Wednesday, August 31, 2016

HOLLY SCHINDLER'S WORDQUAKE + GIVEAWAY!

I’m excited to share my latest release with you—a short new book for young readers called WORDQUAKE.

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION?
I initially drafted WORDQUAKE last winter. I was doing a bunch of Skypes at the time. My debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, had been placed on several state reading lists, so I was regularly getting requests to talk to elementary classrooms and reading groups. Frequently, I was meeting with groups of reluctant readers—one librarian described her group as “kinda readers”—they kinda-sorta liked to read. Also, at the time, I happened to see a few Tweets from teachers just observing how frequently the protagonists of MG novels were readers—or really great students. And I wondered—is that a part of the reason why kinda-sorta readers keep gravitating away from books? They’re not seeing themselves in the main characters? That’s when I started brainstorming. I knew I wanted a shorter read—I certainly felt a shorter read would be more appealing to those who weren’t natural readers themselves. And I also wanted a main character who’d rather be anywhere than the library.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Izzy Ashby is a girl who doesn’t like to read at all. One day, Izzy accidentally shakes the words out of every textbook, worksheet, notebook, chalkboard, and bulletin board throughout Eastwood Elementary. For a girl like Izzy, this seems to be a dream come true! At least, until utter chaos ensues.

MY FIRST ILLUSTRATED WORK

I put the book up as an e-read last winter, and had several teachers use the book—tell me how much their students were enjoying it. And now that I’m moving my independent work into the print format, I knew that I had to get WORDQUAKE into print as well.

Those of you who have shared my books for young readers with your own kids or students or younger library visitors know that I pretty frequently gravitate toward art as a subject matter. My first novel ever was a YA that features a teenage artist, and my MG, THE JUNCTION, also features a young girl who becomes a folk artist with her grandfather. I’ve always loved it myself, took a ton of art classes throughout school, but never really had an opportunity to incorporate it into my writing.


One of the coolest parts of going indie is that the possibilities for a writer are limitless—the only thing holding you back is you. So I took the plunge into digital art: I did a bit of research, got a Wacom drawing tablet and software and started in, illustrating WORDQUAKE.

WE’VE READ YOUR WRITING, BUT WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS?
I had those not-straight-A students in my head again as I started to sketch out illustrations. Those students who were not quite seeing themselves in the pages of their books. And I knew I didn’t want the illustrations to look perfect. I wanted them to look accessible. I think, at times, things that are too polished can occasionally be discouraging to some students—especially those who aren’t straight-A students. That’s not the effect I wanted this book to have at all. I wanted students to be inspired to pick up a pen and put it to paper in some way. I’ve also long appreciated the quick, simple style of Liza Donnelly, who is a cartoonist for THE NEW YORKER. So with that in mind, I drew simple graphics and illustrations of my own to accompany WORDQUAKE.

WHERE CAN WE FIND WORDQUAKE?

WORDQUAKE is available in paperback at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For those who use the book in classrooms or reading groups, I'd love to Skype with your own young readers. Feel free to get in touch at my website: hollyschindler.com or email me directly at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com. 

ENTER TO WIN! 
I'm running a giveaway of a signed copy of WORDQUAKE! Use the form below OR leave a comment to enter: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

If You Were a Book, Which Book Would You Be? Smack Dab in the Classroom by Dia Calhoun

"What is your favorite book?" is a question people often ask. So is, "If you could take only one book with you to Mars what book would you choose?"

Here's a new question: "If you had to BE a book, which book would you be?" Writers tend to think of their books as living things. But this may be a new idea for readers in general.

This question is not simply about being drawn to the hero and wanting to live vicariously. This question involves the entire book.

Could it be the setting you're drawn to? The world in the book? The community of characters? The challenge? Or is it something more subtle that appeals to you? The vitality? The depth? The breadth of vision?

I remember something similar in Fahrenheit 451. In that story,  people would memorize an entire book in order to pass it on. But that's not quite the same as embodying a book.

I wonder if the answer might have something to do with how, as a living book, you'd want to interact with the world? Would you want to be so read and loved that you become dog-eared? Would you want everyone to read you or only certain types of people?

What a fun idea for kids to work with--for anyone to work with.

So by now, you're probably wondering what book I'd want to embody. The truth is, I don't know yet. The idea is to new.  But I'm tremendously curious about what book you might want to be. And why. If you know, leave a comment.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Memory of One Ordinary Moment (August theme) by Claudia Mills

Many and sweet are my memories of the special joys of childhood summers. Walking to the public library every other day with my sister to carry home the four books the library allowed us to check out, reading all four as fast as we could, and heading back two days later to collect four more. Listening for the music of the Good Humor ice cream truck. Playing badminton and croquet in the back yard. Running through the sprinkler on stifling New Jersey days. Writing and sketching in a rowboat on our annual family vacation to a small lake in New Hampshire.

But one day of one July of one year, sitting on our front porch alone one afternoon, I decided that I wanted to save a memory that wasn't a special memory, but a completely ordinary one. I wanted to preserve one completely ordinary moment. I sat there, scratching a mosquito bite, on an afternoon of the usual triple-H of heat, haze, and humidity, and thought: This one. This is the ordinary moment I'm going to keep forever.

And I did.

A week or two later, greedy, I thought: I want to save another ordinary moment. If I could save one, why not save two? But, as it turned out, I couldn't save two. All other attempts at saving completely unremarkable time failed utterly. Only the first ordinary moment remains.

But maybe I could have saved more ordinary moments if it had occurred to me to set them down permanently in written words.

As a reader, I cherish the record of the small ordinary moments that make up the texture of a character's life. No author has ever captured these better than Eleanor Estes, who won Newbery Honors three years in a row in the 1940s (for The Middle Moffat, Rufus M., and The Hundred Dresses) and then went on to win the Newbery Medal in 1952 for Ginger Pye. The first lines of her first book, The Moffats, offer a description of Mama peeling apples: "The way Mama could peel apples!"  That's all. Just Jane Moffat marveling how Mama's "peelings fell off in long, lovely curls," while her own best efforts result only in the "thick little chunks that she popped into her mouth." Instantly, I identified with Jane and shared her yearning for apple-peeling competence. The smallest moments of Jane's anxious ruminations stayed with me for decades; I can still quote them by heart.

That's what I strive to achieve in my own books, which I admit fall into the oft-dismissed category of "quiet": an honoring of the ordinary, a remarking upon the unremarkable, a celebration of the everyday, a fixing in words of the fleeting, precious moments of childhood that would otherwise vanish without a trace.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Season of Magic by Naomi Kinsman



Every late spring, my parents used to dare me to jump into our un-heated pool on my birthday--May 20. Now in some cities, the weather has sufficiently warmed up by May 20. However, in Portland, Oregon, we might be talking about a 60 degree day with the water hovering about ten degrees colder. If I braved the freezing plunge, we'd go for ice cream. Thinking back, I should have requested a warmer reward. Hot chocolate, perhaps, or molten lava cake. But, I don't think it was the ice cream that made me bend my knees and leap.

It was the magic.

If you're watching the Olympics, you've seen those underwater shots. Everything is tinted blue-green and the world moves at a different speed. It's a land rich with possibility.

I spent my summers in this magical place, a land filled with mermaids and underwater missions. Once school let out, I slipped into my swimming suit and crossed over into a heroic story. As often as I could, I'd dive into the pool where my unfolding story awaited. The plot twisted and turned. Sharks, villains and other dangers showed up. I needed to find and collect the rings that lay on the bottom of the sea in order to save my mermaid sisters. In the above water world I was an only child, so this quest was urgent and belonged entirely to me.

Submerged in this story, I had no idea that I was training. I wasn't training to be an Olympic swimmer, but rather, to be a writer. To this day, drafting feels like plunging into another world. Sometimes I hesitate on the edge, worried about how the water will feel. Once I let myself go, though, I'm in. I lose myself in the story. If I'm planning, it's not about the next plot point. I'm completely inside my character's skin, strategizing what to do about that shark headed straight for me. When I carry out my plan, what happens next often surprises me.

Maybe I should worry about this multi-player mode that goes on in my artistic mind. But, I actually think this mode is a vital part of the creative process, one that is challenging to tap into and train. While drafting or sketching or improvising, we need to lose ourselves without becoming lost. How do we do that?

As a little girl, even as I dove deeper and deeper into my underwater story, a part of me watched over the entire process. That master storyteller kept working when I finally climbed out of the pool for the day. As we went to the library and walked in the park, she collected ideas and weighed options. She dreamed up and collected an abundance of possibilities so I'd have the opportunity to be surprised. She'd plan the next major plot points and make sure there were plenty of paths by which we might make our way there.

Today, my master storyteller does nearly the same thing. While I'm driving or teaching or wandering through a museum, she collects options. She helps me sketch out a basic map in the form of index cards. And then, she climbs up into the lifeguard chair to watch over me when I dive into my draft. She's there, so it's safe for me to take risks. I can try any crazy new idea that pops into my head--Wait, what if I ... ? She's there to toss in obstacles that keep me from spinning off into an entirely new story. If I climb out of the deep end to find I've made a giant mess, she helps me find my way back.

It's been quite some time since I've thought about the pool and the writerly training it provided. Now, having written about it a bit, I want to ponder it a bit more. As an adult, when I want to develop a skill, I generally work on it in the most obvious medium. If I want to learn to draw, I take out my pencils. Maybe there's something to entering the process through an unexpected doorway. The intangible skills--the ones that are arguably the most essential--might be tapped into much more directly when we approach them sideways.

What do you think?

Naomi Kinsman is the author of the FROM SADIE'S SKETCHBOOK series and recently collaborated with grammy-nominated artist, Natalie Grant on the GLIMMER GIRLS series. Naomi is also the founder and Executive Director of Society of Young Inklings, which offers classes, mentorships and publishing programs for young writers ages 6-16. Naomi crafted WRITERLY PLAY, a game-based approach to creative development that Society of Young Inklings utilizes as the foundation for all of its programming. www.naomikinsman.com 




Monday, August 15, 2016

The Construction Summers by Bob Krech

When I was little, there was something about trucks that attracted me. Like a magnet. Maybe just the size. Like a big redwood, or the pyramids, or a mountain. They demanded attention.

Then there was the noise. Trucks announced themselves with a mashing of gears and roaring engines as they rolled through our streets. I was four years old the summer we moved into our neighborhood. It was still very much under construction. What had been a cornfield with a few ancient landmark trees, was rapidly becoming a suburb to be known as Nassau II. 

I would follow the trucks every day to their construction sites. Construction sites were my absolute favorite playground as a kid. (This was before I discovered baseball) Especially during the summer when there was a lot of construction and for me, a lot of free time.

Trucks rolled up and down our streets everyday, bringing wood, gravel, dirt, sewer pipes, stone, and brick. We would dutifully follow them on our bikes or on foot to the construction site. We would watch from the street during the day as they unloaded their contents. I was especially fond of dump trucks, letting go their loads of dirt and gravel, making huge hills were once it was just flat, uninteresting ground.

These dirt hills were excellent areas for all kinds of quality kid activity. Climbing up and then sliding down the dirt hill was of course a natural. King of the Hill, where you tried to stay on top by throwing everybody else down was also high on the list. We also scavenged the site for wood, nails, stone, and brick. We used this cast off material to make our own little huts in the woods. 

I must admit we physically explored those half-finished houses, young trespassers that we were, climbing down into open basements and up temporary wooden stairs into second stories where we could imagine ourselves anything from pirates to kings to generals. It was like a stage set that was purposefully unfinished so as to allow the imagination of the playwright to make it whatever he wished.

As I remember, construction went on for two summers while the neighborhood expanded till it reached its limits. Finally the construction trucks stopped coming. A sad day indeed. Fortunately they were soon replaced by trucks that were just as interesting in their own ways; bread trucks, milk trucks, mosquito control trucks, and ice cream trucks. Each with its own charms for a kid. We followed those too for sure. But those were different summers.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer Memories by Darlene Beck Jacobson

S and sticking to sweaty skin - perfect for building.
U nder an umbrella, hiding from the sun.
M ilkshakes from a tall silver vessel - enough to share.
M udpies served to dolls with tea.
E ating from a tray table in front of the TV 'cause it's too hot in the kitchen.
R iding the carousel for a quarter.  The ride lasts forever 'cause the guy is flirting with mom.
M ovies at the drive-in.  A car load of kids for $2.00.
O range toe nails felt so grown up and daring.
R eplaying 45's - "She Loves You" and "Twist and Shout" - until daddy begs us to stop.
I ce cream cones dripping down mt hand.  How fast can you lick?
E verything seems possible in summer.
S itting under a tree with The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Archie and Friends.  Reading All Day!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Summer of Nancy Drew

by Jody Feldman

Not nearly the whole collection. I kept my favorites before giving the rest to yet a younger cousin.
It was the summer between 5th and 6th grades, the start of maybe the most difficult time I had growing up. We’d just moved to a great new house where my brothers, my parents, our dog and I no longer needed to share a single bathroom (not that the dog used the bathroom in the normal way; she liked to drink from the toilet and the bathtub). But it also meant moving from a neighborhood where you only needed to take one step out your front door before a swarm of kids had the exact same idea: it was time to play outside. Alongside a lack of neighborhood camaraderie at the new house were all the nerves that came from moving from a solid group of friends into the great unknown of another school that, rumor had it, was full of cliques. The rumors were true, the adjustment was hard, but that’s another story for another day.

That summer, though, my aunt brought over two large boxes of books, what turned out to be nearly all in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series published to date. They’d been passed down from cousin to cousin to cousin. Now it was my turn.

It was late one afternoon when I picked up my first Nancy Drew. After that, nearly every day that summer went as follows:
1. Early morning: finish the book I started the previous day
2. Late morning: go outside and tan (yes, I know) and cool off in our poor excuse for a pool
3. Midday: eat lunch and go back outside
4. Afternoon: come in to cool off and read the first half of the next Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys

Yes, I grew weary that Nancy’s relationship with Ted never moved forward. Yes, I questioned how these kids could always get into so much trouble. Yes, I still remember what to do if someone forcibly goes to bind my hands. But I got through every one of those books that summer.

I found a comfort in this routine... probably the stability I needed as I prepared for the next chapter in my life.
Several years younger than what I'm talking about, but you get the idea. (I'm on the left.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Dog Days of Summer
By Marcia Thornton Jones


When Mom finally relented and said we could have a puppy, she gave my sister and me three requirements.

It must be a small dog.
It must be a male.
It must be a good dog.

At the Humane Society, my sister and I peered into the kennel of puppies as they tumbled and fought over a single bowl of food. Only one sat off to the side watching.

He was teeny-tiny.
He was a he.
He was being soooooo good.

He was perfect. Mom would be so proud of us!

We carried him in the house and placed him on the family room carpet. We were beaming.
The puppy took one tentative step. And then he toppled over.
“That dog is sick,” Mom said.
She was right. Mom stayed up all night with him, one hand on the tiny whimpering puppy who was so sick that it was doubtful he’d live through the night. But he did live. Then he thrived. And that quiet, well-behaved puppy turned into a hyper-active, non-stop, dog who delighted in escaping from our yard by digging, climbing, and even chewing holes in the fence. He could out-run and out-dodge the fastest of us.
We thought about naming him Sergeant. Or maybe Killer. But the only name that stuck was Muffles: a word Mom muttered in a moment of exasperation in order to avoid using language kids weren’t supposed to hear.
One day, during one of his infamous catch-me-if-you-can games, I chased Muffles on my bike. He led me up and down streets, finally disappearing into a maze of backyards. I stood on a corner, yelling for him. But then I saw a friend, and so I left that corner—left Muffles—to walk my bike down the street and around another corner for a quick visit. It wasn’t long before I heard the most mournful howling ever. I walked my bike back around the corner. There was Muffles, right where he had last seen me calling for him, his nose pointed to the clouds, howling over and over and over.
“Muffles?” I hollered.
My dog—the one who was impossible to catch—ran straight for me, jumped up, knocked me down, and became a tail-wagging, body-wiggling, face-licking, I’m-so-glad-to-see-you kind of dog.
That’s how we learned that Muffles wasn’t an escape artist trying to get away from us. He just wanted to play.
Muffles and I spent summer days lying on the porch that ran the length of our house. We took long walks, stopping to rest under shade trees. I rode my Schwinn bike (white with a seat to match the orchid pin striping), and Muffles ran alongside. At night he obediently settled on the chair in my room since he wasn’t allowed on the bed. But as soon as Mom finished tucking me in, he leaped straight from the chair to the bed and curled up on my pillow.
I loved that dog. Really. I did.
But the years passed, and I discovered other interests besides riding my bike with a dog running happily beside me. Things like shopping, slumber parties…and boys. I spent more and more time learning to be a teenager which meant Muffles spent more and more time sitting at the gate waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Mom told me how unfair I was being. She encouraged me to spend time with him. I heard it as nagging.
One day she told me she found someone who had a farm that would take Muffles. A place where he could run. A place where he wouldn’t be sitting at a gate for hours at a time.
I was furious. How could she do that? How could she just give him away? I loved that dog!
But she was the one who saw his loneliness. His sadness. Saw the look of abandonment in his eyes. His grief.
I look back at those dog days of summer, and I grieve for that little dog who loved me better than I loved him. I wish I could tell him I am sorry. I wish I could relive those days so that I could give him the time and attention he deserved.

I wish I could have loved him better. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Summer Memory ... by Jane Kelley

Summer. We rode bikes. We read books. We swam in the lake. We made s'mores. We played kick the can. Then we did all these things again. And again.

The days, uninterrupted by the demands of school, flowed like a lazy river.

Then, one night there was a terrible storm. The next morning, we woke up and discovered a U.F.O. had landed in the empty field next to our house. A pirate ship had docked among the queen ann's lace. A jungle had grown up from the grass.


Or so it seemed. For when that storm knocked down a huge tree, everything changed. Now we spent all our time playing in the tree. It was perfect for hiding and climbing and even sitting and reading. How had we ever gotten along without it?

I don't remember which one of us got the first red spot. Soon we were all covered with an angry rash. We got poison ivy at least once a summer, no matter how we tried to avoid those leaves of three. But this was the worst ever. When the tree fell, it crushed the plants. The broken stems and leaves released their toxin much more readily.

Now every game had to be interrupted by "itch breaks" where we raced in circles to keep from succumbing to that brief ecstasy of scratching that would only, we knew, lead to regret.



But we did not regret our time in the tree. We were only sorry that it was removed from the field so that someone could build a house.


Luckily the memory––like the stump––remains.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Summer We Tempted Fate by Ann Haywood Leal

It was forbidden, which meant it beckoned to us all the more that summer between fourth and fifth grade.

So far, we'd made it to the very edge a few times, but none of that counted.

Sure, there were stories of kids who had made it, unscathed, but then there were the stories that might be considered in the urban legend category . . . kids from some other neighborhood who had been swallowed up by the mere dirt of the embankment, or who had fallen all the way to the berry fields at the bottom, torn apart by sticker bushes, both arms and legs broken.

But this was our summer.  We were prepared to be a little battered and bruised, but we were going to make it.  We rode our ten-speeds and Stingrays over the fir needled streets of Forest Knoll and past the ranch houses of Forest Villa, with confidence that can only be possessed by a pack of unencumbered ten and eleven-year-olds in the heat of summer.

We stashed  our bikes in the safety of some thick rhododendron bushes and headed to where the grass stopped and the cliff began.

From our points of view, the cliff looked like this:

 Or actually like this:


With Pixie Stix as our own form of Clif bar energy, we edged our way down sideways at times, and sometimes backwards.  But we made it.  We made it all the way down to the valley at the bottom and back up again, neighborhood victors.

We told our story to all who would listen, pausing dramatically as we described the rusty car without wheels and doors (quite possibly haunted) that had somehow made it halfway down.  We described the treacherous sinkholes toward the bottom (most definitely filled with quicksand) that we had all somehow managed to avoid.  And we made the solemn vow to never go back down again -- at least not without each other.  Fate couldn't be tempted twice, could it?


Only later on in my life did I see the cliff and the valley in a different way:





  But no picture or adult point of view can do anything to change or spoil that victorious summer of my eleventh year.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Summer of Books by Deborah Lytton: August Theme

My favorite summer memories all involve books.  I can remember endless summer days spent solving mysteries with Nancy Drew or surviving alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins.  Books decorate my house.  They are stacked in every single room.  Books that I loved then, and books that I love now.  One of my goals as a writer of middle grade fiction is to create books that can become special summer memories for readers.  It is in that time away from the responsibilities of school and activities that kids can allow their imaginations to soar.  I am honored to be a part of their journeys into the pages of a book.  C.S. Lewis said, “You can make anything by writing.”  Here are some of the adventures my favorite authors made for me:
 





Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Books + Olympics + Imagination = Many Magic Summers

Like most kids, I loved the summer months. Not because of the weather -- because of the FREEDOM.

During the summer, I read whatever books I wanted. The summer I was 14, I walked across the street to our neighbor's yard sale with $25 in my pocket. I came home with empty pockets and a giant box of romance novels -- which, I proceeded to chain-read the rest of the summer.

Not once did my parents say, No, stop! You're not old enough for those books!

Last summer I read all the Harry Potter books for the first time. Today I am reading HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. Summers have always meant books for me. And adventure.

As one of 5 kids, I never had to look far for a playmate. We had all sorts of contests -- who could swim across the pond the fastest, who could jump the highest on the trampoline. Several summers we hosted our own neighborhood Olympics -- my favorite (and best) event was synchronized swimming (with my sister).

We were of that generation of kids who lived outside all day and only came in when it started getting dark. We invented our own worlds -- my favorite and the most lasting was our version of "Egypt," mostly inspired by multiple viewings of the movie THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. We used trees as forts, the creek as a dividing line between lands, our ponies for transporting needed supplies like blankets and books and snacks, puddles with tadpoles in various stages as our gardens, and above all, we had each other.

Summers especially we pretty much lived a middle grade novel. When I remember my childhood it is always steamy and sunshiny and my skin is brown and dotted with mosquito bites and/or poison ivy. Maybe that's why none of my middle grade novels include school?!


I am so grateful!
-----------------------

Irene Latham is the award winning author of two novels for children LEAVING GEE'S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY. She also serves as poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal and has published three volumes of poetry for adults. Named the winner of the 2016 International Literary Association-Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, her current focus is on poetry for children. Titles include DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, which was named an SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor book, FRESH DELICIOUS: Poems from the Farmers' Market, and WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA. irenelatham.com