Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Secrets of Kidlit: Downtime

Nearly every day, I see a writer or two agonize over how little work they've gotten done, or comment on how they should be working, but for some reason they're main-lining Netflix instead. Sometimes, life makes it impossible to put in the writing hours--pipes explode, kids barf, jobs go up in flames--but other times, you don't work even though you COULD--a big dirty secret many of us share.

What is that? Why does that happen, often right when you NEED to figure stuff out?

In short, it's called downtime.

Your unconscious mind plays a key role in forming creative insights, only you can't actively USE this part of your brain. During downtime, the unconscious mind spontaneously organizes and reorganizes itself, forming connections and associations that aid you when you attempt to solve a problem. Without downtime, the unconscious mind cannot recharge. So basically, you really DO need to watch The Vampire Diaries to figure out your book.

The science on this stuff is actually pretty fascinating.

Creativity is defined as having a capacity for achieving a high level of divergent thinking.

In other words, when you are creative, you can generate alternatives to any given problem. Convergent thinking is what then allows you to select the most optimal solution, as you're focusing on one set answer. But without that first creative bit, you won't have much to choose from.

John Cleese famously described creativity as a tolerance for problem solving. I think he was right on it. In fact, I push this video on everyone I meet, because it's just that good. You will find yourself nodding and nodding and wanting to give Mr. Cleese a big 'ole kiss.

Thanks for being so awesome, Mr. Cleese!

The creative process moves through stages.

It begins with preparation, a time when the basic information or skills are assembled. It continues on to incubation, a relaxed time when you don't work consciously to solve the problem, but when connections are unconsciously being made. THIS is when you randomly need to re-read your favorite novel AGAIN. THIS is when you suddenly MUST watch the new season of House of Cards. Your brain is seeking out answers. It is filling the unconscious well, so that you can make new, amazing connections in your work.

This then leads eventually to inspiration, the eureka experience when you suddenly see the solution! Whee! It's easy to value this part of the process. We can see the payoff. We feel the rush, we jump and dance and shriek our thanks at the sky. If we could all live here forever, we would...but it's not possible. You need your downtime to feed into your eurekas.

Finally, the creative process ends with production, a time when the insights are put into a useful form. The specifics of this basic process will vary depending on the type of creativity; writing a novel is different from identifying a new chemical synthesis. But the basic process and principles are the same across many different types of creativity.

These are not new ideas.

Archimedes reputedly figured all of this out a very long time ago. When his moment of inspiration struck regarding density (while getting into the bath, naturally), he jumped up and shouted, "Eureka!" That's Greek for, "I've found it!" Then he ran out of the house buck naked because he was so excited about what he'd figured out. From then on, he swore that taking baths was an essential part of his creative process. Because it was--and it IS.

That's the biggest secret of all. Even when you're taking a little downtime, you're actually getting work done, too. Neat, right?

What are your favorite indulgences for refilling the creative well? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5)Fairest by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marissa Meyer managed to deliver a clever and heart breaking back story that expertly sets the premises for Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter (to come). This is basically the story of how Queen Levana went from a perfectly "normal" girl to an extremely evil and cold-hearted antagonist.

I empathized with Levana even though I despised her at the same time. It caught me by surprise. All the wrong that was done to her, explained her twisted way of seeing the world without becoming a justification.

My knowledge of the Lunar Chronicles only goes as far as Scarlet because I'm waiting on Winter. However, I enjoyed learning so much about Luna, the economy, politics, and culture. I did wish more was said about the fallout between Earth and Luna, but it wasn't a deal breaker.

I loved the author's writing. She made me forget I was reading because the narration was so engrossing.

I highly recommend this book to readers who have been on the fence about reading the series. It will satisfy their curiosity without ruining any of the books already published.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reaching Readers: Authors’ Favorite Ways

With so many ways to reach readers today, I was curious to find out which options big-time authors use to connect with their readerships. While it was interesting to learn what worked for different folks, it was also astonishing to discover that many of them juggle multiple media platforms on a daily basis. (Oh, that’s right – they quit their day jobs!) Overcome by their promotional fervor, I decided instead to ask authors I know about their favorite ways to reach readers.

Middle grade novelist and nonfiction author Timothy Tocher (Chief Sunrise, John McGraw, and Me) finds that book festivals and poems posted on his website generate the most opportunities to make connections with readers.

Tocher: “Book festivals are prime spots for meeting teachers, librarians, and parents. Being a former teacher, I love to make school visits. I've got a quirky website that has everything from poetry to book reviews. My humorous poems seem to generate the most attention with teachers and future teachers asking permission to use them in their classrooms.”

Jacky Davis (Ladybug Girl) is part of a writer and illustrator team with her husband David Soman and believes that reading aloud in group settings works the best for their readership.

Davis: “We find that book readings at bookstores, schools, and libraries are the best way for us to connect with our young readers. We do have a Ladybug Girl Facebook page and a website that has cute games and some information about the books on it, too.”

Young adult author Kimberly Sabatini (Touching the Surface) has come up with her own creative way to connect with readers through libraries and schools.

Sabatini: “My favorite thing to do is to play library tag. I participated in a contest that donated a copy of my book to a school library and when I sent the package, I asked the librarian at the winning school to recommend another fabulous school to win a book. And then I do it again. It’s kind of like a game of Librarian Telephone. The nice part is that I end up with a list of librarian contacts ... It’s all about making great relationships and helping each other out. “

Like many others I came across in my research, crossword puzzle author Jeff Chen (Bridge Crosswords) thinks that his regular blogging keeps him connected with the sort of people who might be interested in his book.

Chen: “I write for a blog that gets about 2,000 visitors a day that is crossword-related. The daily blogging has attracted readers for my book, and I get to occasionally mention Bridge Crosswords when appropriate.”

Iza Trapani writes children’s books (Haunted Party) and uses several social media platforms in a tactful manner, but also remembers to notify her connections directly via email.

Trapani: “I stay in touch with my readers via social media: my website, blog, Facebook and twitter. When I have a new book coming out, I will also send e-mails to my contacts notifying them of the book release date and events I'll be participating in. On social media, I am careful not to toot my own horn too much because I think that turns people off. For every one post on my work, I will post at least three on someone else's.”

K.L. Going, who writes books for young readers of all ages (The Garden of Eve), doesn’t concern herself so much with outreach. Instead, she keeps it simple by letting her writing speak for itself.

Going: “Actually, my favorite way to reach out to my readers is through my books. It's easy to get hung-up on social media, but nothing is more powerful than the writing itself.”

I’d like to thank all the authors for contributing their ideas and to encourage our readers to check out their wonderful books. And at least for today – or rather this month – I can hold my head up and say I’ve done something to connect with a few readers!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. Written by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by K.G. Campbell.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Ten-year-old Flora Buckman is obsessed with The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Inclandesto. This is a comic series about an unassuming, mild-mannered janitor who falls into a vat of Inclandesto and becomes the crime-fighting, amazing Inclandesto.

Flora’s dad is a lonely accountant and her mom's a divorced writer of romance novels. Flora, being a natural-born cynic, hates romance.

But when Flora's neighbor, Tootie Tickham, accidentally sucks up a squirrel with her Ulysses 2000x vacuum, Flora’s cynicism is challenged. She proceeds to revive the squirrel by giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

And how does the squirrel (aka Ulysses) repay Flora? By becoming a superherosquirrel. Ulysses now has super strength, the ability to fly, and quite a way with poetry. The adventures ensue. 

Together Flora and Ulysses set out to save the world. Or maybe they set out to have a heart-opening experience, sprinkled with a little hope and love.

Kate DiCamillo brings in other adorable characters such as the neighbor’s blind (or is he?) nephew, William Spiver, and a wise insomniac, Dr. Meescham.

Told in third person, with alternating points of view (Flora and Ulysses), this Newberry Medal winner is a delight from beginning to end. And the illustrations are beautiful!

Disclaimer: I love all things Kate DiCamillo. The way she uses joy and a little melancholy to tell a story is amazing.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cover Reveal: RULES FOR STEALING STARS by Corey Ann Haydu

Brace yourselves, folks . . . 

We've got an amazing cover reveal for you all today! We're absolutely thrilled to be revealing the cover of RULES FOR STEALING STARS by Corey Ann Haydu. Her book hits the shelves on September 29, 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books and we've got a super-spectacular signed ARC giveaway that one lucky winner will win.

But we'll get to that in a second. First, let's let Corey tell you all about her book:

Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she’s too little for most things—especially when it comes to dealing with their mother’s unpredictable moods and outbursts. But for Silly, that’s normal. She hardly remembers a time when Mom wasn’t drinking.

This summer, Silly is more alone than ever, and it feels like everyone around her is keeping secrets. Mom is sick all the time, Dad acts like everything’s fine when clearly it isn’t, and Silly’s sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot, and giggling about jokes that Silly doesn’t understand.

When Silly is brought into her sisters’ world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she’s soon forced to wonder if it just might tear them apart.

Now that sounds like an amazing story. And speaking of amazing, I think it's time to reveal the cover for RULES FOR STEALING STARS!

Deep breath . . .






Gorgeous! The title caught our attention from the very beginning. But now, with all of those blues, the way Silly is framed so perfectly between two swirling clouds of leaves, and that last word of the title spelled out in a trail of sparkling stars, we love it even more. It seems like we're not the only ones who are in love with this cover. Hear what Corey has to say about it:

I’m thrilled to reveal the cover for my debut middle grade novel, RULES FOR STEALING STARS. After publishing novels for teens for the last few years, I’m so excited to reach a younger audience. I started playing with this idea in graduate school, responding to a writing prompt and experimenting for the first time with a middle grade voice. I had no idea it would someday turn into a book. Silly is my favorite character that I’ve ever written, so I was super nervous about what the cover would look like. I think the super talented illustrator, Julie McLaughlin, really captured the feeling of the book, and the design team over at Katherine Tegen Books gave me an unbelievably beautiful cover again. I especially love the placement of the name and the gorgeous colors.

So excited to share the cover and the official jacket copy for RULES FOR STEALING STARS!

Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a signed ARC of RULES FOR STEALING STARS!

Corey Ann Haydu is the author of  OCD LOVE STORY, LIFE BY COMMITTEE, MAKING PRETTY and her upcoming middle grade debut, RULES FOR STEALING STARS. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and The New School’s Writing for Children MFA program, Corey has been working in children’s publishing since 2009.

In 2013, Corey was chosen as one of Publisher Weekly’s Flying Starts. Her books have been Junior Library Guild Selections, Indie Next Selections, and BCCB Blue Ribbon Selections. 

Corey lives in Brooklyn with her dog, her boyfriend, and a wide selection of cheese.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, Corey, for sharing RULES FOR STEALING STARS with us today!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

K10: The One & Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The Kidliterati Ten is an interview series with young readers. We ask them about a favorite book and hope that you enjoy their answers.

This week, please welcome Perry!

Tell us a little about yourself: what is your first name, how old are you, and what is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

My name is Perry. I'm eight years old but I am about to be nine. I like vanilla best.

What book did you read and why did you choose it?

I read The One and Only Ivan because my mom gave it to me and said it was really good.

Can you describe this book in one word?


What was your favorite part of this story?

I liked when Ivan's friends helped him feel better. I also liked it when he started drawing because I really like to draw, too.

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do?

I would be really mad like Ivan. I would break the cage and run away.

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book?

I wrote a book review for my teacher and my class, and I told them that Ivan is fun to read because the chapters are short but he says a lot.

What do you think about the book's cover?

I liked that Ivan was with his friend. But he also looked sad.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not?

I want to read another book with Ivan's friends. I want to know what happens with all of them after the story.

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one?

It made me think of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, because that story was sad, too. But it was different because it was set in Japan.

If you could ask the author one question about this book what would it be?

Why did you choose to make Ivan a gorilla?

This question has an answer that some of you may not know:

Ivan's story is based on a real gorilla named Ivan who really did live in a shopping mall for 27 years. The real Ivan ended up moving to a better environment at Zoo Atlanta. You can read more about the story in Katherine Applegate's picture book, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla.

As a bonus, Perry also wanted to share this exercise he completed in his third grade class about Ivan!

***Thank you Perry for sharing this cool story with us! ***


The blurb:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: Seven Days by Eve Ainsworth

Seven DaysSeven Days by Eve Ainsworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jess's life is difficult enough without Kez picking on her –- it’s turning school from a safe place into a nightmare. Kez has plenty of problems too but she finds comfort in knowing she is better off than Jess -- or so she thinks. SEVEN DAYS is told in alternating chapters between Kez and Jess. Jess struggles with her weight and her family's poverty. She lives in the tough MacMillan estate -- a neighborhood similar to a housing project in the US. Kez, on the other hand, lives in a nice house. But what's nice on the outside isn't always the same inside, and Kez has learned to become tough, to become like one of the Mac girls.

As the title suggests, the story takes place over the course of one week. It follows both girls as Kez bullies Jess, both in person and online. As the bullying escalates, so do the emotions of each girl until everything explodes and everyone must deal with the fallout.

What I loved most about this book was the way the author really dug into the emotional state of both girls. She showed how one little incident can nag at a person's thought process and cause that person to do something she might not have done before. I also appreciated the realistic look at poverty and abuse, and the ways in which those situations can affect kids. SEVEN DAYS just recently came out through Scholastic, and I highly recommended giving it a read.

View all my reviews


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