Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lookaway, Lookaway

I rarely comment on books I don't finish reading. Or books I don't like much.
But I gave this one the "80-page Test" and am now returning it to the library.
And I'm only writing about it because before I even started reading this just-published novel-- set in Charlotte, NC according to the review and sounding quite intriguing-- I mentioned it to more than a few folks.

Sorry about that.

The New York Times review made me want to read it. Especially because I'm exploring and curious about what seems to be a proliferation of multi-viewpoint novels these days. (Kids' books included.)

Here's the last page of that otherwise positive review:

"My few complaints about this novel arise from my own greed. Because each character gets his or her own chapter, after a while the book takes on a drive-by quality. You settle in with Jerilyn and then, before you know it, you’re on to Gaston, then Jerene and so on. It’s the literary equivalent of speed dating, and it left me yearning for more, especially from Gaston and the ghastly Jerene, whose mysteries Barnhardt only begins to plumb. By the end, I felt like a starving man at a buffet — sated but still hungry. That’s not really a knock. 'Lookaway, Lookaway' is that rare thing: an excellent long novel that’s not long enough."

The cover also intrigued me. And the title! But that first chapter was pretty revolting, on many levels. And then we went into a second character, who at first seemed quite interesting. A writer! But man, talk about ruminating and pontificating way too long. Yep, that was my feeling about Gaston.

CLICK HERE for the entire review by Malcolm Jones. It's worth reading.

CLICK HERE for a link to the publisher's website where you can read an excerpt of the book.

Anybody else read LOOKAWAY, LOOKAWAY?
Some of the blurbers were my favorite writers! 
Maybe I should give it another shot? 
Maybe later. 
Today, it's due back at the library with a very long list of reserves. Others are waiting. I'll let them judge for themselves.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine

On Sunday I attended my first ever National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress.
Beautiful day, lots of great authors, wandering hither and yon with little book lovers- what could be better?

Well, I got to meet Kathryn Erskine. And hear her speak about her new book. That was pretty cool.

I love what she said about writing the book, about her long journey to get this one just right. (I've read it and it's more than right. It's a terrific story, beautifully told.)

I love the double-entendred title. (Is that a verb? Is that even a word?) And that she endured so many title choices-- Facing Freedom, Deer Season, Freeman’s Phoenix, Cornerstone, Finding Truth, Finding Hope-- before deciding on the absolute perfect title: 


Here's her own blog, and the story of the book's publication journey:

There's more! I just discovered this terrific interview.
If you hurry on over, there's a giveaway of the book. 
Quick! Ends tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Strands of Bronze and Gold

Here's a book that may have escaped your reading radar. 
A "thrilling retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale," 
according to the publisher (and me).

Although the publisher bills it as "Ages 12 and up," it's one of those Crossover Young Adult novels that will appeal to more than teens. A romance set in 1855 that's also a chilling mystery, a ghost story, and a page-turning adventure.

Guess what? The author lived in Aberdeen, MS, while raising her children and beginning her writing career. 

Here's a little about Jane Nickerson, from her own website

Living in small town Mississippi was like Coming Home. The Nickersons all loved the south. They bought a hundred-year-old, derelict house with twenty-three rooms, which they named “Tamarind,” because Jane liked the sound of that word. 

Read about the book, also on her website, HERE. 
And there's a second book, another based on a fairy tale, coming in April, 2014! 

(I've been revisiting lots of Historical Fiction in anticipation of the upcoming HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDERS WORKSHOP. Check out the website.
Filling up fast!)

One thing Jane Nickerson did so well? Realistic details. 
 I totally agree with the author: 

 I don’t like anachronism, and the copyeditors helped me a lot to prevent this. They told me things like: “The word ‘footwear’ did not come into usage until 1881.”

Ah, what the world needs is more copyeditors like this in the book world.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Library Walk

I've been to the New York Public Library a gazillion times.
I never knew this existed.
A short street, right in front of the 5th Avenue entrance.

 My friend Ivy and I discovered it while strolling on a gorgeous fall day.
For those of you considering making a stop at this delightful exhibit:  

THE ABC OF IT, Why Children's Books Matter,
be sure to make the side trip down a side street and read the quotations.

CLICK HERE for an interesting piece, recently published in The Nation, on the exhibit.

Love the story of the little girl, possibly not even two, in the exhibit with her mom.
I also loved the library cards when I saw them. Especially Eudora Welty's and Anne Carroll Moore's. Unlike that child, I did not consider making paper airplanes.

But back to the Library Walk.
Both sides of the street are lined with wonderful quotations. Here are a few.

Lucille Clifton. Sigh. Baltimore poet laureate. Love her.

  (Yes, a favorite poem. I know, I know...)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sharing Glory

I love it when teachers send me pictures of their students' projects. 
GLORY BE was on the summer reading list for the Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Jackson Township, NJ.

Jordan made an entire book of her pictures, storyboarding the book. Here are two pages from Jordan. I love the pool scene!

This is A'Blessyn H. and her Glory Be project - a storyboard of events.

(And don't you adore her name?)

Thank you, readers and teachers, for all the hard work you do to make authors proud!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Letters, we get Letters...

Kids' authors get the greatest mail. Even if it's just a quick email from a reader.  Mine totally make me smile.

Check out today's delivery:

I was wondering if you were going to publish another book, I'm in the seventh grade and you're book inspired me. it was the only book I actually liked. that's the only book I've read without complaining, 

Well, I just wanted to see if you were going to make another one. it would mean a lot.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Horrendous Book Titles?

Here I am, pondering TITLES again. Blame it on this New York Times article, from today's paper, about titles with LAND in them. I'm reading Stephen King's Joyland and just finished Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfield. But I hadn't noticed the title thing.

CLICK HERE to go to the article.

Be sure to read to the end: "the temptation to be on-trend is particularly acute because a title can make or break a book..."

I'm terrible with titles. I know a lot of tricks for choosing them, and even blogged about them--recently! -- here:

The article that comes with that Book Title image over there offers 5 ways to choose a title.
I'm particularly drawn to #4:
Would a reader feel cool if someone saw them reading a book with that title? 

From what I  know about kids, they might feel cool if their friends saw them carrying a catchily-titled book. But they certainly wouldn't read it if it were boring, beneath them, or blah.

With kids' books, titles truly aren't everything. There's the cover, and most importantly the writing. But I know an appealing title does a lot to move a book. I mean, how could a young reader resist How To Steal A Dog?  Does a preposition in the title help? Moon Over Manifest, anyone? How about an animal AND a preposition: The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail. Once inside, the writing seals the deal.

Consider poor Stieg Larsson. Ha. Not poor in the least. But also not so great at title-picking. As reported in a memoir by Kurdo Baksi, Stieg Larsson, My Friend, his working titles were the feeble The Witch Who Dreamt of a Can of Petrol and Matches and The Exploding Castle in the Air...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What's in a Name?

Sorry if I seem to obsess over the Name Thing.
But I LOVE what Liesl Shurtliff says in her Author's Note to one of my most favorite, fun-to-read, perfectly voiced (is voice a verb yet?) middle-grade novels of 2013, RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin.

She, too, seems to collect names.

Here's a thought, from that Note, about names shaping characters, real or imagined.

"Did their parents intuitively know that was the name for them, or did the name have a role in shaping their behavior and self-perception?"

Maybe it's just writers who have unusual names, the names rarely found on any of "those personalized pencils and key chains in gift shops" who obsess over naming things.
She kept looking, between Leslie and Lisa, to no avail. 

Growing up, my name didn't seem unusual. It just seemed un-glamorous. Some days, I wanted my friend Peggy's name, changed to Peggi when she hit High School. 

As Liesl Shurtliff notes, RUMP is her way of answering that age-old question, What's in a name?

I love this book! 
Here's my review from the Christian Science Monitor.

But I also love pondering the influence names have on our persona. 
Would you be a different person if you'd been given a different name?

Is it true of your fictional people?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

When Enough is Enough

I have some gems in my files. Had I not spent the summer slowly clearing away the decidedly unnecessary piles of paper, I'd never have found them.

I'm copying this and pasting it in front of every writing spot I ever put myself in.

From THE WRITER, April 1989
(and no, I have not been writing that long but I have been a fan of Lois Lowry's forever)

Knowing when to stop is one of the toughest tasks a writer faces. 

Is there a rule that one can follow? Probably not. But there is, I think, a test against which the writer can measure his ending, his stopping place.

When something more is going to take place, but the characters have been so fully drawn, and the preceding events so carefully shaped that the reader, on reflection, knows what more will happen, and is satisfied by it, then the book ends.
Lois Lowry.  Pure genius.

An earlier post about ENDINGS, with examples from my favorite books:

And a few thoughts about my own manuscript's ending words:

Friday, September 6, 2013

I do love Mississippi!

I'm delighted and proud to announce that the librarians of my amazing home state have selected GLORY BE for the Mississippi Library Association's Award for Juvenile Literature.

Click here for information about the award.

Can't wait to go back "home" and receive this award next month!

Possibly Related Posts:

About traveling to Mississippi to talk about GLORY Be

About Librarians I have Known and Loved

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Quotes for the Day

Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him. – Mel Brooks

via Cheryl Klein's terrific post listing so many great quotes about characters.