24 Oct

Jennifer Ziegler on #kidlitwomen*, Cynsations, and again on #kidlitwomen*

Jenny and me, literary nerds in love

This week, My Favorite Author in the Whole Wide World has been featured on two of my favorite sources for insights and information about the world of children’s literature.

For those of you who don’t know, Jennifer Ziegler — author of the Brewster Triplets series of middle-grade novels as well as YA novels including How Not to Be Popular — is also my wife, and I’ll admit to being a little bit biased in favor of every single thing she does.

But I’m also a loyal listener to the #kidlitwomen* podcast and a big fan of author Cynthia Leitich Smith‘s Cynsations blog. Since very early in my career, I’ve craved a deeper understanding into the workings of the business and culture of books for young readers, and a deeper understanding of my fellow creators of those books.

#kidlitwomen* and Cynsations — a newcomer to the conversation and a leader in the conversation from way back, respectively — both satisfy that need.

So you can imagine how happy I’ve been to hear Jennifer on this week’s two episodes of #kidlitwomen*.

Monday brought Jennifer’s reading of her essay “It’s the Grown-ups with the Hang-Ups — Not the Readers,” in which she challenges adults’ assumptions that the boys in their lives won’t read books about girls.

“I’ve tried [to get boys to],” some might say, “and they still won’t read them.” To that I say, Shouldn’t you be worried about why they won’t? Isn’t this something you need to talk with them about?

And this morning I woke up to find a new episode of #kidlitwomen* in which Jennifer discusses her essay with Alvina Ling, VP and editor-in-chief of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

In between those two podcast episodes, Jennifer was featured on the newest edition of Cynsations’ Survivors Interview Series, which “offers in-depth reflections and earned wisdom from children’s-YA book authors who have successfully built long-term, actively-publishing careers.”

I especially love Jennifer’s response to the question, “What advice would you give to your beginner self, if that version of you was a debut author this year?”

She talks about the importance to authors of finding a writing community, learning as much about the industry as possible, and never being afraid to ask questions.

That advice all rings true to me, and the community and education offered through #kidlitwomen* (including but not limited to the podcast) and Cynsations are great places to start.

04 Sep

When boxes of bookmarks arrive, it must be school-visit season again

Lo and behold, look what showed up on Friday:

Just in time for the start of this year’s school visits, it was our first shipment of our newest two-sided, hers-and-his bookmarks, and I think they’re beautiful.

Jennifer and I will leave these bookmarks for the audiences at each campus where we give presentations, though some lucky students will receive bookmarks from before the publication of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Teacher’s Pets (this past June) and my own What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? (coming three weeks from today).

But those aren’t leftovers — they’re vintage!

04 Apr

“Even though I’m a boy and the main characters are girls…”

A young reader recently wrote my wife, Jennifer Ziegler, a letter that began, “Even though I’m a boy and the main characters are girls, I quite enjoy your book Revenge of the Flower Girls.”

Jennifer and I have had discussions along these lines so many times — discussions that boil down to the facts that

1) often the books she writes are described as “girl books” whereas mine are categorized as “books,” and

2) some adults would consider her books to appeal to half a classroom while mine are there for everyone.

We were both so glad that this student read what he wanted to read and felt free to say so. But Jennifer went further and wrote something powerful in response.

Here’s a bit of it:

If we want boys to read, why are we limiting their choices? Why are we effectively cutting the number of books available to them in half? If we want boys to be able to empathize with women, to be good friends, siblings, spouses, bosses, coworkers, etc., why are we going along with the idea that a story told from a girl’s/woman’s POV is not for them to read?

Read the rest of “It’s the Grown-Ups with the Hang-Ups — Not the Readers.”

25 Oct

Come see Jennifer and me at the Texas Book Festival!


My favorite author in the whole wide world and I are both on the bill for the Texas Book Festival in Austin on November 4 and 5. We hope you’ll come see us, and we’re pleased to note that our sessions are not scheduled at the same time, so you don’t have to choose between Jennifer and me.

(You will, however, have to choose among many other fantastic options during any single time slot. Literary life is tough.)

Here’s when and where you can find us:

Relative Hijinks
Date: Saturday, November 4, 2017
Time: 3:00 – 4:00
Location: Next Chapter Tent
Book Signing: Childrens Book Sales & Signing Tent

Families. They love us, support us, save the day and sometimes embarrass the heck out of us. The books by Jennifer Ziegler, Revenge of the Happy Campers, Karina Yan Galser, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, and Victoria Jameison, Roller Girl and All’s Fair in Middle School, all get into their share of helpful hijinks. They also remind us of the importance of those connections forged with the family we inherit and the family we choose.

Moderator: Nikki Loftin

Authors:
Victoria Jamieson
Jennifer Ziegler
Karina Yan Glaser

Educator Focus: Teaching History Through Reading
Date: Sunday, November 5, 2017
Time: 11:00 – 11:45
Location: Capitol Extension Room 1.012
Visualization is one of the best ways to help understand history. Hear from our local authors, Don Tate, Chris Barton and Cynthia Levinson about how they distill memorable and age appropriate facts for students of all ages.

Moderator: Diane Collier

Authors:
Cynthia Levinson
Chris Barton
Don Tate

Read Me A Story With Chris Barton
Date: Sunday, November 5, 2017
Time: 1:00 – 1:30
Location: Childrens Read Me a Story Tent (10th & Congress)
Book Signing: Childrens Book Sales & Signing Tent

Bestselling Austin author Chris Barton reads us TWO new books! Dazzle Ships brings to life the little-known World War I story about why British and American ships were painted with bold colors and crazy patterns from bow to stern. Book or Bell? is a hilarious, high-energy picture book about a boy who will not stop reading and a school bell that keeps interrupting!

30 Apr

Proud-husband alert: Revenge of the Happy Campers is out now!

Revenge of the Happy Campers, the third book in Jennifer’s Brewster Triplets series, was published this past Tuesday. In this follow-up to Revenge of the Flower Girls and Revenge of the Angels, her 11-year-old protagonists venture away from their home in Johnson City, Texas. The sisters go on a camping trip with their beloved Aunt Jane, during which they square off against a trio of similarly competitive boys.

Writing in yesterday’s Austin American-Statesman, reviewer Sharyn Vane says:

Ziegler’s young democratic-process aficionados are as appealing as ever, brimming with confidence and problem-solving savvy. They’re empathetic enough to notice that their aunt is saddened by the state of the campground she remembers visiting each summer with the triplets’ mother. And they’re also “almost 12,” which means there are hints of tween-appropriate realizations that these boys could be more than just foes to vanquish … “Campers” is very much like the triplets themselves — full of real-world adventures, both wise and witty.

And like its predecessors, this book is as funny, warm, and big-hearted as the woman I married — and that’s saying a lot. Congratulations, love of mine!

08 Feb

A book about a girl, a book for a boy


Two exchanges I had with students last week in the booming town of Prosper, Texas, have remained on my mind back at home this week.

The first exchange was right before one of my elementary-school presentations, with a girl who handed me a letter that read in part:

I wonder if you have a book about a girl? If you don’t can you please make one? Sorry if I’m wasting your time. But I want you to please make a book about a girl. p.s. I have a french name.

The Texas girl with the French name was absolutely was not wasting my time.

I told her about my book coming out next year about a real girl from Texas, Barbara Jordan, who grew up to be a Congresswoman and teacher of ethics in public service. While we wait for What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?, I wish I could have told this student that I had more books with female lead characters. There have been manuscripts of mine that have focused on girls and women but which haven’t (yet!) gotten acquired by a publisher, and books of mine with a mix of male and female characters. But those aren’t of much use to a young reader who would like to read a book, right now, that’s primarily about a girl and written by the author visiting her school. This is something for me to work on.

I did ask the librarian to make sure the girl with the French name received one of the bookmarks I’d brought for Jennifer Ziegler‘s warm, funny series about the fictional Brewster Triplets, 11-year-old Texas sisters who aspire to be President, Chief Justice, and Speaker of the House, respectively. Especially for this girl, I signed my name and wrote Jennifer’s URL on the bookmark. I also asked the librarian to please emphasize that I was not delegating responsibility for writing female characters to my wife — it’s just that Jennifer’s books about girls already exist, and mine don’t yet. But I’m working on them, and I suspect I’ll be working harder at them from now on.

I mentioned two exchanges with students, and that was the first. The second was right after another of my sessions. Toward the end of my presentations, I share the cover of Jennifer’s first Brewster Triplets book and let my audience know that not only am I an author, but I’m married to one, too.

So, it was a few minutes after that revelation that a boy came up to me and asked, “What was the name of your wife’s book?”

“It’s called Revenge of the Flower Girls,” I told him. “I think you’d like it.”