Just an Author Blog

Reflections on the Journey to Publication and Beyond...

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women’s Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!
The Women’s Mosaic is a New York City-based non-profit organization that provides education, inspiration, and motivation for women to rise up and rock the world! The Women’s Mosaic unites and empowers women through programs that promote intercultural understanding and personal growth. We are a community of diverse, dynamic women interested in expanding our horizons by creating positive change that can individually and collectively enrich the world.

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays I post at CHICKS ROCK!, the blog of The Women’s Mosaic. Check out my posts there, too!

Sunny San Francisco

Okay, so it wasn’t all that sunny in reality, but my recent visit to Northern California certainly left me with a nice sunny feeling inside.

I spent a week on the west coast, mostly in San Francisco with a few days spent up in Chico, California. Soon, I’ll post about the actual work I did, which was the central purpose for my travels (four events during the course of the week!), but in between, I managed to find some time to just be a tourist.

I did some research on the Black Panther Party while I was in the vicinity of the area where the group was founded, and it turns out the legacy is alive in a lot of different ways throughout the city. The tastiest homage I ran across was Black Panther fudge at Z Cioccolato. It’s their best seller. Yum!

I rode the cable cars everywhere they went! I didn’t really know how cable cars worked until I went to the Cable Car Museum, and boy, did I learn a lot about cables. However, the cable cars do not go down this road, the “crookedest” street. This cracked me up. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge. Turns out, the middle of the bridge (there’s a pedestrian path) is as good a place as any to be inspired to scrawl an epic poem in your notebook, and stand there awkwardly, looking bizarre and gathering suspicious looks from passersby. Ah, the embarrasments we suffer to pursue creative arts.

Camo Girl on the Radio

I was recently invited to speak on NPR’s Michael Eric Dyson show, interviewed by (you guessed it) Michael Eric Dyson, bestselling author, educator and radio personality. It’s always fun and exciting to be interviewed, but it’s even more so to be interviewed by someone whose books have been in my collection probably since before I really started writing. When I learned about this opportunity, it was pretty awesome for me to realize that not only had I heard of Mr. Dyson, but I could point out several volumes of his work on my own bookshelves!

I recorded the interview earlier this week in NPR’s Midtown studio here in New York. Mr. Dyson was speaking to me from the D.C. studio. Now, I know radio is a relatively old technology, but it’s still neat to think about having half a conversation in one room, in one city, when the other half is happening with someone hundreds of miles away, and have the capability to air that conversation nationally at the same time! (This wasn’t a live broadcast, but still….I’m easily impressed by and in awe of technology at all levels.)

My interview airs today in selected markets across the country, but unfortunately I don’t think it airs in New York! The good news is, a podcast of the show is available at the Dyson Show website.

It’s an hour long show; my interview segment begins at 23:00, and lasts just shy of nine minutes. Check it out!

A Capitol Adventure

This weekend I traveled to Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, Virginia, for a series of book events! First, I spoke to a cool group of middle schoolers at Politics & Prose Bookstore in D.C. And followed it up with a fun, rowdy auditorium full of sixth graders at nearby Deal Middle School. I got to share my Camo Girl slideshow for the first time–it was exciting to discuss new content in a school visit. Much as I love talking about The Rock and the River, it’s really neat to have a second book out there that kids are reading, too!

Next, I traveled with friend and fellow author Tami Lewis Brown down to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. It’s always great to spend time in the company of other authors, and it was an extra special treat to get to see my dear friend Ashley Bryan, an award-winning author and illustrator. I was invited to introduce him at the Sweet Reads book fair, where he received an honor for his work!

At the festival itself, I sat on a panel called Spinning Lives into Story, along with Tami Lewis Brown, Maha Addasi, moderated by librarian Louise Simone. We spoke about historical fiction, non-fiction, and multicultural fiction: all kinds of stories based on real lives and experiences that we as children’s authors have a responsibility to make as true as possible. But what is TRUTH, when it comes to fiction? How much can authors make up, and how much should we keep perfectly true to life? What damage does it do to kids’ understanding of history if authors falsify or embellish details in a biography? The discussion was lively and really drew people in. We could have talked for days!

It was particularly exciting to be able to speak briefly about my new non-fiction release, Today the World is Watching You (Lerner 2011), about the Little Rock Nine and the fight for school integration in the late 1950s, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board decision. Here’s the cover!

Kirkus Review of CAMO GIRL

…and it’s STARRED! I’m so excited to share this blurb from Kirkus on Camo Girl: “This elegantly crafted story features strong writing and solid characterizations of both main and secondary characters. Ella and Bailey’s racial identity is one element in a full and richly textured narrative.” To read the full review, CLICK HERE.

Hunger Mountain Fall Issue!

The Fall issue of Hunger Mountain is now LIVE and online!

Here’s our Letter from the Editors, which previews the contents of the YA and Children’s Literature Section:

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Hunger Mountain! Our theme for this issue is Exploring Options, Stretching Boundaries…as we strive to challenge ourselves to tell authentic stories, write from the heart and turn personal pain into powerful prose.

For our Features this issue, we asked GLBTQ authors and authors whose work touches on teen sexuality to shed some light on the many possible meanings of that exploration both on and off the page. Alex Sanchez tackles controversy, catharsis and writing alongside his own inner, angsty teen. Cheryl Rainfield shows us what to do when scars are more than skin deep. Sara Ryan reminds us of the importance of Q (for questioning). And Malinda Lo shares what her last book, Ash, taught her about her work and about herself. Their work spans genres, but these authors each use writing to explore, to question, to challenge, and ultimately, to heal.
Lee Wind, a writer of two minds, tackles The Flip Side, offering an imaginary dialogue about GLBTQ teen readers’ need for coming out stories vs. novels where being gay is not “the problem.”

Our Toolbox contributors challenge us to stretch our boundaries in other ways: Sarah Aronson teaches techniques for thinking like a film director to get a new perspective, and Sarah Sullivan helps us shape and revise picture book texts. Author and illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg shares some INKLINGS about incorporating visual diversity into picture books.

As an Industry Insider, author and publisher Cheryl Willis Hudson of Just Us Books shares insight on the need for and presence of Black and multicultural books within the publishing industry. And Mayra Lazara Dole takes us on a journey toward understanding the need for authentic Latino characters in fiction, in The Writer’s Life.

Our last issue’s Flip Side column also generated dialogue about multicultural books—an ongoing conversation in our industry. In Response, Nikki Grimes offers her thoughts on multicultural books, who isn’t reading them, and why they should.

Finally, be sure to check out our Fiction selections: We’ve gathered a collection of touching, funny, heartfelt and sometimes shocking tales from Jennifer DeMotta, Rachel Furey, Jenny Hubbard, Angelica Jackson and Margaret Nevinski, plus excerpts from a novel in verse by Liz Clift, and a sneak preview of Ellen Potter’s The Kneebone Boy (Feiwel and Friends, 2010).

Enjoy the read!

Bethany and Kekla

The BIG 3-0!

I just posted this on Chicks Rock!, but want folks to see it here, too:

Well, as of this weekend I’ve officially crossed the threshold from 20s into 30s! I always planned to throw a big party for myself on my 30th birthday, but as it happened this year, the American Library Association decided to throw one for me!

Okay, not for me, exactly, but I came to their annual conference determined to get my little piece of the celebration and festivities. On Saturday I signed copies of The Rock and the River in Simon & Schuster’s booth at the ALA conference expo. Then I hung out with friends from Vermont College of Fine Arts who surprised me with an Alumni Achievement Award (I cried) followed by a yummy restaurant dinner complete with key lime pie and a pink candle!

Yesterday I attended an awards banquet, where I found myself surrounded by well-known and up-and-coming YA and children’s authors. Strangest of all, I began to truly feel that I could count myself among them! Which brings me to the real reason I’m here at the ALA conference: because my book was selected to receive the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent!

Tomorrow morning, at the frightening hour of 7am (!!!! I am such a night person, people. It goes against nature to expect me to function normally before the double digit hours of the morning….but for the CSK Breakfast, I will muster!), I will receive my award, and have my moment to thank the Academy…errr, the CSK selection committee. It’s so exciting!

All in all, my 30th weekend did not go as I orginally expected, but I certainly feel the occasion has been extraordinarily well-marked.

NAACP Image Awards

I attended the NAACP Image Awards this weekend. I’ve begun posting about it at CHICKS ROCK!, but stay tuned here, too, for future updates!!

Mondays at CHICKS ROCK!

On Mondays, I blog for The Women’s Mosaic: