12 Jul

“What was Left Out, Powered by PechaKucha,” from TLA 2019

Twenty presentation slides, 20 seconds per slide, no stopping. Four hundred seconds long, period. That’s PechaKucha.

At the Texas Library Association conference this past April, I participated — alongside Christina Soontornvat, Susan Fletcher, Traci Sorell, and Varian Johnson — in what we believe to be the first-ever PechaKucha TLA session, orchestrated by our fellow author and friend Kathi Appelt.

Here’s the official description of our session, “What was Left Out, Powered by PechaKucha“:

This will be a panel of five children’s book authors who will discuss their revision process on their latest books, with special focus on “what was left out.” The panel will occur at the annual conference for the Texas Library Association, and is focused toward an audience of librarians and educators

And here’s what that looked like in my case, as I talked about aspects of Barbara Jordan’s story that I did not include in What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Please take a look (it’s six minutes, 40 seconds!), and don’t miss Christina’s, Susan’s, Traci’s, or Varian’s. I loved this session as both presenter and audience member, and I hope we’ll see more of the PechaKucha format at TLA 2020.

12 Apr

Austin authors’ efforts on behalf of diverse books

My local kidlit community — including not only authors and illustrators, but librarians and booksellers as well — shines quite nicely in this weekend’s article in the Austin American-Statesman:

As librarians across the state are set to gather in Austin next week for the annual Texas Library Association conference, it’s worth noting what a difference a year makes: There’s a national festival devoted to children’s diverse books planned for next year in Washington, D.C., and a writing award with corresponding grant supported by celebrated author Walter Dean Myers’ estate. The Texas Book Festival featured a We Need Diverse Books panel in October, as did the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association earlier this year. Next week’s Texas library conference will include a diversity summit as part of its program as well as a “Colorful Canon” panel exploring how to build diversity in children’s literature.

The Austin-area creators of children’s books mentioned in the article include Cynthia Leitich Smith, Don Tate, Shana Burg, Varian Johnson, Bethany Hegedus, Jo Whittemore, and me, but I assure you that many more are actively involved in this movement in one way or another. Here’s to keeping things going.

02 Jul

Introducing BookPeople’s Modern First Library

Modern First LibraryI wrote in my newsletter last week about my new project with BookPeople. “Our hope,” I wrote, “is that by leveraging the longstanding popularity of Margaret Wise Brown, for instance, Modern First Library will get more great new books representing an increasingly broad swath of our society into more homes and into more readers’ hands. If this grassroots approach works, we hope that other booksellers will emulate it in their own communities and that it will encourage publishers to create and support more books reflecting the diversity in our world.”

Today, I’m pleased to share the Austin indie bookseller’s blog post officially launching the initiative:

Under the banner of this program, we will be featuring a broad range of books, new and old, that we think belong on the shelves of the very youngest readers.

BookPeople is committed to helping all kids find books that broaden their idea of what’s possible, provide fresh perspectives, and open windows to new experiences: all the things that great children’s books always do. And because we live in the vibrant, global society of the 21st century, our book suggestions have been purposefully designed to reflect the diversity of that experience. After all, a child’s first library offers his or her first glimpses of the world outside the family’s immediate sphere, and we think that view needs to reflect a reality that’s broad, inclusive, and complex, just like the world we all live in.

Please have a look at what BookPeople’s children’s book buyer has to say about Modern First Library, and stay tuned for guest posts on the subject by Austin authors Cynthia Leitich Smith, Don Tate, Liz Scanlon, Varian Johnson, and me. In the meantime, check out the Modern First Library starter sets — the folks at BookPeople have worked hard to put those together, and it shows.

25 Jun

Bigger than a book: my new, (no longer!) secret project

For the past few months, while working on getting my next few books written and revised and ready to greet the world, I’ve been plotting away behind the scenes on a secret project with Austin, Texas, independent bookseller BookPeople. In this month’s edition of my Bartography Express newsletter, I at last get to tell the world what BookPeople and I have been up to — a program we’re calling Modern First Library.

I’m also giving away a copy of The Great Greene Heist, the smart, engaging, fast-paced new middle-grade novel by Varian Johnson, to one subscriber to my newsletter. If you’re not already receiving it, 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.

20140624 Bartography Express

27 May

Stop-the-wedding hijinks from my favorite author

I’m so pleased, tickled, delighted, wowed, impressed, touched, and inspired by Jennifer’s new middle-grade novel, Revenge of the Flower Girls, which is officially published today. She’s a smart, funny, lovely Texan, and she’s written a smart, funny, lovely Texas book (set in Johnson City!).

I’m giving away a copy — signed, if I can sweet-talk her into that — to one subscriber to my Bartography Express newsletter. If you’re not already receiving it, 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.

May Bartography Express

30 Jan

Dear “Dear Teen Me”…

Dear “Dear Teen Me,”

I just wanted to let you know that I’ve become a big fan of your letters from authors to their teenage selves, and to thank you for all of the novels you’ve got me adding to my to-read pile as a result.

Seriously. Does a letter that begins like this —

Dear Teenage Me:

The precise day in time I’m picking to send this to you is that week when the guy at work was trying to kill you.

— make me want to read Adam Selzer’s books? Yes. Yes it does.

Same goes for Mike Jung‘s Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities, which I’d want to read — if it was published yet — based solely on these words from Mike to his younger self:

Here’s the first, most important thing – you live to be my age. Hopefully there are a lot more years ahead, but the immediate point is you live past 15, which you won’t if you do what you’re considering. I know ending it all seems like a viable option. I KNOW.

And for Varian Johnson‘s Saving Maddie — a great guy book with a girl cover — which, OK, I’ve already read and loved, but which I would have sought out anyway after reading this:

[Y]ou’ll learn how to talk to girls, and you’ll go out on dates, and you’ll even get over your fear of you know what happening when you slow dance. You’ll never be an athlete, but that’s okay, because you’re in the band.

Ditto for Tom Angleberger. (“Do me a favor … don’t shout ‘Nice move, Brian!’ really really loud.”)

And Gene Brenek. (“At what age do I even address this to? Let’s face it, either end of the teen spectrum is going to pack a wallop–but for entirely different reasons.”)

And Charles Benoit. (“[D]espite what Mrs. Christensen says, after high school you’ll never have to solve for X again.”)

And Steve Vera. (“Dear Numbnuts…”)

You get the idea.

You’ve got me eager to read more from these guys, and to read more, period. I thank you for that.


A Contemporary Fan

[Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.]

11 Oct

Shark Vs. Train vs. Zombies Vs. Unicorns vs. Dinosaur Vs. The Potty — all at the Texas Book Festival!

The Texas Book Festival is in Austin this coming Saturday and Sunday, October 16-17. Are you going to be there? Are you?

I’ll be there, reading Shark Vs. Train at 11 a.m. Sunday in the Children’s Chapter Read Me a Story Tent. Afterwards, I’ll be signing copies of the book and (*free stuff alert*) giving away signed SVT posters left and right. In the meantime, here’s an interview that I did with festival sponsor Kirkus Reviews:

It’s really just about the perfect picture-book text—it leaves lots of room for your illustrator to go to town with the visual foolishness. How closely did you work together?

We worked together really closely. Tom was one of just a handful of illustrators that I thought would really get Shark and Train. Once my editor had a turn at my revised manuscript, Tom and I pretty much sequestered ourselves—online and over the phone and together in person one Sunday here in Austin—for a few months as we gave the story its shape. The main thing we had to figure out is just how Shark and Train came to be in this battle. We tried a really elaborate setup involving a piece of coal flying off a bridge and hitting Shark on the head, but finally we hit on the much simpler kids-in-a-toy-box device.

What other children’s/YA authors will be there? Way more than I’ll possibly be able to see in action (for starters, I’ll miss Cinda Williams Chima, Carolyn Cohagan, Ingrid Law, and Brian Yansky, whose panel discussions happens at the same time as my reading). But if there were three or four of me, here are just some of the folks we’d be catching:

David Wiesner
Peter Brown
Phillip Hoose
Michael Buckley, John Gosselink, Josh Lewis, and Dr. Cuthbert Soup
Naomi Mitchell Carrier, Jennifer Cervantes, Xavier Garza, and Ingrid Law
Carolyn Cohagan, Lisa Railsback, and Sara Pennypacker
Bob Shea
Scott Westerfeld
Meg Cabot
Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black
Laurie Halse Anderson, James Crowley, and Bethany Hegedus
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Matt de la Peña, Varian Johnson, April Lurie
M.T. Anderson

I’ll see you there, too, I hope!

09 Jun

Dude! (And Dames!)

If you’re looking for your literary kicks in Austin this Saturday, you might want to get yourself down to BookPeople at 1 p.m. for “Delacorte Dames & Dude: Everything you wanted to know about young adult fiction but were too afraid to ask.”

Here’s the skinny:

The panel discussion features the Delacorte Dames and Dudes, five authors of young adult (YA) novels. They are all published by Delacorte Press, Random House and they all live right here in Austin! Delacorte Dames are April Lurie, author of The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine (2008), Jennifer Ziegler, How Not to Be Popular (2008), Margo Rabb, Cures for Heartbreak (2007), and Shana Burg, A Thousand Never Evers (2008). The lone Delacorte Dude is Varian Johnson, whose novel Saving Maddie is forthcoming in 2010. The panel will be moderated by Austin’s own, Sarah Bird. Join us for what is sure to be an enlightening and lively discussion.

06 Nov

BookPeople, one week from tonight

Got plans for the evening of next Thursday, the 13th? I can help.

From 6:30 to 9 at Austin’s BookPeople, there will be local children’s and YA authors and illustrators out the wazoo:

Cynthia Leitich Smith
Lila Guzman
Jane Ann Peddicord
Mark Mitchell
Greg Leitich Smith
April Lurie
Shana Burg
Frances Hill
P.J. “Tricia” Hoover
Helen Hemphill
Phyllis Peacock
Jennifer Ziegler
Christy Stallop
Julie Lake
Brian Yansky
Jessica Anderson
Varian Johnson
Philip Yates
Emma Virjan
Brian Anderson
Anne Bustard
Don Tate
Jerry Wermund
Jo Whittemore

Besides a meet-and-greet, there’ll be a holiday reading as well as separate panel discussions for picture books, middle grade, and YA.

And if that’s not enough, rumor has it that a not-quite-published author will have a daylight-fluorescent sample of his first book so fresh from the printer’s press that they haven’t even had time to bind it…

31 Oct

What to do between Halloween and Election Day?

If you’re in Austin (or close enough), don’t forget about the Texas Book Festival.

Here’s what I’m hoping to hit tomorrow:

A 25th Anniversary Celebration of Hank the Cowdog
Date: Saturday, November 1, 2008
Time: 12:30 – 1:15
Location: Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)

Join us as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hank the Cowdog! In John R. Erickson’s latest book, Hank the Cowdog #52: The Quest for the Great White Quail, Hank is thrilled when Beulah – the long-eared lady dog of his dreams – shows up at the ranch. At last, he thinks, she’s finally given up her infatuation with Plato the Bird Dog! But it turns out that Plato is missing, and Beulah wants Hank to help find him. Can he put his doggie dreams aside and do the right thing? It’s all in a day’s work for everyone’s favorite Head of Ranch Security!

Introducer Mary Jo Humphreys is a veteran educator in her 35th year of service to public schools. She has worked as a foreign language teacher, an elementary librarian, and a technology facilitator. She is currently the Director of Instructional Technology for Round Rock ISD and the Past Chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians.

Author: John R. Erickson
Introduction By: Mary Jo Humphreys

How Not to Be Popular
Date: Saturday, November 1, 2008
Time: 2:00 – 3:00
Location: Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca)

It’s hard being a girl. And being a girl in high school? Like, omigod! This panel of young adult authors will lead you through the minefield of life as a teenage girl. Whether it’s the hunt for popularity (and some girls will do the darndest things to get it) or an existential journey of self discovery, these writers cover teenage girl angst in poignant, hilarious, and horrific ways.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the field of children’s books, moderator Jennifer Brown started her career at what was then Harper & Row (now HarperCollins). During her nine years there she worked in both marketing and editorial, before moving to Madison, Wisconsin, to become editorial director at Pleasant Company (known for their American Girls imprint). Homesick for New York, she returned for a position at Scholastic, and then moved to Publishers Weekly, where she worked as children’s reviews editor for 10 years. She now reviews children’s books and writes about the publishing industry for an e-newsletter called Shelf Awareness.

Jennifer Ziegler
Paula Yoo
Lauren Myracle
Melissa de la Cruz

Moderated By: Jennifer Brown

I Haven’t Been Myself Lately: My Life as a Writer
Date: Saturday, November 1, 2008
Time: 3:30 – 4:30
Location: Capitol Extension Room E1.016

This intriguing panel features three authors who have masterfully crafted first-person narratives of protagonists entirely different from themselves. From a man writing a teenage girl’s experience with an unplanned pregnancy to a white author writing as a black girl growing up in the Deep South during the Civil Rights Movement, these authors have immersed themselves in worlds that they can only imagine. They will talk about their writing process and the challenges of getting into someone else’s head.

Moderator Don Tate is an award-winning illustrator and author. He’s illustrated more than 25 trade and educational books for children, including Summer Sun Risin’; Sure As Sunrise: Stories of Bruh Rabbit, a Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist honoree; and more recently, I Am My Grandpa’s Enkelin. As a first time author, Don is the recipient of Lee & Low Books New Voices Honor award, for the book It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Taught Himself to Draw, to publish in 2010. Don lives in Austin with his wife and son, and is a graphics reporter for the Austin American-Statesman.

Shelia P. Moses
Varian Johnson
Shana Burg