Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My First Blog Tour!

I'm excited to tell you that TOMORROW starts a TWELVE blog Tour for THE HEALING SPELL! 

The Teen Book Scene has generously put the tour together for me - I'm thrilled with how wonderful and easy they have been to work with. Kelsey is a doll and she runs her own fantastic blog at The Book Scout!!!

December 1-20 are the dates so it really does start TOMORROW! 

The first day there will be a review of The Healing Spell and the second day will be an interview or a guest post or an interview with Livie, my main character, and other silly and fun questions. AND THERE WILL BE A GIVEAWAY OF THE HEALING SPELL AT EVERY SINGLE BLOG!!! Wowza! 

Here are the blogs who are participating: 









Think Christmas and holiday gifts when you think of children's books - they're perfect and last forever! I can send a signed bookplate to you, too! 

Isn't she adorable! Get a book for that cute girl and boy in your life!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Guest Blogger on Librarian By Day - Historical Books - Simply Divine!

     First off, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I stuffed myself silly as usual. My niece did something unusual with the turkey this year. She slow-roasted the bird in a barbecue pit for twelve hours overnight and the meat just FELL off the bones. It was SO tender and just melted in your mouth. Yum!

     I'd also like to say THANK YOU!!! to all my new followers of the past couple of months. I'm trying to catch up and find all your blogs and follow YOU, too! Remember, that when I get to 100 followers I'm giving away bunches of YA and MG books so stay tuned! And invite YOU friends to find me and come hang out here at "Kimberley's Wanderings" where we bump into each other a lot, because, um, we "wander" a bit at times. Sorry, that was bad, but your day would not be complete without a daily snort, right?

     I am honored to be the guest blogger today on "Librarian by Day" a wonderful blog by Melissa Rabey, a teen librarian in Maryland and who is on the Printz Committe for this year! Yeah!!! Good people to know. She and I had a chance to bump into each other at the YALSA conference earlier this month, but I didn't make it due to book touring. Dern! Next time for sure, Melissa! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Guest Post: How An Author Researches

Enjoy today's guest post from author Kimberly Griffiths Little, about what draws her to historical fiction and how she researches and writes her books.  --Melissa

Historical Fiction Is A-Changing!

Many folks hear the genre, “historical fiction” and smother a yawn. They want fantasy, dragons, action, danger, excitement, incantations, magical wands and lightning bolt scars on their main character, but STOP. WAIT.

The saying, “Kids don’t really like historical fiction” is a long-held mantra, and it’s true that many editors don’t buy much historical fiction. Publishers are leery of being able to sell only a few thousand copies of “historical fiction”.

And yet.

I was a Nancy Drew and mystery fanatic when I was growing up and I still remember choosing books at my library or through the Scholastic Book Clubs about Jenny Lind, the famous singer as well as books about Florence Nightingale, Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. There was a biography about a young woman who was a spy during the Civil War. As the enemy ambushed her, this girl spy ATE the secret note she was carrying! Chewed it up and swallowed it! How daring and thrilling! Oh, and love me some Abraham Lincoln! I also loved World War II stories like The Endless Steppe, about a girl and her family who were exiled to Siberia. And that other heart-grabbing book about a girl called Anne Frank. And then there are all those exciting stories about European queens getting their heads cut off.

Of course, this was long before Harry Potter and Bella and Edward. Kids are different, folks say. They have shorter attention spans. They don’t care about dead people.

Screech! Put on the brakes, people. Shorter attention spans? Me-thinks-not. They’re reading 800 flippin’ pages of Harry Potter and Twilight, for crying out loud. Recently, a librarian told me that her nine-year-old daughter loves thick books. Thick books are a status symbol.

So it all comes back to content.

Can historical fiction grab a reader? You betcha.

Can historical fiction be heart-pounding, exciting, fast-paced and thrilling? You betcha.

Can parents and teachers and librarians introduce these books in meaningful ways and get kids hooked on stories and time periods THAT REALLY HAPPENED? Yes!

Since I’m a writer and not a librarian, I’m going to tease you by telling you about some of the very cool research I get to do to bring my own novels alive.

Part of the fun of being a writer is – yes, research! Some of my critique partners tell me that I spend too much time researching. After a few weeks or months, they tell me, “just start writing already”! 

But I only stop obsessively researching when I get to the point that the material has become repetitive. I get to the point where I start thinking, “I could have written this book!” I stop when the details have become ingrained in my own brain and psyche that when I start drafting I almost never have to stop and look something up. My goal is to get to the point that I can write with confidence and authenticity.

I love putting in tiny, cool details that brings the story truly alive.

My novel, The Healing Spell (Scholastic, 2010) started out as a book about a girl in the bayous during 1968. I dressed my characters in funky 1960s clothing, added music references from the Beatles, etc, but when the manuscript sold my editor thought that the book would feel even more timeless if I took out all the 1960s references. I agreed.

So it’s not “historical” any longer. But I spent a decade researching for this book since I didn’t actually grow up in Louisiana and I’m not a native Cajun girl (although I’m an adopted one now!) I wanted their lifestyle, relationships, food, dialogue, and family life to be accurate. Cajun Book reviewers tell me I nailed it. Sweet words to a writer! I had a librarian tell me that I painted the relationship between Livie and her daddy perfectly - that girls and their daddy’s in the South have very special relationships. I never found that “fact” in any of my research, but I spent so much time in Louisiana and read so widely that I *got* that important emotional relationship by pure osmosis.

My upcoming novel, Secret Rites of the Goddess (Scholastic, 2012), is an edgy YA historical about the roots of belly dance and the sexual rites performed in the goddess temples about 1750 BC. I’d already been taking belly dance classes so that came in real handy. I found architectural descriptions of the ruins of Ashtoreth goddess temples that I incorporated into my story. I read dozens of books about the Bedouin culture written by Bedouins. They drink camel’s milk and baby camels often do sleep inside the tents! I used that knowledge to place my heroine’s personal camel inside her tent during a particularly grim and emotionally raw scene.

Murdering the Dead, one of my WIPs, is a thriller about the mysterious death of King Tut as told through the eyes of the Mummy Priest who embalmed him. I pored over books about King Tut’s actual clothing, jewelry, swords, etc that were found on him. During the Pharaoh’s embalming and funeral in my story, those details are completely accurate to Tut’s mummy; including how many silk shrouds he was wrapped in—seven.

My Work-In-Progress, a YA gothic paranormal called Essence is a challenge blending paranormal creatures and Super Powers into a novel set in 1878 in a castle in Scotland and a Southern Plantation in the South. 

Trust your kid readers to get engrossed and fascinated by the *history* in Middle-Grade and Young Adult literature – and have a blast reading and discussing together and discovering all those juicy *real* tidbits hidden within the pages.

Kimberly Griffiths Little
Blog: http://www.kimberleygriffithslittle.blogspot.com
Website: www.kimberleygriffithslittle.com (Book Trailer, Teacher's Guide and Mother/Daughter Book Club Guide)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SPELLBINDERS is giving away SEA in November's issue!

Hello dear friends! Alas, my blogging has taken a back seat due to a new baby in the house and continuous deadlines. All wonderful, magical, stupendous things in my life! But blogging got pushed down the To Do List.

Here is November's brand new issue of SPELLBINDERS and a GREAT interview with Heidi Kling about her debut novel SEA!!! It's an interview angle that hasn't been done before so enjoy!!!

Please Join Our Mailing List below and get SPELLBINDERS automatically. And Here is the link to enter the giveaway of SEA! 

Spellbinders Logo
November, 2010
Feature Article - Kids on the Edge
An Interview with Albert Borris - by Carolee Dean

This month Spellbinders will focus on stories for kids and teens dealing with crisis. I've found books to be a valuable medium for bringing up tough subjects. Young people often benefit just from knowing there are others going through the same struggles. I think it's true for all of us that as we see characters overcoming what seem to be insurmountable obstacles, we find the strength and courage to face our own difficulties.

Albert Borris
My job as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools has had a definite impact on the types of stories I create, so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to interview Albert Borris, whose career as a Student Assistance Counselor inspired him to write Crash Into Me, the story of four high school students who meet online and form a suicide pact. They decide to go on a road trip together and spend two tumultuous weeks visiting the sites of celebrity suicides with the final destination of Death Valley, where they plan to end their lives. But an interesting thing happens on the road. The teens form connections, and as the narrator, Owen, finally finds a voice to express his despair, he begins to find hope as well. Check out Albert's website at www.albertborris.com.

Carolee: Albert, thanks for joining us for this month's issue of Spellbinders. What got you interested in becoming a counselor?

Albert: Because I was a kid once, too. Also, I took a Human Psychology class with Dr. Betty Duff. She thought that I could be a suicide hotline worker. By my junior year in college, I was a counselor and never looked back. I also worked with teens while my father was getting sober. It all just stuck.
Crash Into Me CoverMy first job in schools was given to be by a woman named Carolyn Hadge in the Toms River school district. I worked there for two years and I loved it! Then I was given a grant to work in Moorestown for three years. When that time was up, they asked me to stay!
Carolee: How would you describe the work you've done with teens?

Albert: My job involves a lot of talking and connecting. I am a teacher as well as a counselor, which means being an authority figure as well as a friend. I offer a shoulder to cry on for students in 9th through 12th grade. I give emotional assistance for kids thinking of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and experiencing other hard times. But I'm also a teacher, taking on a class called Natural Helpers, I instruct students on the Ropes Course and I organize the Project Graduation.
Carolee: I've heard of Ropes. They had one at a psychiatric hospital where I once worked. A group of people go out on an obstacle course and do repelling and climbing with ropes and harnesses. It's about testing your limits and building trust. I've never heard of Natural Helpers or Project Graduation. What are those?

Albert: Natural Helpers is a series events from CHEF/ Comprehensive Health Education Foundation, and Project Graduation was a drug free event I organized for graduation night (8pm to 7am). Over 95% of the students who graduated came to the event.

Carolee: That's a wonderful turn-out. It sounds like you've done a lot of great things for kids. How has your job influenced your writing?

Albert: My line of work is directly expressed through my book. The inspiration for Crash Into Me came during a Parents' Workshop I coordinated. The other books I have written are along the same lines. Junior, The Holy Darkness, and my next book, The Anarchy Game, are all about some kind of struggle or suffering.
I know that through these books we can get the message out that there are kids/teens/adults that all have troubles. Sometimes, we all feel alone but there is always hope. By writing these novels, I can make that mark introspectively
Carolee: Thanks so much for joining us for this month's issue of Spellbinders.
Guest Column - Sea's Journey
This month's Guest column (below) is by Heidi Kling, debut author of SEA. It's the story of a fifteen-year old California girl, Sienna (Sea) Jones, who is haunted by recurring nightmares since her mother's disappearance over the Indian Ocean three years before. She reluctantly travels with her psychiatrist father's volunteer team to post-tsunami Indonesia six months after the disaster where she meets the scarred and soulful orphaned boy, Deni, who is more like Sea than anyone she has ever met.

Heidi's husband, a practicing psychiatrist, went to Indonesia after the tsunami and his experiences inspired the story that Booklist calls, "... a lyrical story of loss and daring to love again."

SEA coverWe hope you enjoy Heidi's article below and be sure to check out her blog, her web site, her Facebook page and her Twitter page.  

Heidi is generously giving away a copy of SEA to one of our lucky readers here at SPELLBINDERS. In case you didn't know, issues of SPELLBINDERS are also posted on the Spellbinders blogIf you go to the blog site and post a comment, you could be the lucky winner. Also, it's a great time to sign up for our blog list. That way if you ever change email addresses, you will still have access to our articles.

We will post the winner's name in our December issue. 
Sea's Journey   by Heidi Kling
Heidi R. Kling
Heidi R. Kling
Sometimes, when you're married to someone for a long time, it's hard to tell where you stop and he begins--and vice-versa. That's sort of how it is with my husband and I, his profession and mine. I'm not a psychiatrist. I really wouldn't want to be one. He's much more hardy than I am, and hearty really. I hear sad stories and either buck away from them because I can't deal, or break down in sobs.

He is better at being neutral, objective, while still being empathetic and kind. So how does his profession influence my writing? Well, if it weren't for him and his volunteer work in Indonesia, Sea would not exist. In any form. I never would have come up with the idea.

And even if I did get this particular idea on my own, I wouldn't have felt comfortable entering this tragic, sensitive world on the other side of the globe, without first hand knowledge of real people who have been there, experienced it all, first hand.

When Daryn returned home from Indonesia, the first time he went, he was inspired to change everything in his career's future. He was a resident, so still in that phase of not knowing what comes next. Instead of going into private practice or working for a big HMO etc., he went to work for non-profits that focus on helping refugees and victims of natural (tsunami etc.) and man-made (war trauma) disasters with their PTSD. Yes, the pay is less, but the internal benefits of helping so many people who otherwise would not receive care made it so worth it.

The way this decision inspired me through writing, is I want to make sure every project I work on means something to me. SEA was a story I felt needed to be told. Indonesia is a place many teens or grown-ups don't know too much about. Also, there is still so much stigma around mental health disorders, and I thought if I created this extremely likable boy, Deni, and gave him PTSD, it would be a good way to bring up that topic and make it not as taboo. 

As far as the rest of my writing goes, I play a pretend therapist in my essay contribution to Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls, where I pick apart, and advise, the relationship between the Salvatore brothers from TV's hit show The Vampire Diaries. Interestingly, my husband didn't help me with the essay until the last draft. I had him read through it for clarity. I think it's just being around him-someone who listens to people's problems and helps try to fix them for a living. It's just rubbed off on me. The same way it would have if I was married to a rock star, or a rodeo heavyweight. I would know more about music. I would know about bulls. And those rocking outfits that cowboys wear.

I'm so grateful to my husband for doing what he does. I hope in some way, I'm able to help others through my words, the way he does with his important, often tragic, often hopeful, work.

It's hard in this current genre of sparkly vampires to make a go of a book that is largely about healing, family, and takes place in a third-world country, but my readers have been so enthusiastic and have fallen in love with the characters and this story.

This means the world to me.

The entire experience of this book, from early idea to publication, has taught me to stay true to my ideals and to tell the story I want to tell.
Kimberley's Book Buzz
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Kimberley Little
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Many thanks to Heidi R. Kling and Albert Borris for their personal stories, passion and experiences that led them to write their books.

In keeping with our Crisis Books theme, here are eight more well-written and thought-provoking titles for your teens. They may also work for 7th-8th grade students, but we do recommend that parents, teachers and librarians read the books first and be ready to discuss. All the topics are timely and the stories and characters very insightful, but they do have mature themes and some swearing.

MockingbirdsThe Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney is about a girl dealing with date rape and its effects on her friends and school.  

Struts & FretsStruts & Fretsby Jon Skovron is about a teenage boy whose jazz musician grandfather has Alzheimer's disease.

Flash BurnoutFlash Burnout by L.K. Madigan about the drug use of a parent.

Dark SongDark Song by Gail Giles is the story of a parent in trouble with the law and a girl who gets involved with an older boy who plants in her mind the idea of killing her parents.

AfterAfter by Amy Efaw, about the mental break-down and come-back of a girl who hides her pregnancy and dumps the baby in the trash.

Girl StolenGirl, Stolen by April Henry, about a blind girl who is kidnapped and how she survives.

Hate ListThe Hate List by Jennifer Brown, about the events leading up to a school shooting and its aftermath.

JumpedJumped by Rita Williams-Garcia, about bullying by girls in the school/sports arena and the issues of personal and community responsibility.

The Secret Language of Stories
Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean

 This month, keeping with our theme of novels with a strong central problem or crisis, I would like to discuss story goals. Many of the story grammar aids used by teachers to discuss story structure with students involve indentifying the central problem in the story. This seems straightforward. Even simple stories have some kind of basic problem. The three bears have experienced a home invasion by a fair-haired stranger. Little Red Riding Hood is being stalked by a wolf. Voldemort wants to get rid of Harry Potter.

Not all stories are based upon a problem, however. Some are based upon attaining a very coveted prize. In the movie, Friday Night Lights (based upon the novel Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, a 1990 non-fiction book written by H.G. Bissinger) the Permian High School Panthers want to win the state football championship.

Although the concept of a story problem seems fairly simple, further breakdowns are observed when students are asked to generate a problem for an original story. Many balk at the idea of "creating a problem." Much of their lives may be spent staying out of trouble, not thinking up ways of getting into it.

I have had much more success talking to students about the idea of the Problem and the Prize. I tell my students that some stories start with a problem such as an evil Jedi kidnapping a princess or a wizard wanting to regain power. Soon thereafter (or sometimes not so soon), the Prize is identified. Rescuing the princess or finding the Sorcerer's Stone before Voldemort gets it becomes the central goal of the story. Other stories, however, start with a Prize, such as capturing the attention of the cute boy in the cafeteria. But as we all know, as soon as you set a goal, obstacles soon arise to block your path - Oops, the cute boy is a vampire. That certainly complicates matters.

One of the other reasons that students have difficulty identifying the central problem of a story is because the objective often changes. Luke Skywalker rescues Princess Leia only to discover that there is a bigger problem - the Death Star must be destroyed. The hero may kill an evil monster only to find out that the monster has a mother. Dorothy's central problem is that she's been blown to Oz and needs to get back home, but in the middle of the story, the wizard tells her to go confront a witch and steal her broomstick. The Problem (confronting the witch) and the Prize (getting the broomstick) have nothing to do with the central Problem (needing to get back home), except for the fact that this task has been assigned to Dorothy as a prerequisite to attaining the wizard's help.

In a nutshell, this is what I tell my students: Some stories start with a Problem, and the hero of the story soon identifies a Prize to be attained that will help to overcome the Problem. Other stories start with a Prize, and obstacles (or Problems) soon arise to prevent the hero from attaining the Prize. Also, sometimes the Prize that the hero is pursuing at the Midpoint of the story is not the same Prize he seeks at the end. It may simply be a preliminary reward needed to advance further down the Hero's Path, or what the hero wants may change. The important thing is that as we identify with the hero of the story attaining his goal against insurmountable odds, we start to believe that maybe we can face our own Problems and come away with a Prize worth fighting for.

For a Fun Activity Looking at Problems and Prizes visit the blog on my website at www.caroleedean.com.

November Events
YALSA Symposium in Albuquerque, NM
November 5-7

The Young Adult Library Services Association Symposium was held in Albuquerque from November 5th to the 7th. Lois Ruby and Carolee Dean were in attendence at YALSA and had a great time. YALSA and its national conference will be the subject of next month's Spellbinders. 

ASHA International Convention, Philadelphia, PA
November 18-20

If you happen to be in Philadelphia later this month, please try to attend the 2010 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention.
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