26 Jan

A little John Roy Lynch, and a lot of Poet

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Don TateFor a generous glimpse of the art from Don Tate’s upcoming book Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton of Chapel Hill, as well as from our collaboration The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, head on over to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Don’s been my friend for many years, but I learned a lot about him from his interview with Jules, and now I like him better than ever.

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25 Jan

Presentations come, and presentations go

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The presentation that yielded these thank-you notes went over well. I think I'll keep it.

The presentation that yielded these notes went over well. I think I’ll keep it.

I’ve updated the list of presentations I offer when I visit professional conferences, schools and libraries, writing workshops, book festivals, etc.

So, if you’ve seen me in action before and now wonder “Does he still offer that one?” or “Does he have anything new?” or “Good heavens, is he STILL talking about that?” — well, now you’ve got your answer.

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22 Jan

Bartography Express for January 2015, featuring Trent Reedy’s Burning Nation

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This month, one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter will win a copy of Burning Nation (Scholastic), the second book in Trent Reedy’s Divided We Fall YA trilogy

If you’re not already receiving Bartography Express, click the image below for a look. If you like what you see, click “Join” in the bottom right corner, and you’ll be in the running for the giveaway at the end of this week.

20150122 Bartography Express

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21 Jan

Five answers about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

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John Roy Lynch final cover

Eerdlings, the nifty new blog from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, asked me to answer a few questions about my upcoming book with Don Tate, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

So, if you want to know the two reasons why January 16, 2007 was a momentous day for this project, have a look!

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19 Jan

Q&A with Trent Reedy, author of Burning Nation

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Burning NationThis month’s edition of Bartography Express features a Q&A with Trent Reedy, author of the second book in the Divided We Fall trilogy, Burning Nation (Scholastic). It also includes a giveaway of a copy of Burning Nation — please see the newsletter for details.

The formatting of my newsletter made it unwieldy to include Trent’s complete answers to my questions, so I made a few edits for space. As I promised my subscribers, though, I’m including the full text here.

CB: What drew you toward the story you’re telling in the Divided We Fall trilogy?

TR: I wrote the Divided We Fall trilogy because I love stories about nightmare futures where everything we rely on to maintain our safe, comfortable lives fails us: government, law enforcement, food distribution, the electrical grid… Stripped of these systems we’ve come to depend on, would our society descend into total violent chaos, or is there enough kindness in humanity to offer hope? These sorts of narratives are great venues for action and adventure, but they also raise fascinating issues about the human condition and the nature of our contemporary society.

Some of my favorite post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories are The Walking Dead, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Giver — just to name a few. But the thing about these books and TV shows is that we usually don’t see much of the story about how the world arrived in such a dire situation. I wanted to do something different, where the focus was on what led to the collapse and on the collapse itself. So I decided to write the story of the fall of the United States.

I was also inspired to write the trilogy by watching the news, so much of it bad. I think many Americans are frustrated with a political system that seems to celebrate arrogant, divisive partisan politics more than it seeks to work toward compromise and solving our collective problems. I think many believe that if they can only help their party to defeat the other, then America might be saved, but I’ve come to believe that this rivalry, the divide itself, is America’s biggest problem. I’ve written Divided We Fall and Burning Nation to show what happens when the bitterness over that divide is carried out to its most disastrous potential.

CB: Tell me about the kind of kid you think Burning Nation will appeal to the most.

TR: When I began writing the trilogy, I thought that most of my readers would be high school students. However, I have received letters from readers as young as ten years old and e-mails from readers in their forties or fifties. I’ve heard from girls as well as boys. Veterans. Children of veterans. Teachers and librarians.

Burning Nation maintains an exploration of a lot of the socio-political issues in Divided We Fall, but it cranks up the action even more and runs the protagonist PFC Daniel Wright and his friends through even harder circumstances.

When I was a combat engineer in the Army National Guard, I learned a lot about weapons and explosives. I brought that knowledge to my work during my year in the war in Afghanistan, and now, I’ve used it to bring authenticity and visceral details to this trilogy. So I’d say that readers who are interested in action or military stories would enjoy Burning Nation.

But Burning Nation isn’t merely an action story. As a veteran who is writing war stories marketed toward younger readers, I am acutely aware of my responsibility to avoid glorifying war or violence. I try to be as honest as I can about war and its effects on the soldiers and civilians trapped in the middle of it. We Americans are used to thinking of war as something we’re rather distanced from, even though we’ve been at war now for over a decade. Divided We Fall and Burning Nation bring a recognizable near-future war to our back yards.

It’s an action story, a war story, but it’s a thinking-reader’s war story, a cautionary tale for us all, and a reminder of the need to get better at working together to overcome our shared problems and to bring unity to our country.

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18 Jan

And then sometimes books happen very (relatively) quickly

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So, I was talking about how long these books can take, right? Of course, then, this past Thursday’s edition of PW Children’s Bookshelf contained this announcement:

88 Instruments announcement

The way that 88 Instruments has come together is far different from how my John Roy Lynch or Nutcracker books developed.

In March of last year, editor Julia Maguire let it be known that she’d be interested in a picture book about a child picking which instrument to learn. I had not yet written any such picture book, and it wasn’t until late May that I started coming up with an idea for how to tell that story.

For the next month or so I jotted down notes (no musical pun intended, but if you saw one anyway, I’ll gladly take credit) by longhand. In early July, I had a first draft. In mid-August, I swapped a revised draft with a critique partner and got some helpful feedback. A couple of weeks after that, I did a revision at my agent’s request. Three or four weeks later — late September — I did another revision, this one based on notes I got from Julia herself.

(Notice how I’m using words such as “month” and “weeks” and not “years,” “decade,” “lifetime.” Anyway…)

Julia liked that revision, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers offered to buy the book, I revised some more, and by early November the text was done. (Yes, my fellow picture book authors, I know. Famous last words.)

The holidays came and went. Nothing ever happens in publishing during the holidays — except in this case, I guess, because early January brought the news that Louis Thomas would be illustrating.

Louis Thomas' 2014 holiday card

Louis Thomas’ 2014 holiday card

Not only that, but Louis Thomas would be illustrating very soon, with publication expected in summer 2016, roughly two years after my first draft.

Now, whether the development of this book has been speedy depends on your perspective. At a school visit this past Friday, a second-grader asked me how many books I can write in a day, so I suspect that she wouldn’t be impressed.

But at least now, when kids ask me how long it takes to create a book, I can provide an updated answer: from as many as twelve and a half years (and counting!) to as few as two (fingers crossed!!!).

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07 Jan

Keep keepin’ at it, folks

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You know how I mentioned the other day that it had been eight years since I started working on my John Roy Lynch book? By the publication date, it will be more like eight years and three months, which tops the eight years it took from my first efforts on The Day-Glo Brothers until the publication date. During school visits, it blows kids’ minds when I tell them that — especially, I suspect, the minds of those eight and younger.

But wait. Yesterday, while admiring Cathy Gendron’s gorgeous new cover art for my next book, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America, I looked up the date when I began working on that one. At first, I’d thought it was 2006 — but then I saw other documents in my files from early 2003. My Nutcracker book comes out this September, so with a twelve-year, seven-month gestation, it will easily become the new champ (and allow me to blow the minds of kids as old as seventh grade).

For now. Because just yesterday, I sent my agent a new revision of a picture book I began writing on October 7, 2002. I think this latest version is pretty good, and if it sells, the publication date would likely be somewhere around fifteen years after inception.

Fifteen years. (High school sophomores, I’m looking at you.)

Keep keepin’ at it, folks. Just make sure you’re enjoying yourself along the way.

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04 Jan

What a way to end one year and start another

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John Roy Lynch for Christmas

I don’t remember how I spent Christmas of 2006, but according to the files on my computer I spent at least part of the day doing my very first bit of documented work on what would become The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.

Eight years later, look what arrived as a late Christmas/early New Year’s gift! It’s my very first finished copy of that book, and it’s gorgeous. Illustrator Don Tate and the folks at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers have done a marvelous job, and I’ve so enjoyed getting to show the book off to friends and family over the holidays.

The publication date is April 2, so there’s not much longer to wait for this book. And, really, having already waited more than eight years for it, three more months isn’t long at all.

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20 Dec

Podcast interview: Life. Leadership. Video Games. And me.

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Classically Trained

I really enjoyed my conversation this fall with Jon Harrison, author the upcoming book Mastering The Game: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Success In Life, who interviewed me for his ClassicallyTrained podcast (“Life. Leadership. Videogames”).

We got to talk about video games (of course), fatherhood, Joey Spiotto’s art, the diversity of characters represented in Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet, the trickiest letter in the book (not Q, X, or Z), my Games & Books & Q&A interview series, and my earliest experiences as a reader and writer.

And let the record show that I caught myself (eventually) after declaring that there are 28 letters in the alphabet.

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11 Dec

Not a bad 24 hours for Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!

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The past day has brought this review from game developer and enthusiast Eduardo Baraf:

And this appreciation (and giveaway!) of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet from librarian Margie Myers-Culver:

Games, video games, can foster creativity, problem solving skills, desire to increase knowledge about a specific subject, healthy competition, and connections with like-minded people. Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet (POW!, October 14, 2014) written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Joey Spiotto is a guide every gamer will enjoy. It’s a starting point to promote understanding of the basics.

And this inclusion of A Gamer’s Alphabet in the “For Early Career Guidance” section of the Austin Chronicle‘s Video Game Gift Guide:

Local author Chris Barton guides your game-obsessed 8- to 12-year-old to the engrossing world of books. Each illustrated page features a term that may or may not be familiar to little joystick jockeys. It might even help adults understand what their kids mean when they talk about “griefers” and “sandboxes.”

In addition, if you act fast, you can get a signed, personalized copy of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! sent directly to the gamer(s) on your holiday gift list.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have shown your support for Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! You’re all top scorers in my book.

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