Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Secrets of Kidlit: Growing Ideas

Ideas rarely arrive shiny and perfect. When a strong story idea turns up, it’s usually full of promise, but flawed - like that house you bought that only needed a “few” renovations. Those are the ideas that are easy to fight for. You work hard to develop them because you can feel their strength - you know they can deliver their promise of a good story. But what about the ideas that arrive in an unusable form? The ideas that are so crazy, you don’t bother to write them down? The truth is, many of these farcical ideas are merely seeds for great ideas.

For example, I was driving down the highway one morning and I saw a line of bucket trucks. They were working on the power lines and it was something I would have ignored if it wasn’t for the truck a block down. It was just arriving at this power line party and it drove up the street slowly - probably because atop the cab, there was a man riding in the cherry bucket.

He wore the usual gear: a hard hat and a bright yellow traffic vest. He gripped the sides of the bucket and glared at anyone he caught looking his way as if to say, “Go ahead and call the power company on me. I dare you.” He was an imposing figure in a ridiculous position and my imagination seized the opportunity. In my mind’s eye, I watched him raise his sword and his face trembled with the rage of his battle cry as the truck drove towards his enemy. Of course, that’s when I imagined the thirty foot velociraptor terrorizing traffic on the Northwest Highway. After all, if you have a hero with a sword riding in a cherry bucket, you’d better give him a worthy foe.

While the idea made me smile, I knew I’d never write a story about him because there wasn’t enough to go on. Also, because of that whole “limited audience” thing. But could I transform this arrant nonsense into a story worth reading? I changed up the variables to match this scene with an audience who loves monsters and the unlikeliest of heroes: middle grade readers.

Artwork by Erica Mills
The main character became a thirteen-year-old girl. She rode in the cherry bucket, her hardhat askew as she pointed her sword at the dinosaur dragon - the one that a clumsy wizard from Middle Earth Camelot thought he’d Vanished, but actually, he’d sent it here. To Illinois, in the year way beyond his king, 2014.

This scene now has enough potential that I can feed it with plot and character questions until it branches out into a novel length story. It’s a project I’m starting to develop - perhaps for Camp NaNoWriMo in April.

Both story-ready and farcical ideas come from the same creative source. With care, they are both capable of growing into rich and beautiful stories. The reason many people miss the opportunity in a farcical idea is that it tends to arrive with a surprising amount of compost.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled CityThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Walled City followed the stories of three people: Mei Yee, Jin Ling and Dai in the walled city of Hak Nam. Dai was under deadline to perform a certain task within the walls, involving a powerful gang leader, and his heavily guarded brothel.

Dai soon realized he needed help which he found in Jin Ling as his drug deal runner, then Mei Yee as his spy within the brothel. Things quickly got out of hand when distrust crept in between Dai and Jin.
It was beyond fascinating that Hak Nam was inspired by the now demolished walled city of Kowloon in China.

There was danger at every corner and you must consider everyone your enemy until proven otherwise. The constant shadows and small streets added a powerful and unsettling feel to the setting, including claustrophobia.

The story was told in three pov and every time it switched, the change made the events progress. The constant tension and heart pounding scenes will keep you at the edge of your seat.

The relationship between characters was so real and vivid. Not knowing who you could trust but choosing to do so because the alternative was not an option was gripping. Dai's relationship with Jin was my favorite. I would tell you more about it except it would spoil the story for you.

The Walled City covered serious problems like sex and human trafficking. It reminded me of how resilient human nature could be but also how pliable it could become when put under enough stress for an extended amount of time.

Despite the serious tone, I was thoroughly entertained and was super happy it turned out to be a satisfying standalone.

I believe it is a standalone. Is it not?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NaNoWriMo For Kids: Encouraging Young Writers {with interviews!}

November is just around the corner, which means it’s almost time for National Novel Writing Month (shortened to NaNoWriMo or even NaNo). For adults, that means 50,000 words written on a new novel, all in one month. For kids, its more flexible since they can set their own “reasonable, yet challenging” word count goals.


So why would a kid want to write a novel? Well, for one, HUGE bragging rights! And after tackling a whole novel, any other school assignment pales in comparison. Read on for all the reasons and tips to get your young writer working on his or her novel:

What Kids Learn

  • Writing helps kids express ideas and feelings, clarify beliefs and develop critical thinking skills
  • NaNoWriMo encourages goal setting and time management skills
  • With the use of NaNoWriMo’s workbooks, kids learn story structure and organization*


How To Help

  • It’s meant to be fun- celebrate their effort, no matter how small
  • Help them plan their goals and chart their progress- sticker charts are nice for ANY age
  • Download the workbook so they can preplan before November 1st
  • Let them pick their topic, so they are excited and it appeals to them


What Kids Need To Know

  • There is no judgement on the quality of their writing- they should let ideas flow
  • They need to turn off that inner editor or critic- because NO ONE is judging
  • Revisions are for later- they don’t need to worry about grammar and spelling this month
  • It’s an amazing accomplishment to finish a novel, which is a big confidence booster

*Check out NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program for free pdf workbooks. They break down the pieces of novel writing into bite-sized chunks, in easy-to-understand steps. With workbooks geared toward elementary, middle school and high school students, they lead kids through the whole process.

Kids Who Have "Been There, Done That."


Name: Genevieve
Age: 10
Favorite book: The Hunger Games
What kind of stories do you like to write: Fantasy and Action
What inspired you to write for NaNoWriMo: I like writing.
Did you preplan your story before you started NaNoWriMo? If so how: We used the workbook some, but I didn't go by it entirely.
Did you write alone or with a group? Which was better and why: A lot of times I wrote alone, but I am in a group. I like writing alone because there's not so much distractions.
If you got "writer's block," what would you do to get past it: I don't. I wait for as long as it takes for my mind to get going.
Did you finish your novel during NaNoWriMo: Yes, but I didn't like it very much and I worked on editing it until the publishing deadline in June.
Did you do any revisions or editing after NaNoWriMo: Yes. Lots.
Would you do NaNoWriMo again? Why or why not: Yes. I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year because I kind of like doing it.

Name: Reesa
Age: 9
Favorite book: That's hard. The Harry Potter Series, and everything written by Roald Dahl.
What kind of stories do you like to write: Adventures
What inspired you to write for NaNoWriMo: We're homeschoolers. My sister inspired me last year. She had done it before.
Did you preplan your story before you started NaNoWriMo? If so how: Yes. I used the NaNoWriMo workbook.
Did you write alone or with a group? Which was better and why: With a group. This year it only has four people in it. We have a coach with three kids. It's better to write with a group because it keeps you moving forward.
If you got "writer's block," what would you do to get past it: I Asked my friends  what to do next in my story.
Did you finish your novel during NaNoWriMo: Yes
Did you do any revisions or editing after NaNoWriMo: Yes! It was the most un-fun part. We edited until June, which isn't fun, but I like fonts.
Would you do NaNoWriMo again? Why or why not: Yes Because it's a good way to get out of other school work, and it's fun.

Name: Grace
Age: 13
Favorite book: The Fault In Our Stars
What kind of stories do you like to write: I like to write fantasy and realistic fiction
What inspired you to write for NaNoWriMo: I wrote for NANO because someone in our neighborhood was doing a group and since I like to write I decided to do it.
Did you preplan your story before you started NaNoWriMo? If so how: Yes, I spent October planning my book.
Did you write alone or with a group? Which was better and why: Every week I would meet with the group and we would talk and write. The rest of the week I wrote on my own. I preferred being with the group because I liked hearing about their stories.
If you got "writer's block," what would you do to get past it: I got writer's block a lot and usually just waited it out.
Did you finish your novel during NaNoWriMo: I reached my word goal during November but finished the novel around December
Did you do any revisions or editing after NaNoWriMo: I did a lot of revising!
Would you do NaNoWriMo again? Why or why not: I'm not doing NANO again this year, but I did enjoy it last year.

Name: Sarah
Age: I'm 17 now. I started NaNoing when I was 15. I've completed 2 November NaNos and 2 Camp Nanos
Favorite book: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
What kind of stories do you like to write: Fantasy and Sci-Fi.
Did you preplan your story before you started NaNoWriMo? If so how: I outline the plot, and write up at least a paragraph on major characters.
Did you write alone or with a group? Which was better and why: I wrote my story by myself, but I'm part of a large FB group of teen writers and I have a good online support system. Several other teen ladies and I email encouragement and check up on each other and our writing progress regularly
If you got "writer's block," what would you do to get past it: If I'm feeling stuck I go back to my outline and just try to figure out what happens in the next 100 words. I repeat that as necessary. But I don't really believe in writers block. :P
Did you finish your novel during NaNoWriMo: I've never started and finished a novel in the same NaNo. I have finished novels in Camp NaNo that I started in November.
Did you do any revisions or editing after NaNoWriMo: Yes, I'm currently revising a book I wrote before NaNo, but I plan on revising every book I've written for NaNo at some future point.
Would you do NaNoWriMo again? Why or why not: YES! I think NaNo is a great way to whip out your first drafts. However, sometimes life really does get too busy. I plan on taking a year off here or there as need-be.


A special thanks to all the NaNoWriMo writers: Keep writing, Sarah, Grace, Reesa and Genevieve!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cover Reveal: RAISING RUFUS by David Fulk!

We're super excited to reveal another eye-catching middle grade cover today! This week's cover is for RAISING RUFUS by debut author David Fulk, member of the Fearless Fifteeners and intrepid writer of hair-raising tales. David's been kind enough to give us a sneak-preview of his first chapter as well as a signed Advanced Reader Copy--don't miss the giveaway below!

Here's more about RAISING RUFUS, which releases June 9, 2015, from Delacorte Press:

Shy, studious sixth grader Martin Tinker has his small-town world turned upside down when he discovers an ancient, frozen egg in a quarry―and when it thaws and hatches, he finds himself surrogate mom to a baby T. rex! Because of its voracious appetite for meat and tendency to GROW at an alarming rate, it gets harder and harder for Martin and his friend Audrey to keep it hidden from the world. Can Martin discover new reserves of strength to save his outlandish pet―or the town―from a very grim fate?

Frozen eggs and dinosaurs? Sounds like a BIG story to us! Here's the inside scoop from David on how this story began:

RAISING RUFUS actually started out as a screenplay I wrote some time ago and that I almost, nearly, just about got to the big screen—but not quite. Still, I couldn’t let go of the story, and so I thought, “Why not try it as a book?” And now, many years and drafts and “learning experiences” later—here we are! For those of you who dare, here is a sneak peek at Chapter 1.

Without further ado, here's the larger-than-life cover reveal, and stay tuned for a signed ARC giveaway below!

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Here's a special note from David on the creation of the cover:

The first thing the publisher asked for when they acquired my book was my input for a cover design. I hadn’t even thought about it! What or who should be on there? What do the characters look like? What overall feeling should the cover convey? Should it be realistic or stylized? What about colors? Not being a visual designer, I didn’t want to dictate too much to the people who were, after all, experienced book design professionals. At the same time, I knew how easy it could be for the design to misrepresent my “baby” that I had been so close to for the years it took to write it!
After a couple of weeks of back-and-forth, I realized that the two themes I kept going back to in all my notes were these: edge and humor. For me, those are the key elements of the book, and they needed to be conveyed by the cover. Also, I wanted “Rufus” to be suggested or only partially seen—a tease, not a dead giveaway!
The design you see here is the handiwork of Kate Gartner of Random House Children’s Books, with jacket illustrations by Erwin Madrid. I think Kate did an expert job of capturing the dramatic “edge” of the story, with a real sense of the offbeat humor, too. And with those giant, ponderous dino legs, I think that doing the kids as stylized silhouettes rather than realistic-looking characters was the right way to go. And that color scheme—well, it should catch a lot of eyeballs! What do you think?

David Fulk is a writer, editor, and all-around Renaissance man living on the edge in the Boston area. RAISING RUFUS is his debut novel. Find out more at www.davidfulk.com.

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Thanks, David, for sharing RAISING RUFUS with us today!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: THE RIVERMAN by Aaron Starmer

The Riverman (The Riverman Trilogy, #1)The Riverman by Aaron Starmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary lives in a small town in Upstate New York where nothing much happens, until one afternoon, an oddball neighbor named Fiona asks him to write her biography. Her story is not what he expects from the typical middle school student. It’s a tale of a secret world called Aquavania that she visits through her basement and which turns out to be the place where stories are born.

When she later reveals that a monster from Aquavania called the Riverman is stealing children’s souls, Alistair can’t decide whether these are the figments of an overactive imagination or of a deeply troubled mind. Fiona wants to stop the Riverman before he claims another victim, but Alistair starts to believe this is all just a cover story for something worse going on in her home.

What unfolds is a captivating and suspenseful mystery that is both astonishing in its invention and convincing in its attention to detail. The novel combines realism and fantasy and delivers the best of both worlds. The story is a thrilling page-turner as well as a touching heart-wrencher and, like Fiona, is not what you’d expect from the usual middle grade fare.

Through it all, Starmer explores how storytellers are blessed and cursed and how their listeners are either inspired or deceived. I strongly recommend you read this absorbing novel, if only to find out which one is the case for you! For a copy of The Riverman autographed by the author, sign up for the giveaway listed below.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

K10: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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 Mallory! Mallory is the daughter of one of my bookclub members, Gretchen. All of Gretchen's kids love to read, and have even joined our monthly bookclub and offered a perspective from the younger generation.

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 Mallory, I'm 12 and I love vanilla ice cream.
 
What book did you read and why did you choose it?

I read Wonder, because my librarian recommended it.

Can you describe this book in one word?

In one word, I would describe Wonder as inspirational.

What was your favorite part of this story?

My favorite part of the story was when it was Summer's point of view when she says she first sat with August because she felt sorry for him, but then later she started sitting with him because they had actually become friends.

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

If I had a similar problem, I would try to have my personality make up for my face, and I wouldn't be mean because then people would think I was a mean person with an ugly face. I'd also try to make the best I could of the situation.

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

I would say to my best friend, "Hey, you should check out this book I'm reading. It's really good!"

What do you think about the book's cover?

The book's cover was interesting how it didn't show the whole face and features, so it could make you imagine what August's face would look like.

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

Yes, I would like to read another book about these characters, because the author writes really well, and I really like how he wrote from the different perspectives so you could get a taste of how each character was taking in the situation.

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one?
 
Out of My Mind reminds me of this book because everybody looks at the main character in this book the way the characters in Wonder look at August, and nobody gets what she's thinking.

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

If I could ask the author a question, I would ask, "What happens to Julien and August - do they ever see eye to eye?"

For more on Julien's perspective, check out R.J. Palacio's latest work: Wonder, The Julian Chapter!

*** Thank you, Mallory! Awesome perspective on an amazing book! ***


About Wonder by R.J. Palacio:
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.





Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cover Reveal: OMEGA CITY by Diana Peterfreund!

Today, we are thrilled to welcome accomplished YA author Diana Peterfreund, author of For Darkness Shows the Stars and Secret Society Girl series, for her middle grade cover reveal of OMEGA CITY!

Don't miss the rafflecopter giveaway below, for an exclusive Advanced Reader Copy of OMEGA CITY. But first, check out the blurb for this action-packed middle grade adventure, coming from Balzer+Bray on April 28, 2015:

Gillian Seagret doesn't listen to people who say her father's a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War-era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced the family to move to a cottage in the sticks, but Gillian knows he's right, and plans to prove it.

When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Unerberg's diary in her father's mess of an office, she thinks she's found a big piece of the puzzle--a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg's greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off into the ruins of a vast doomsday bunker, deep within the earth.

But they aren't alone inside its dark and flooded halls. Now Gillian and her friends must race to explore OMEGA CITY and find the answers they need. For while Gillian wants to save her dad's reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg's secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried...forever.

Nasa, secrets, and an underground bunker? Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well, judging by the cover, we're in for one wild ride with OMEGA CITY!

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What do you think? We love the depth in this illustration! From the glowing light to the dials and knobs, there's so much to look at in this image that it really gets us guessing about the story.

Here's a special note from Diana on the creation of this action-packed cover:
One of the things I was most excited about when I sold a middle-grade book was getting an illustrated cover. As someone who is hard-pressed to draw so much as a smiley face, I live in awe of people skilled in the visual arts. And when my editor at Balzer + Bray informed me they were hiring the amazing Vivenne To, I pored over her portfolio, imagining how she’d translate her skill with movement and light to my action adventure story. Would she illustrate one of the set pieces from my characters’ adventures deep in the Earth? And if so, however were she and the folks at Harper going to decide amongst them?

Turns out, they chose not to. Instead, the image that appears on the cover of OMEGA CITY is an amalgamation of several moments in the book – the starry dome in the entrance chamber, the ladders inside the elevator shaft, the ancient computers of the Comm room, and the crumbling walkway to the rocketship Knowledge. All sorts of details and easter eggs lurk in this extraordinary image, and I get giddy with the thought of what readers will find when they flip back and look mid-story.

I’d love to tell you what those are, but, you know… spoilers. ;-)


Diana Peterfreund is the author of many books for adults and chidren, including the critically acclaimed For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea. She lives with her family outside Washington, D.C. in a house full of bookshelves, and is always on the lookout for lost cities and stray rocketships. Find out more about Diana and her books at http://www.dianapeterfreund.com.

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Thanks to Diana for sharing OMEGA CITY's awesome cover on Kidliterati!




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