For Writers

Children’s Book Festivals!

Little Annie looked at me across the table, her big brown eyes dancing. With a flick of my Sharpie, I finished signing a copy of Virginia Hamilton: America’s Storyteller for Annie. She took the book, her eyes even wider, thanked me, and then held it close to her, cradling it in her arms. A cherished gift for her.

And for me.

Book festivals allow these kinds of connections between reader and book creators. They provide the opportunity for attendees to meet their favorite authors and illustrators, and to purchase books and have them personally signed. These events also offer writers and artists to meet their fans and to talk about their work.

There are hundreds of literary festivals occurring in the United States annually. But did you know that there are many that cater to children and families?

As the founder of Claire’s Day, I thought I’d share other festivals (for the remainder of this year) that focus on children’s book authors and illustrators.

This partial listing serves as a resource for educators, media specialists and parents, as well as authors and illustrators!

The 17th annual Claire’s Day has three event dates this year, the first three Saturdays in May. A highlight of each event is the C.A.R.E. Awards, given to children nominated as being the most improved readers in their schools. Event includes school visits and fun Claire’s Night! www.clairesday.org

May 9: The Hudson Children’s Book Festival was established in 2009, and this year the featured author is none other than Kwame Alexander. https://hudsonchildrensbookfestival.com/

May 19: Children’s Festival of Reading in Knoxville, Tennessee offers storytelling, cuddly characters, science fun, and of course, authors and illustrators. This year Linda Sue Park and Eric Litwin are the featured authors. http://www.knoxlib.org/calendar-programs/childrens-festival-reading-2018

September 29: Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival features 90, count them, 90 children’s book authors and illustrators! To learn more, visit http://www.ccbfestival.org/

October 12-14 Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival’s theme this year is Here’s an Idea! The 9th annual event includes school visits and a two-day festival. http://www.sheboyganchildrensbookfestival.org/

November 3: Rochester Children’s Book Festival is still working on their invitation-only author list, but they’ve had incredible lineups in the past. To get updates, visit https://www.rcbfestival.com/

For a complete listing, I’d like to credit Laurie Renaud, a member of KidLit 411. Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KIDLIT411/permalink/2162580407290904/

 

Interview with Newbery Winner, Erin Entrada Kelly

I recently had the pleasure of talking to 2018 Newbery Winner, Erin Entrada Kelly, about her her newest middle-grade novel You Go First, which hit bookstores this week. In addition to winning the Newbery for Hello, Universe, Erin has won many other awards for her middle-grade novels, including the 2017 APALA Award for The Land of Forgotten Girls and the 2016 Golden Kite Honor Award for Blackbird Fly. You Go First was a Spring Indie Next Pick and a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Erin was raised in Louisiana, but now lives in the Philadelphia area. She is a professor of children’s literature in the graduate fiction and publishing programs at Rosemont College. Erin is also a short story writer. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Philippines Free Press Literary Award for Short Fiction and the Pushcart Prize. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and liberal arts from McNeese State University and an MFA in creative writing from Rosemont. Welcome, Erin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First let me say congratulations on winning the Newbery Medal and on the release this week of your fourth middle-grade novel. I know that you’re also an accomplished short story writer, and I’m wondering what attracts you to writing for the eight-to-twelve-year-old reader. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important phases of life. Tweens are not quite children, but not quite teenagers. At that age — particularly 11 and 12, which is the age of virtually all my characters — you’re looking for acceptance from your peers and trying to figure out who you are as an individual. Unfortunately, these two things don’t always go hand-in-hand. You want to be yourself, but you also want to fit in, so the pressure to conform is palpable. It’s a difficult age. It takes resilience to emerge unscathed. I remember being 12 as easily as I remember yesterday. That’s how weighty, difficult, and impressionable that phase was for me.

You Go First is such a heartfelt novel about two lonely kids who live far apart. What was the spark that gave you the idea to write about these two characters? Thank you! I wanted to write about two people who struggle with the pressures of middle school and tweendom while dealing with their unusual adult sensibilities. I love writing about underdogs and outcasts, and Charlotte and Ben are both of those things.

One of the many things I loved about You Go First was all the interesting facts at the beginning of Charlotte’s chapters. I pictured your head spinning with all of that wonderful knowledge. I’m curious as to whether you were like Charlotte and had been collecting these facts all your life or whether you looked them up specifically for the novel. Most of Charlotte’s “rabbit holes” were specifically researched for the book, but there were several that I already knew. I’ve traveled down many rabbit holes in my life. When I was a kid, I loved looking things up in the encyclopedia. This was before the internet, back when people actually had encyclopedia sets. I would sit down, pick a letter, open a page, and start reading.

One thing that struck me while reading the two point-of-view characters in You Go First is that although you’re writing in third person, it feels like first person. We’re so much in the minds of these characters. Can you share your secret on how you do this? I wish I could! I’m not sure how it happens. My characters come to me fully formed before I ever put a word on paper. I get to know them very well.

The characters in your novels tend to be outsiders. Is there a reason you’re attracted to writing that type of character? Because I was an outsider, and I know how difficult it can be. I have an affinity for kids (and adults) who veer away from the beaten path. It takes moxie to be an outsider. And they are often underestimated — by themselves and others.

I know you’re a professor of writing, and I’m sure our readers, who might also be writers, would love to hear a couple of your best tips on how to create the type of characters you write about–characters with a great deal of depth, heart, and authenticity. What an incredible compliment! A few pieces of advice I like to give: Know what your character is most afraid of. Know what they want most out of life. And find out how they feel about their name. Names are very personal. You’d be surprised the things our characters will reveal when we ask them how they feel about theirs.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? I’m currently working on my first MG fantasy, which is inspired by Filipino folklore. I can’t wait to share it with readers. It’s tentatively scheduled for summer 2019.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Thank YOU! 

Twelve-year-old Charlotte Lockard and eleven-year-old Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different—Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana. Charlotte wants to be a geologist and keeps a rock collection in her room. Ben is obsessed with Harry Potter, presidential history, and recycling. But the two have more in common than they think. They’re both highly gifted. They’re both experiencing family turmoil. And they both sit alone at lunch. Over the course of a week, Charlotte and Ben—online friends connected only by a Scrabble game—will intersect in unexpected ways, as they struggle to navigate the turmoil of middle school.

STEM Tuesday Field Work — Writing Craft and Resources

This month we’ve focused on books about scientific field work. What about the field work of a writer? Whether their subject matter is fact or fiction, frogs or fractals, writers have important research to do out in the field.

We all know that sensory details help to create a more engaging read, but how do you craft those sensory details? Research in the field!

 

 

 

 

Here is an exercise to help you with auditory information. It will train you to become more aware of the ever-present sounds around you, will help you gather specific sounds on site, and will strengthen your descriptions of sound qualities.

Creating a Sound Map

The set-up:

  1. Place yourself “in the field.”
  2. On a plain piece of paper draw the largest circle that will fit.
  3. Put a dot in the middle of the circle. The dot represents you. The circle represents the furthest edge of your hearing.

Listen:

  1. When you hear a sound, record it on the map in relationship to the dot and the edge of your hearing.
  2. Record the sound as a word, color, shape or symbol – whatever represents it best.
  3. Try to indicate qualities of the sound: is it loud? moving? staccato? raspy? repeated?

Keep going:

  1. Continue listening until your map is full.
  2. Do you notice any trends in what you have recorded? Are there more human or natural sounds?  Are there more sounds on one side? Why? Were their sounds that surprised you?
  3. Try writing about the sounds of this place in a descriptive paragraph.

Sound maps have become one of my favorite tools for collecting sensory data. Try them in a variety of places and you will grow your ability to enrich your writing about scientific field work.

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are WILD about animals. She reads and writes while high in a tree, standing in a stream, or perched on a mountaintop boulder. www.HeatherLMontgomery.com


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

This month, The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files look at field work options for young people.

Want science you can do while fishing? Or at the beach? Or in a sports stadium? SciGirl has got you covered!

http://pbskids.org/scigirls/citizen-science

From tracking the seasons through tulips to tracking hummingbird migration, students can get busy collecting data with Journey North.

https://www.learner.org/jnorth/

If you prefer to do field work from the comfort of your living room – or classroom – Zooniverse is for you. Tons of opportunities to help scientists spy on cheetahs, count cute seals, or train an algorithm to detect plastic on beaches.

https://www.zooniverse.org/