ALA Awards

Hopefully you know by know that they ALA named their 2014 Youth Media award winners on Monday.  I’ve known it, and I’ve even seen some of the titles, but it took several days to access the full list.  I’m going to share it here just in case you are having as much trouble as I am.  I am especially determined to do this because I KNOW SOME OF THE PEOPLE ON THE LIST.   Without further ado, here is the list with my own comments in red.

Newbery Medal:
Winner:  “Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” written by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick).
Honor Books:  “Doll Bones,” written by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
“The Year of Billy Miller,” written by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books).  Greenwillow also publishes Jody Feldman’s Gollywhoper Games so they clearly have amazing taste.
“One Came Home,” written by Amy Timberlake (Alfred A. Knopf)
“Paperboy,” written by Vince Vawter (Delacorte Press).  All major players so no huge surprises.  

Caldecott Medal:
Winner:  “Locomotive,” illustrated by Brian Floca (Atheneum Books).  This one is always out at our library but I do have a hold on it.
Honor Books:   “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker (Candlewick Press).  Loved this one.
“Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle (Chronicle Books LLC)
“Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner (Clarion Books).  Another one I’ve never managed to check out because some young reader always has it.  Thank goodness.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award:
Winner:  “P.S. Be Eleven,” written by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad)
Honor Books:  “March: Book One,” written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions)
“Darius & Twig,” written by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad)  Clearly, Amistad should be first choice when you submit.  They do top notch books.
“Words with Wings,” written by Nikki Grimes (WordSong) 

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:
“Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me,” illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown and Company).
Honor Book:  “Nelson Mandela,” illustrated and written by Kadir Nelson (Katherine Tegen Books)

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award:
“When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop,” illustrated by Theodore Taylor III (Roaring Brook Press).

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:  This is the one that first made me all happy and goofy.  Pat taught the only class on writing for children that I’ve ever taken.  She broke the mold!
The winners are 
Patricia and Fredrick McKissack.  How much sweeter this would have been if they had been honored while Fred was still living.  Stil, it is amazing.  

Michael L. Printz Award:
Winner:  “Midwinterblood,” written by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook Press).
Honor Books: “Eleanor & Park,” written by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin)
“Kingdom of Little Wounds,” written by Susann Cokal (Candlewick Press)
“Maggot Moon,” written by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch (Candlewick Press)
“Navigating Early,” written by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte Books for Young Readers).  This one has been on my “must read” list for a while now.  Clearly, I must read.   

Schneider Family Book Award:
0-10 Winner:  “A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Alfred A. Knopf).
Middle School Winner:  “Handbook for Dragon Slayers,” written by Merrie Haskell (HarperCollins Children’s Books).  Loved this.  See my review here.
Teen Winner:  
“Rose under Fire,” written by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion).

Alex Awards/10 books:
“Brewster,” written by Mark Slouka (W. W. Norton & Company)
“The Death of Bees,” written by Lisa O’Donnell (Harper)
“Golden Boy: A Novel,” written by Abigail Tarttelin (ATRIA Books)
“Help for the Haunted,” written by John Searles (William Morrow)
“Lexicon: A Novel,” written by Max Barry (The Penguin Group, Penguin Group (USA) Inc.)
“Lives of Tao,” written by Wesley Chu (Angry Robot)
“Mother, Mother: A Novel,” written by Koren Zailckas (Crown Publishers)
“Relish,” written by Lucy Knisley (First Second).  I’m definitely going to check this one out because I’m seeing great things from this publisher.
“The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel,” written by Katja Millay (ATRIA Paperback)
“The Universe Versus Alex Woods,” written by Gavin Extence (Redhook Books)

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:
Markus Zusak books include “The Book Thief” and “I Am the Messenger,” published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, and “Getting the Girl” and “Fighting Ruben Wolfe,” published by Arthur A. Levine, an imprint of Scholastic.  

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award:
“Niño Wrestles the World,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Roaring Brook Press)
Honor Books: “Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía una Llamita,” illustrated and written by Angela Dominguez (Henry Holt and Company, LLC)
“Tito Puente: Mambo King / Rey del Mambo,” illustrated by Rafael López, written by Monica Brown (Rayo)
“Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale,” illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Pura Belpré (Author) Award:
“Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass,” written by Meg Medina (Candlewick Press).
Honor Books: “The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist,” written by Margarita Engle (Harcourt)
“The Living,” written by Matt de la Peña (Delacorte Press).  Somehow I missed that this was out.  After hearing him speak, I really want to read this book.
“Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale,” written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
“Parrots over Puerto Rico,” written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, and illustrated by Susan L. Roth (LEE & LOW BOOKS, Inc.).
Honor Books: “A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Alfred A. Knopf)
“Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard,” written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick Press)
“Locomotive,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
“The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius,” written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan (Roaring Brook Press).  Jan is another local author that I’ve both met and heard speak.  So happy for her!

Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award
Winners:  “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children,” written by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (Flux)
“Fat Angie,” written by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo (Candlewick Press).  I adore this book.  Adore.  Read my review here.
Honors Books:  
“Better Nate Than Ever,” written by Tim Federle (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
“Branded by the Pink Triangle,” written by Ken Setterington (Second Story Press)
“Two Boys Kissing,” written by David Levithan (Alfred A. Knopf).

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award:
“The Watermelon Seed,” written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (Disney Hyperion Books)
Honor Books:  “Ball,” written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)
“A Big Guy Took My Ball!” written and illustrated by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children)  Loved and reviewed this and . . . 
“Penny and Her Marble,” written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books).   . . . this one too.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults:
“The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi,” written by Neal Bascomb (Arthur A. Levine).
Finalists:  “Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design,” written by Chip Kidd (Workman Publishing Company)
Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II,” written by Martin W. Sandler (Walker Books for Young Readers)
ourage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers,” written by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick Press)
President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy,” written by James L. Swanson (Scholastic Press)

There were several books on this list that I tried to read and just couldn’t get into.  That said, I do not pan books online.  Clearly, I can dislike a book that still has a great deal fo appeal for someone else.  And this explains why there are so many books out there.

Happy Reading,


What do you have to say?

KingsolverToday is my birthday and I’d like to give a gift to all of us.  I give you permission to write the story that you deeply want to write.

Maybe it is something funny.  After all, you love making people laugh.

Maybe it is something dramatic in a way that is just a little scary.  You just can’t get this story out of your head.

Maybe it is YA or even New Adult.  You want to write a story about someone whose made bad, even damaging decisions, but is at heart a truly good person.

We each have a story that we want to write.   The world needs this story.  But for some reason we keep putting it off.

Maybe you are worried you just don’t have the skills to carry it out.  Or you know someone will cut it down.  Or it is based on something that really happened and you aren’t sure how the people involved will feel about you writing this story.

This week, I saw a nifty little piece of embroidery.  It said, “Quit faffing about and get on with it.”  And that is my gift to all of us.

Permission.  Permission to quit wasting time worrying and write the story already.


Opening Lines

Opening LinesYour opening line is the first taste the reader has of the upcoming story.  It has to draw her in.  It is a contract, promising her a certain kind of story.  I decided to play around with different kinds of opening lines that I read about in the Writer’s Digest article, “7 Ways to Create a Killer Opening Line for Your Novel.

1.  A statement of eternal principle.

An eternal principle is a Truth with a capital T.  This principle somehow forms the core of your story.  This isn’t necessarily a scientific truth.  In fact, it may be true only for this particular story, but for this story it is Law.

My attempt:  No one knows how important someone is to their life until that person is gone.

I like it but I think it sounds too adult for a middle grade novel.

2.  A statement of simple fact.

This technique relies on having one fact around which everything else builds.  For my novel, Rat Race, this was something of a no brainer.

My attempt:  If I don’t finish this homework assignment, I’m going to flunk.

It’s a little melodramatic but it pretty well sums up the problem.  It doesn’t give the why and the backstory but it is the fact that drives his actions.

3.  A statement of paired facts.

This takes two facts that, taken individually, might be a bit “so what.”  Yet, when you take them together, they hook the reader’s interest.

My attempt:  My best friend keeps pet rats, but I like them way more than my own rat of a sister.

Oooo, that’s like a bit of foreshadowing.  I’m not sure it would work, but I still like it.

4. A statement of simple fact laced with significance.

At the beginning of the story, the reader won’t understand how important this fact is, but once they reach the ending?  The importance will be clear.

My attempt:  Before she disappeared, Mom let me help with her castings.

This is definitely important, but would it hook my readers?  Or would they simply scratch their heads and think “so what?”

5.  A statement to introduce voice.  

Obviously, this technique, opening with a single line that clearly shows the character’s voice, works best if the character has a unique voice.

My attempt:   The glittering light looked like pool water.  Why couldn’t I just go swim?

It tells you something about my character, but I don’t think it works.

6.  A statement to establish mood.

Select facts that set just the right tone for your story.

My attempt:  I struggled to think of something that I could use as a token, but all I could focus on was the ticking of my mother’s clock.

Can’t decide how I feel about this one.

7.  A statement that serves as a frame.

This is the kind of statement that lets the reader know that a story is coming.  Think “once upon a time.”

My attempt:  I’ve never turned in my homework early but that morning I had no clue how much trouble procrastination was going to cause.


It does set a nice ominous tone, but I’ve never been a big fan of talking to the reader.  That said, I may have to play with this one a bit.


Do any of these make you want to read on?


Research: Why You Need Recent Sources

Research cemeteryWriting is often all about research.  Yeah, I’m a little biased because I write so  much nonfiction but even in fiction you sometimes find yourself doing research.

One of the things that I emphasize with my students is finding recent source materials.  No matter what you are writing about, you need to find sources that are less than 4 years old.  Yes, even if you are writing about history or archaeology.

Recently, I decided to take a couple of online university level courses.  I want to write more science and I was hoping that my degree in anthropology would help me understand some biology topics if I started with the right ones.  First I took Evolution:  A Course for Educators through The American Museum of Natural History.  I knew that some of my confusion was simply a matter of disciplines.  Theirs is biology and mine is anthropology so we discuss things a little differently.  But some times things just didn’t line up so now I’m taking Human Evolution through the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

With this topic, which is more narrowly defined, I have a much better understanding about where my confusion originated.  The reality is that things have changed.

No, early pre-humans haven’t changed.  They are still whoever, or whatever, they were so very many years ago.

What has chanced is what we know about them.  New fossils have been discovered.  They aren’t all new fossils of known beings.  These were completely and utterly unknown when I was in college.  How we study these fossils has also changed because genetics has come a very long way.  Not only are there new names to learn, some of the old ones have changed or been moved in how they relate to one another.

Even if you are writing about something that is long gone, you need to find the recent materials.  No, your topic hasn’t changed but our understanding of it may have changed a great deal.  All it takes is one new discovery or a new way to examine things.


Rewriting: When Your Shrunken Manuscript Fails

shrunken ms 2
An emotional moment in my shrunken manuscript.

It’s no great mystery — one of my favorite rewriting tools is the shrunken manuscript.

For those of you who’ve never worked with this tool before, it is a way of inventorying your novel.  The first step is to reduce the length of your manuscript so that you can spread it out on the floor and see the whole thing more or less at once.  This means that you widen margins, take it down to single-space and reduce your font.

Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to take inventory.  A couple of months ago, I blogged about using a shrunken manuscript to inventory the dialogue in my story.  My main characters tends to be short spoken — he’d rather do it than talk about it.  His best friend, on the other hand, is a Professor-type.  He has plenty to say on every topic.  This is the sort of tedius thing that I’m tempted to tell myself is no big deal.  It isn’t that bad, it doesn’t need fixing.  But if I mark it on a shrunken manuscript and see that the side kick is truly taking over, I can’t deny the problem and I have to fix it.

I got a comment back from a reader that she tried this with her manuscript and found very little to fix.  Was she doing something wrong?

Actually, the problem was probably that she was doing thing right in terms of her dialogue.  If it was in balance, she wasn’t going to see anything she needed to fix.

The lesson?  Don’t use a shrunken manuscript to inventory things you do well.  Use it to inventory the things your critique group consistently comments on or the things that you worry might not be quite right.

To find out more about the different ways you can use a shrunken manuscript to improve your writing, head on over to the Muffin and read my blog post for today.


Background Music

Do you keep background music going while you write?  The above is a favorite provided by my friend Al White.

I have to admit that I normally don’t listen to music when I write.  At least I don’t when I am at home by myself.  When I’m doing photo editing, I use Pandora and listen to the Rockabilly Revival Station or the Rock and Roll Roots Station.  You see, I can sing while I photo edit but singing while I write doesn’t tend to work very well.

The above is how I work by choice.  Sometimes I have to write while there are other people home and they aren’t being still and/or quiet.  Or my people are being still and quiet, but I can’t seem to coerce the yappy dogs that live nearby to knock it off.

That’s when I have to turn music on.  Again, I listen to Pandora and usually choose the Nature Sounds Station.  Recently Meg Miller recommended the Classical for Studying Station, also on Pandora. It will be nice to have choices the next time I need this version of white noise.



Writing time

My dry erase to-do list from heck.
My dry erase to-do list from heck.

Something hit me last week when I was participating in ReviMo (a picture book revision challenge).  When I signed up, I hoped to have a week free to devote to my rewrites. After all, when I committed to this, I didn’t have any deadlines.

Then my nonfiction writing class was scheduled.  Yep.  It started during the same week as ReviMo.  I couldn’t very well play hooky when I’m the teacher, but it was only one more thing.

Certainly, I could do ReviMo and launch my class.  No problem!

Then I landed an activity writing job. No way was I going to turn this down but that meant that ReviMo was now 1 of 3 things I had to get done in a single week.

One of three.  How was that going to work out?  Actually, pretty well.

  • On the first day, I revised Prey vs Predator, pulling out two spreads I had added to please an editor.  When she didn’t buy the ms., I left them in place in spite of the fact I didn’t like them.  Now they’re gone and I replaced them with two new spreads.
  • On day two, I edited the main body of Prey vs Predator.  I found some repetitive language and weeded that out and I also cut.  That may not sound like much but I cut 140 words from a 910 word main manuscript.
  • On day three, I cut my 300 word back matter by 60 words.  As a whole, the manuscript is now much strong.
  • Day four brought out an astronomy manuscript, Sunrise to Sunset.  I want to rewrite it as a cumulative text but kept getting lost in the details. I spent the day working them into a spreadsheet.  I doing this, I saw that I had a gap and gather what I needed to fill it in.
  • Day five, brought another day with Sunrise to Sunset, creating a whole new draft on index cards.  This saw the creation of a chorus as well as the beginning of the cumulative effect.

Not bad for a week that was chock full of other work.  

The lesson?  I really don’t need a week with no other commitments to make worthwhile progress on a manuscript.  Yes, sometimes a large span of time is necessary, but, more than anything, I just need to do it.  Small time, long time, neither one will make a difference if I don’t sit down and write.



Hybrid Books

A hybrid novel?
A hybrid novel?

Last weekend, when my critique group met, we knew that an novel told in letters (or other correspondence) is called an epistolary novel.  But we weren’t sure to call what Shannon is writing.

There is straight up narrative (and scenes) but there are letters.  And an online newsletter.  And a lot more little bits and pieces.  What do you call this kind of hodgepodge?

We can all name books like this from Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Origami Yoda, with their journal entries and drawings.  But add in handouts, texts, e-mails, and more and what do you call it?  Mishmash novel seemed disrespectful given that we all love Shannon’s manuscript.

Then Jeanie hit on it — hybrid novel.  Once we had a name, Shannon even found an article.  That said, I have to more or less respectfully disagree with the author of said article.  Just because a book has illustrations and substantial text, doesn’t make it a hybrid novel.  It could be, as is the Magic Tree House series named in the article, a chapter book.

What would you call a novel that is a hybrid of text, some of which is presented in the form of standard texts, IMs, texts, or e-mails, and a variety of graphics?


Manuscript Length

Now and Ben is 890 words long.
Now and Ben is 890 words long.

Just how long does your manuscript need to be?  Of course, it depends on whether or not you are writing a picture book, a chapter book or a young adult novel.  Fortunately, there are several places you can find this information.

You can find a rough estimate of length in various guides, including The Book published each year by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

That’s not bad but specific publishers often have a target length, especially if you are submitting your work for a certain series or line of books.  To find out what one publisher wants over another, check their writer’s guidelines.  Sometimes this handy document will contain that information.

Even if it doesn’t, check their catalog for the titles of several books from the target series or line.  Once you have titles and author’s names, head on over to the Renaissance Publishing AR quiz store.  Once their, search on the title of your target book.  If you find a quiz on this book, click on it and you will find a variety of information on the book itself, including the word count.  Handy, isn’t it?  They don’t have every title, but if they do have several in your target market, it can help you find a range for your own work.


Creative Energy

Crochet, like these pieces of fruit, is one of my favorite ways to recharge.
Crochet, like these pieces of fruit, is one of my favorite ways to recharge.

I hope all of you can find the time to reflect a bit on this, Martin Luther King Day.

My family is all home so I will be spending some time with them and hope that you can manage some time of as well.  Last week, I had a very productive week last week in large part because I had had time off over Christmas.

You all know that I am a firm believer in taking time to recharge your creative batteries.  No, this doesn’t mean taking weeks and weeks off, or even days and days.  But it can mean just taking a few minutes here and there to pamper yourself, doing something you truly enjoy.

How do you recharge your creative batteries?