Tuesday, June 30, 2015
I've learned that most kids feel this way. It's a familiar pain that binds us together. Especially those of us who write middle grade, I think. We fritter about, sifting through memories of those years, uncovering the golden nuggets that become touchstones in our stories. And as much as it pains me to have watched, and continue to watch, my girls walk through this time, I know there is little else in the way of character building like farting in the middle of fifth grade reading-time and having the whole class laugh. Including the teacher.
So summer was a time of unwinding. Not only could I fart in peace, but my family also let out their collective breath. We camped. And fished. And spent lots of time outside the house with other people, so I was safe. In every way. I made art and rode my bike. I collected sea glass and watched my sister hunt for sand crabs. Endlessly. I swung from tires and shouted gibberish and ding-dong ditched and played kick-the-can. We fried smelt the same day they were caught and ate until we had to roll around in the beach sand clutching our bellies. I can still smell the campfires and the Coppertone.
I try to be my summertime self all the time now. She's a hoot. Plus, I'm pretty sure she's the writer.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Friday, June 26, 2015
Last winter, in preparation for a new class that I was teaching, I got some wonderful recommendations, including genres and authors that I don't normally read. So: bring on the summer reading recs, PB-Adult. Fiction, biography, essay collections, craft books, crafty maker books...I'll take 'em all!
You can see some of my recent and upcoming reads on Pinterest. I'll also be working on an MG manuscript, so I'm looking for good "family stories" along the lines of Elizabeth Enright's Melendys. I am also desperate to write a chapter book -- I'm a huge fan of our own Claudia Mills, along with Atinuke, Kate Messner, Karen English, Anna Branford, and Jane Schoenberg, so anything along those lines would be great.
Looking forward to spending the summer outdoors, unabashedly buried in great books. Whatcha got for me?
Thursday, June 25, 2015
For more information on the show, visit Crossroad Reviews.
Can't be there but want to ask a question? Shoot me a question at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll be sure it gets on the air.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Reading Charlotte's Web, for example, can lead kids to wanting to learn more about spiders, or pigs, or rats. (What fun to write a compare and contrast of Templeton in Charlotte's Web and Chiaroscuro in The Tale of Despereaux.)
On the other hand, reading a non-fiction book about spiders can inspire a kid to write a story about spiders. Or reading a book about mythology can inspire a kid to write her own personal mythology.
The important think is to catch whatever ignites a kid's interest and then pursue it down as many roads as possible. Go there and back again.
Monday, June 22, 2015
There were five of us. We thought of ourselves as a “gang,” and gave ourselves all kinds of names. For a time we were the True Mints, because mints are cooler than cool. Then someone came up with the bright idea for us to wear those heavy chain dog collars as bracelets and call ourselves the Chain Gang. And for a few days—I don’t remember why—we were the Spoons.
It was just one summer. A summer of freedom and joy. We were old enough to get on our bikes and disappear for the afternoon (this was back in the 70’s before kids showed up on milk cartons), but not old enough for summer jobs. My bike was stolen toward the end of that summer, and by the next my family had moved to a new, less bike-friendly town. But it’s still the summer I remember the best.
Friday, June 19, 2015
My dear friend, Tammar Stein, and I met at a Children's Book Guild meeting in Washington, DC, last fall. Her forth book, Spoils, came out in paperback this June.
First, would you mind giving our readers a quick synopsis of Spoils?
Spoils is about a family in Florida who wins the lottery, an 80 million dollar jackpot. Seven years later, there’s nothing left. When they won they gave each of their kids a million dollars. The youngest daughter, Leni, was eleven when they won so they put her million in a trust fund. That fund matures when she turns eighteen which a week from when the book begins. What Leni does with her money turns into an epic struggle between good and evil, because money can work miracles, but only when it’s spent right.
One of my favorite aspects of Spoils is the quick glimpses of other people’s points of view that Leni interacts with and how they see her or her family. What inspired you to add these into the story?
I’m always intrigued by what’s the story behind people I meet in passing. What’s the story behind the tired but always smiling cashier at the store? What’s the story with the sad-looking man at the traffic intersection holding a cardboard sign? What’s going on with driver of that sleek car who looks like he hasn’t laughed in a year? In real life I never find out the answers. In Spoils, I loved being able to answer those questions. People are complicated and interesting and no matter what our background is, we all have this feeling that lots of money will make our lives better. But of course, you have the Kohn’s who are living proof that it’s not true.
Did you get to live your childhood millionaire dreams through Leni?
Yes, sort of. I threw in everything I could think of that would be fun to buy. Private helicopter, anyone? William Sonoma store: one of each thing please! But it shocked me how quickly that got old. (Another trip around the world? Again?) I’m not saying having millions wouldn’t be fun. But having a ton of new things is only fun for so long before they start piling up and choking everything.
Which one of the characters in Spoils is your favorite and why?
I really like Natasha. She’s complicated and intense and she threatened to take over every scene she was in. Part of the reason I wrote Debts, an e-novella, was to give Natasha some space to take over. It’s basically a prequel to Spoils and it tells what happened to Natasha right before the book begins.
What's your favorite book and why?
Not fair! What kind of question is that? I love all books, if not equally, then with much passion. I self-medicate with books, so it really depends on what mood I’m in. Do I need a quiet, thoughtful book? Do I need something fast-paced and exciting? Do I crave something challenging and intriguing? Sorry, I can’t pick one. But a few of my favorites are (in no particular order): The Handmaid’s Tale, Ender’s Game, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Lions of Al Rassan, The Little Prince, King Rat.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
First of all, hurray! I’m so glad you’re interested in writing. We cannot have too many good books in this world and the only way to get them is to have people like you write them. So, thank you!
The two biggest traits you have to have to make it as a writer are stubbornness and a thick skin. Frustration with your own work and rejection by agents/publishers are part of the process. It’s just a fact of life. It smarts and it stings and you have to be able to deal with that and keep writing. Writing is three parts craft and one part art. Art is something you may or may not be naturally talented in, but craft is all about hard work. You might not have a brilliant story when you first write it down (no one does) but you will have a story that keeps getting better as you revise it and work on it. You have to be willing to put in the time and the effort with no promise of reward. If you’re willing and able to do that, then I look forward to reading your novel one day!
To find out more, please visit Tammar's website at: http://www.tammarstein.com
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Here are some of mine.
Okay, here's one you probably didn't play:
And here's the one we all played:
But in so many different ways.
In our neighborhood, you got $500 for landing on Free Parking. In a friend's family, you got all the proceeds from all the properties purchased thus far. I was shocked when, as an adult, I discovered that in some families all you got for landing on Free Parking was . . . free parking!
In our family, by common consent, we never paid luxury tax. I mean, who wants to pay luxury tax?
In our family, you couldn't buy a property unless you landed on it by luck of the dice. My now-grown son just told me that we were supposed to be holding an auction for each property when someone landed on it and declined to purchase. Who knew?
And of course, the same older sister who was so horrid about Pointexder was equally horrid here. Convinced that Monopoly victory went to the owner of Boardwalk, I would tell my sister that if she didn't allow me to own Boardwalk, she couldn't be my sister any more. We would still be sisters in name, sure, but the true sisterly bond would be gone. I never lost a single Monopoly game.
I've put Monopoly scenes in at least two of my books. The first line of The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish is "Only in our house, though Amanda MacLeish, could a Friday night family Monopoly game turn into the Civil War."
So if you have a character playing a board game, pay attention to those family-specific details that in their own odd way give the scene its deepest universality. Did you make up a special taunt for players who had to go directly to jail without passing GO? Did you have a favorite property that you just had to buy each game, however poor the investment? Tell us! We really want to know.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Monday, June 15, 2015
There was a used book store in Trenton with the improbable name of "Ianni's." It had the wonderful musty, damp smell a real used bookstore needs and piles of books, magazines, newspapers, and comic books everywhere. I had begun going there for the comic books the year before. My father was good enough to bring me there on Saturday morning when he would go to the bank in town. Ianni's was on the same block. I think the used paperback books were a quarter, which was like half the cover price at the time. I first bought Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles there and read it under a tree in my backyard while my two best friends were away at camp. I soon bought every Bradbury I could get my hands on.
Over that summer of Saturdays at Ianni's I bought realistically about 50 of the Bantam paperback editions of the Doc Savage pulp stories from the 1930's. If I wasn't too busy I could read one in a day. I would eventually buy all of them and I think there were more than 100. I bought most of the Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs as well as a good deal of science fiction by Heinlein, Asimov, and Silverberg. My bookshelves were looking pretty cool and I was reading books like I was eating potato chips. Meanwhile my hook shot was becoming decent.
It was quite a summer. I never actually bought another comic book and when fall came, I tried out for basketball, something that would have been unthinkable the year before. Thirteen brought a lot of changes. And I haven't even mentioned girls. ;)
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Better Than the Ice Cream Truck: When the Bookmobile Rolled Into Town – June Theme from Tamera Wissinger
|Young reader Tamera, |
armed with her book bag.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
So, here's a sneak peek at the end of the new chapter 1. The chapter starts with young explorer Martin Tinker chasing a butterfly into an abandoned quarry—and barely escaping with his life when an icy wall of rock collapses all around him. But he miraculously ends up in an air pocket, where he finds a strange, cold, oval-shaped stone. And an instant before the whole thing comes crashing down again, he manages to wriggle out and sprint away. And then . . .
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