Monday, February 25, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - May B. and Author Interview

I'm excited to announce the winner of the signed, hardcover copy of DESTINY, REWRITTEN by Kathryn Fitzmaurice.  I must say it is so shiny and pretty! Let's throw some confetti for 

Danielle Hammelef!

Congratulations!  You should receive an email from me shortly.

Now, on to today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post, which was recently named a 2013 ALA Notable Children's Book.

by: Caroline Starr Rose
Schwartz & Wade Books 2012
I'm embarrassed to say that I finally read May B. a couple of weeks ago. I won a signed copy last year from Kathryn Fitzmaurice's blog and can't believe I waited so long to read it! It was amazing, the writing in verse was made for this book. I felt like I was on the prairie, the simple life just like the writing style. As a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I even read all the non-fiction books and visited some of her homes, I loved this new look at the prairie.
But, before I continue, let me share the first page of the book:
I won't go.
"It's for the best," Ma says,
yanking to braid my hair, 
trying to make something of what's left.
Ma and Pa want me to leave
and live with strangers.
I won't go.
Doesn't that take you straight to to prairie?  May's parents want her to go and live with another homesteader whose new wife is having a hard time adjusting to life on the Kansas prairie. And her pa promises it will only be for a few months, just until Christmas. But little do they know that May will end up alone and on her own when an early blizzard strikes. Through her strength and resolve, May determines to survive and see her family again.
As a special treat, I was able to ask author, Caroline Starr Rose, for more details on her writing and the background of May B. My questions and her responses are below.

Did May B. start out as a novel in verse or did that happen during the revision process?
May B. started as prose but very early in the drafting stage changed to verse. I was frustrated with the distance between the character and her world and what I was putting on the page. In looking back over first-hand accounts of pioneer women, I found their terse, contained way of communicating mirrored verse. Realizing this allowed me to tell May’s story most honestly and show her world as directly as I could.
May B. has dyslexia. What led you to this decision about her character?

On school visits, I love to tell kids authors are mean people. What I mean by that is they must not give their characters what they want (at least not straight away), but must make them face their fears and weaknesses. Without this, there is no change. Without change, there is no story.
I knew early on that May wanted to be a teacher and tried to find the biggest obstacles I could to keep her from this goal. Pulling her out of school and giving her a learning disability (in an era where this would have been completely misunderstood) fit the bill.
You have a couple of very interesting posts on your blog about soddy houses. Tell us a little about the research process for May B.
I read a lot of first-hand accounts, as I mentioned above. Two of my favorite books were READ THIS ONLY TO YOURSELF: THE PRIVATE WRITINGS OF MID-WESTERN WOMEN and PIONEER WOMEN: VOICES FROM THE KANSAS FRONTIER. In writing historical fiction about an era (rather than a specific event), I felt a tremendous need to be true to the people of the time and their circumstances. I hope that shines through in what I’ve created.
Did you have an agent before or after May B. and tell us a little bit about the history behind the book.
I started May in 2007, signed with my agent in fall 2009, and sold it in spring 2010. May B. was my fourth novel and tenth book overall (I write picture books, too).
One last question for my writing friends - As a writer, how important to you is it to have good critique partners or a critique group?
Essential. I no longer meet face-to-face with my critique group but have a handful of on-line friends I know I can count on for read throughs. What I’m finding I need is to have fellow writers who are willing to read an entire manuscript multiple times. For me, it’s hard to see character growth, story arcs, and the like from snippets of drafts shared piecemeal. While I ask a lot of my readers, they ask the same of me, and I learn just as much reading their work critically as I do from their insight. Really, good critique partners are part editor, part writing class. I’d be lost without them.

Thank you so much, Caroline, for sharing some background on May B. and your writing process.

And thank you to all of you for stopping by today. For my favorite MMGM blogs, check out the links to the right on my website. Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Guest Post by Kathryn Fitzmaurice and a Giveaway!


Today I have a great pleasure of welcoming Kathryn Fitzmaurice to my blog. Kathryn is the talented author of The Year the Swallows Came Early, A Diamond in the Desert and Destiny, Rewritten, which just so happens to be released today! If you haven't read my post from yesterday, stop by to read my thoughts on the book.

Not only is Kathryn a talented author, she is also a wonderful person and great friend. Her writing advice has been invaluable to me as I work on my own middle grade novel. I'm so excited to have her today! So, without further adieu, let me present - Kathryn Fitzmaurice!

     For my twentieth birthday, my grandmother, Eleanor Robinson, gave me a volume of Emily Dickinson poetry, THE COMPLETE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON.  In the front of it, she wrote, “E.D. is a revered poet.  Perhaps the same will be said of K.H. someday”. 
     The inscription was the starting point for DESTINY, REWRITTEN.  I felt as if her writing this was somewhat of a path to my own destiny, that she had perhaps predicted fate.  I was, at that time, in a poetry phase, which lasted a few years.  I never would have thought that someday I’d write for middle grade readers.  Which goes to show you that destiny is always there, a remarkable force that can curve along gently, continually showering blessings, or take a hard right turn when we least expect it, changing the course of our lives forever. 

Emily Dickinson wrote about destiny in this lovely poem:

In this short Life
That only lasts an hour
How much – how little – is
Within our power 
-Emily Dickinson, 1873

I was lucky enough to be granted permission from Harvard University Press to include this poem in the beginning of DESTINY, REWRITTEN.  I think it makes this little book so much better, having her words in front of mine, like a promise. 

Thank you, Kathryn, for insight into the background of your story! I'm also excited to share that Kathryn has generously offered me a signed, hardcover copy of Destiny, Rewritten to give to one lucky person. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter form below.  Only US or Canada entries please. Thanks for stopping by and I will announce the winner next Monday.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 18, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Destiny, Rewritten and a GIVEAWAY!

I have waited months to share this book with you all, but wanted to wait until its release week. Yes, today's book will be released tomorrow, February 19th! The author has become a wonderful friend of mine, and I'm so thrilled to also be hosting a giveaway, more details at the end of the post.

by: Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Katherine Tegen Books - an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers 2013

Destiny, Rewritten is Kathryn's third middle-grade novel. I've shared her first two novels on my blog as well: The Year the Swallows Came Early and A Diamond in the Desert. If you haven't, definitely check them out!

First, don't you just love the cover?  I absolutely adore it! But, before I gush any more about the book, let me share the description from Goodreads:

Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn’t even really like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then a seeming tragedy strikes: just after discovering that it contains an important family secret, she accidentally loses the special copy of Emily Dickinson’s poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily’s understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way.

Destiny, Rewritten is one of those books that you just can’t put down. The message it shares, that every choice a person makes impacts someone or something, really spoke to me. It shows that what you’re waiting or looking for may be right in front of you the entire time, if we would only slow down and take the time to see it.

Emily learns all of this as she deals with the loss of the book of poetry, the search for her father and the ups and downs that happen in the life of an eleven-year-old. I enjoyed the relationship she has with her best friend, Wavey, especially when they start a conversation that just keeps going and going and ends on a completely different tangent than where it started. So like tween girls!

Of Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s three books, this is my favorite. Maybe because books and writing are so central to the plot, or maybe because watching organized, Type A personality Emily try to be free and unorganized had me laughing at times, or maybe just because it was an enjoyable read seeing how Emily’s search for her destiny would end.

Kathryn has generously given me a signed, hardcover copy of Destiny, Rewritten as a giveaway, but, you will need to stop by tomorrow to win.  Kathryn will be guest posting on my blog and I will have the specifics of the giveaway at the end of that post. 

For other MMGM posts, be sure to check out the list to the right on my blog.  And come back tomorrow for Destiny, Rewritten release day fun!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - School Days According to Humphrey

For today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, I'm sharing one book from a middle grade series that my younger son loves. The Humphrey books by Betty G. Birney share the adventures of a hamster who lives in Room 26 at Longfellow Elementary School. The stories are told from Humphrey's perspective and show his view of the class.

by: Betty G. Birney
Published in 2011

First the description from Goodreads:
Humphrey is excited to get back to Room 26 and see all his old classmates. But on the first day of school, a bunch of strange kids arrive and no matter how loudly he squeaks up, they don't realize they're in the wrong room! Finally Humphrey realizes that these kids are his new classmates, and he sets off to learn all about them.

He hasn't forgotten about his friends from last year, and of course they miss him a ton. But when they start talking about taking him from Mrs. Brisbane's room, Humphrey gets unsqueakably nervous. How could he say good-bye to Mrs. Brisbane and Og--not to mention his new friends--for good?
Now my son would like to share some of his thoughts on the book and the series.

Humphrey sounds like a fun hamster. What is your favorite thing about him?
He's so smart, he has a tiny pencil and notebook hidden behind his mirror for assignments.

Who is Humphrey's best friend?
Og, a frog, who lives in the cage next to Humphrey.

What is your favorite part of this book?
When Humphrey gets stuck under a door in the school trying to find his old classmates.

Does Humphrey often find himself in trouble?
Yes. In one of the books he gets caught out of his cage and another time Miranda's dog Clem tries to eat Humphrey.

Why do you like the Humphrey series?
Because they are chapter books. Because Humphrey is smart and can write with his notebook. I also like reading about the kids in the classroom.  The nicknames Humphrey gives the kids are funny.

I hope you enjoyed learning about this fun middle grade series. For other middle grade picks of the week, check out my list to the right on my homepage.  Have a great week!

Friday, February 1, 2013

I finally did it!

Yep, I finally did it.  I'm now on Twitter.  I'm still not sure exactly what I'm doing, but I'll figure it out.  If you would like to follow me:

Any advice is welcome! Wish me luck!