingley photos and decided to pursue that. I just loved the girls’ creativity and pluck.

Also, when reading to children in a classroom setting or at  a library event, there are often youngsters in the crowd
who will ask, “Is this a true story?” and when I say, “Yes!” they seem to relish the story all the more. That’s one reason I love finding true stories that are fun to share with young readers—such as my book PIGEON HERO! about the real G.I. Joe and THE DOG THAT DUG FOR DINOSAURS and now FAIRIES, A TRUE STORY.

[UK] You've written in many forms and genres. What's different about writing an early reader?

[SRR] The most difficult aspect of writing early readers—particularly nonfiction ones—is getting all the pertinent information into an
interesting story arc in under 850 words. It’s tough! Plus all the words must be grade level appropriate as youngsters need to be able to read the book by themselves—unlike a picture book, which is often read by an adult to the child.

 [UK] All writing in a sense is about the creation of an effect on the page--when a writer works in nonfiction, what's her obligation to truth vs. effect?

[SRR] This is rather like walking a tightrope, and the focus is often dictated by the publisher. Random House is extremely dedicated to facts and truth, as you put it, even for very young readers.  I have to document every fact, every bit of information for my editor, who then has the material vetted by an expert in a related field. Also, the clothing and artistic depictions in the illustrations have to be as accurate as possible. For instance, the illustration of the camera used by Frances and Elsie is based on an old photograph of the actual camera. So, it can be a challenge to come up with text and illustrations that are both accurate and appealing for young readers while still creating a mythical mood or playful tone.

[UK] Thank you Shirley Raye Redmond. Much luck with this and future books.