Sunday, April 27, 2014

Blogging Break

Things are a bit crazy at my house right now, so I will be taking a blogging break for the next few weeks. Please be sure to stop by all the other great Marvelous Middle Grade Monday blogs and other links found on the left side of my blog. Thanks for stopping by and have a great few weeks!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Hattie Ever After and a Bonus

Today's pick for MMGM is one of those books that can be considered both middle grade and young adult. I think it is fine for older middle graders to read, but some parts might be a little hard for them to understand. More on that in a moment.

by: Kirby Larsen

Delacorte Press 2013

From the jacket flap:
Great Falls, Montana, 1919

When Hattie mails off her last check to Mr. Nefzger, her uncle’s debt is paid in full. Now she is free to go anywhere, away from Mrs. Brown’s boardinghouse and the less-than-glamorous life of a chambermaid. Hattie’s dear friend Perilee urges her to do the sensible thing and join her family in Seattle. But Hattie is not prone to the sensible. What sensible girl would say yes to spending a year under Montana’s big sky trying to make a go of a long-lost uncle’s homestead claim? And what sensible girl would say no to Charlie, who is convinced he and Hattie are meant to grow old together?

For all its challenges and sorrows, Hattie’s time on the homestead gave her a taste of what if might be like to stake her own claim on life. She hasn’t yet confessed it to anyone, not even to Perilee, but Hattie has thrown a lasso around a dream even bigger than a Montana farm.

She wants to be a big-city reporter.

And thanks to a vaudeville vanishing act, a mysterious love token, an opera star and her unique ability to throw a snake ball, it looks like Hattie just might have a chance.

For those that wanted to know what happened to Hattie after Hattie Big Sky this sequel doesn't disappoint. (My thoughts on Hattie Big Sky are here.) It starts a few months after Hattie moves to Great Falls and continues as she follows her new dream to become a great female reporter. Hattie is an adult and on her own, which lends to the more mature themes of the book that younger readers just might not understand yet, like living on your own in the city, looking for a job to pay the bills - which was difficult for women at the time - and being courted. I enjoyed reading about Hattie in 1919 San Francisco, a time period I haven't read much about. Kirby Larson does a fantastic job creating new and memorable characters and keeping me reading to see if my initial thoughts about some of them were true or not. I loved the ending and seeing Hattie continue in her transformation from orphan to young woman and dream-chaser to dream-realizer.

For a special bonus today, I wanted to quickly share two wonderful picture books that I read over the weekend.

by: Patricia MacLachlan and Steven Kellogg
Random House Children's Books 2013

I checked this out of the library, but now I definitely want to own a copy. Such a simple, beautifully written book, especially after knowing it was written to help those in the Sandy Hook and Newtown, Connecticut communities.

by: Lori Mortensen and Jeff Mack
HarperCollins Children's Books 2012

Lori is a master of rhyme and I love Jeff Mack's illustrations of farm animals. (He's great in Mr. Duck Means Business too.) Their take on the familiar nursery rhyme - "Hey Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon!" - is fantastic!

Thanks for stopping by today! And for those of you who receive my posts via email, I'm trying to fix the issue with you possibly not being emailed lately. I think yahoo email addresses are having the most trouble, but please know that I'm trying to remedy the situation.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Special Weekend Post

Over the last couple of days, I've been able to share my writing journey on two different blogs. I wanted to share the posts with you and introduce you to some wonderful websites.

The first is on my friend, Patti Richards, brand new website. She also had a book published with MeeGenius earlier this year. Be sure to check out her book here:  Snow Angels  To read her post interviewing me, click here.

I was also honored when the communications department where I work asked if they could share about my new book. To read that post, click here.

I hope you enjoyed these posts. Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Cool Summer Tail and an Interview

Today I would like to share a brand new non-fiction picture book with you. It is written by my friend and fellow Michigan author, Carrie A. Pearson. Carrie also agreed to answer a few questions for this post, so let's get right to it!

by Carrie A. Pearson and Christina Wald
Sylvan Dell Publishing - now Arbordale Publishing 2014

A COOL SUMMER TAIL is a companion book to A WARM WINTER TAIL. For this new book, a variety of animals are trying to stay cool and wonder if humans use the same techniques as they do. Some of the same animals are used in both books and kids can compare and contrast the different techniques used in the summer versus the winter.  Filled with wonderful illustrations and four pages of activities and information, A COOL SUMMER TAIL lets kids learn in a fun, entertaining way.

To see my post for A WARM WINTER TAIL, click here.

For the rest of today's post, I've asked Carrie to share some thoughts on the non-fiction writing process. Non-fiction writing is an interesting genre, as you can see below.

When did the idea for a second, companion book come in your writing process? Was the idea always there or did the publisher ask for more?

The idea for a second book came during the research process for the first. My broad research question was how animals adapt to seasonal temperature changes. For the first book, I explored how animals adapt to cold, but most of the research on this topic offered insights for adaptation to heat as well. I queried my editor to see if she would be interested in the companion book and happily she was. So, I followed the interesting trail of adaptation to heat for the second book and added in more focused research where needed. Writing the second book was easier because I had already determined the rhyme and rhythm scheme and I knew I wanted to feature many of the same animals as in A Warm Winter for compare/contrast opportunities. However, it was also harder to write because of the same reasons! I had essentially written myself into a corner with less room to stretch. At times it was a hair-pulling experience, but I grew as a writer in the process.

In addition to writing non-fiction, you also write fiction. Is one easier than the other? Or are there pros and cons to each?

I wouldn’t say one is easier to write. Just by virtue of the genre, non-fiction has boundaries. So depending upon my story interest, having boundaries can be appealing. For instance, I’m working on a story about the amazing and virtually unknown ecosystem in the canopy in coast Redwoods--the world's tallest trees. The non-fiction boundaries offer a framework for the story. But, my favorite stories to write (and read) are at the intersection of fiction and non-fiction. As an example, one manuscript I have on submission now, “Chicks in the Hood” explores a non-fiction topic (urban chicken farming), but is told through an a cappella singing contest--a la Pitch Perfect--between urban-raised chickens and farm-raised chickens. Similar to A Warm Winter Tail and A Cool Summer Tail, the factual content is woven within a fictionalized story.

Any advice for writers who might want to pursue non-fiction writing for kids? What should they do differently than when they write fiction?

Be sure the research is accurate and true. There is no room for shoddy or lazy research and I would hope children's book publishers wouldn't accept it. Don't rely on paper or digital sources alone. The best place to gather information is from living, breathing people who are doing work in the field of your story or have lived the story you want to tell. Follow a trail to the beginning source if possible. Attention to fact-gathering pays off: Arbordale Publishing (formerly Sylvan Dell Publishing)–the publisher for my Warm Winter and Cool Summer books–scientifically vets each of their publications and I am delighted that for both books combined, we had only one minor science-related tweak. I'm quite sure my editor would consider additional topics because she has confidence I will do the work needed for accuracy. A non-fiction story should be told creatively, uniquely, and with excitement, but it must be true. Other than that distinction, I don’t see differences between writing either genre. Both begin with humongous passion for the story or topic–a passion that is deep enough to sustain the writer through a million drafts, setbacks, rejections, and readings aloud when it is published!

Both of the books have wonderful pages of back matter/resources. Did you have that all ready to submit with your manuscript or was that something you worked with your editor on after they purchased your book?

Both :) I wrote much of the back matter for A Warm Winter Tail and submitted it during the review phase. I wanted the editor, Donna German, to see I had done my research on the book topic and also on their list. So, I wrote the back matter as if it was for a completed Arbordale book so she could visualize it. I wrote the back matter for A Cool Summer Tail with Donna after the book had been contracted. She has an educator's mindset and this is reflected in the books they publish and the jam-packed back matter they offer. They were the perfect home for these books.

Thank you so much, Carrie, for stopping by and answering my questions. I definitely learned a lot! Please check out Carrie's website for her blog and other information.

Have a great week!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own.