Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Just a reminder; registration for FREE on-line writer's conference, WriteOnCon, begins July 1st. For those of you who are date challenged, that's tomorrow!

If you're looking for a chuckle, check out their hilarious, somewhat random vlog to promote the conference. It features Shannon Messenger, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Elana Johnson, Jamie Harrington, Casey McCormick, and guest star Karsten Knight the dancing stalker. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Dark Deeps: The Hunchback Assignments 2

Arthur Slade has a new book out, The Dark Deeps: The Hunchback Assignments 2.  Check out the book trailer below.  Oh, and for you techie types, it's available on Kindle too.

Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 Locus Award Winners

The 2010 Locus Awards winners were announced at the annual Science Fiction Awards Weekend, held June 25-27, 2010 in Seattle, WA. 

Best SF Novel:
Best Fantasy Novel:
Best First Novel:
  • Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster UK)
Best Novella:
Best Novelette:
Best Short Story:
Best Anthology:
Best Collection:
Best Non-Fiction Book/Art Book:
Best Artist:
  • Michael Whelan
Best Editor:
  • Ellen Datlow
Best Magazine:
Best Book Publisher:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Carnegie & Kate Greenway Medals go to...

Neil Gaiman' is hot hot hot these days.  The Graveyard Book has already won the Newbery, but now it's taken the the Carnegie Medal in the UK.  If you haven't yet read it, now's a good time.  It's pure a creepy sort of way.  

The Kate Greenway Medal for illustrated kid's books went to Freya Blackwood for the illustrations in Harry & Hopper which was written by Margaret Wild.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Telling Versus Showing

The Cafe where Harry Potter was writtenImage by furbyx4 via Flickr
I love reading blogs.  I love how 'in the loop' they make me feel even though I'm far from the heart of publishing.  I love how much I learn about the industry and about the craft of writing.  Take for example.  Today's discussion is fascinating; "When to Tell Instead of Show". Now I'm sure that like me, you've all heard the practically sacrosanct phrase Show Don't Tell.  And yet, if you look at any great piece of writing, you'll see times when the author does employ the direct technique of telling. In this post, which I highly recommend you read, agent Mary Kole goes through a couple of examples of 'author telling' from one of the Harry Potter books (the cafe pictured above is where Rowling wrote).  What it comes down to, is that a writer must know when to tell and when to show.  Of course, the trick is in making the writing seamless so that the reader is so engrossed in the story that they really don't notice what technique is employed.  That, is the mark of really good writing; the ability to draw the reader into the story.  That's what we all try for.  That's what J.K. Rowling achieved.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Library of the Early Mind trailer

This is a trailer for a very cool feature length documentary that explores children's literature. The documentary, Library of the Early Mind, will be screened at Harvard Graduate School of Education in October.  If the trailer is any indication,the creators, Edward J. Delaney and Steven Withrow have amassed some of the biggest talents in the industry.  wish I could be there, but you're anywhere near, I hope you can make it. its website

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Best writing advice ever!

OMG.  This is the coolest writing advice.  Not surprising, it starts with "read poetry".  Wish I had written it, but at least I can pass it on.

Cool Kids Reading Multimedia Project

Cool kids read. Cool adults too!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

First Lady Kicks Off Let's Read. Let's Move. Initiative

Summer time is time for swimming, camping, sleep-overs, vacations, and just plain fun. But, according to the US Department of Education, it can also be a time of learning loss. The good news is that reading just 5 books over the summer can prevent backsliding. Check out this video below and the Let's Read.Let's Move site to find out 10 ways that you can get kids reading and moving.

An Impassioned Plea for Picture Books

Even though my youngest daughter is 22 and I have no grandchildren, I love picture books, and yes, I still buy them. I was caught red-handed yesterday by an old teacher friend whom I ran into in the bookstore. She's been retired now for a good five years, and she was surprised to see me clutching an armful of picture books. I can't help it, I told her. I buy them for friends. I buy them for nieces and nephews. I buy them for neighborhood children. But mostly I buy them for myself, because I love them. I often donate them after I've enjoyed them for a little while: sometimes to the local Single Parents Association, sometimes to my local school, sometimes to the Women and Children's Shelter (when women and children flee, books are not among the possessions they are likely to grab). When I came across this story about Ken Geist from Scholastic making an impassioned case to booksellers to ensure that picture books don't disappear from the publishing landscape, I thought I'd better spread the word. It's a great article. I invite you to check it out, but I also invite you to buy a picture book for someone you love, someone you know, or a complete stranger who might find comfort, joy, or pleasure between it's covers. And just so you know, you don't have to be between the ages of 3 and 7 to enjoy a picture book. Hey...look at me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An opportunity for aspiring writers.

For all you aspiring authors out there who aren't yet published and who live in the US, here is a very cool contest just for you. Cheerios and Simon & Schuster are teaming up again this year to find another great story for their Spoon Full of Stories Contest. First place wins a publishing contract with Simon & Schuster AND $5000.  Not bad!  The deadline for this 4th annual contest is July 15, 2010, so get cracking.  Winners will be announced in March of 2011.  Be sure to check Spoon Full of Stories for contest rules and while you're at it, visit Simon & Schuster's site for the low down on why books are important and for tips on how to get kids reading.

Sorry all you Canadians, you'll have to sit this one out.  Judging criteria, contest rules and eligibility information can be found at There is no cost to enter.

City Dog, Country Frog

I've been a little slack about blogging lately, mostly because I'm working like a fiend.  Sadly, I haven't read much this week, but I did slip into the bookstore to pick up a book for my book club read and couldn't help but detour into the picture book section.  Yes fellow readers, I am weak.  A new title that caught my eye was City Dog Country Frog by Mo Willems and Jon Muth.  Willems usually illustrates his own stories, but this time he's listed as the author.  I was intrigued.  Muth's palate is much richer and more detailed than the one Willems works in, so I was had to peek to see how well the collaboration worked.  Well, that was why I cracked the cover, but it didn't take long for this poignant, understated story about friendship and loss to draw me in.  The premise is that, one spring city dog visits the country, runs free and meets a strange creature sitting on a rock; country frog.  The two become fast friends and play country frog games like jumping and splashing and croaking.  In the summer, city dog comes again, and this time they play city dog games like sniffing and fetching and barking.  With the arrival of fall, frog is tired so the two friends rest and remember past pleasures.  Winter brings the sadness of loss, which is exquisitely rendered by illustration alone.  Spring brings renewal in the form of a new friendship, although it's clear that the lost one has not forgotten.

Set against this  backdrop of changing seasons, City Dog, Country Frog is a blend of the best of both words and pictures.  I'm happy to report that this is one collaboration that I hope continues into other titles.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Picture book submissions

I can't tell you how many times I get asked about an author/illustrator team approaching a publisher with a joint project.  It goes something like this.  I've written a fantastic story, and my friend, neighbor, daughter, husband (take your pick) has done the cutest illustrations.  Where should I send it?  My answer is "NOWHERE!"  That's just not the way it works in this business.  Have you heard of art directors?  No?  Well, forget the story, and inform yourself about industry standards.

You might as well know that your chances of getting published with this approach have taken a serious nose dive.  This sort of submission marks you as an amateur and gives publishers even more reasons to reject you.  Remember, they have plenty of talented professionals to choose from.  Besides, they may love the art but hate the writing.  They may love the story but hate the illustrations.  Or, they may like the story and even like the illustrations, but don't think they work well enough together.  Or, they may have a totally different take on how a story should be packaged and it might just seem to messy to bother rejecting one half of the equation.

For a great take on this topic from an agent's perspective, check out Mary Cole's site.

): No free WIFI for us

Yesterday Starbucks announced that as of July 1st WIFI will be free in the US.  What about us here in Canada though?  All I can say is they won't be making me any soy lattes or london fogs until I get the same treatment as my friends in the US.  I guess I'll just have to do my writing at home for the time being.  Just imagine how much money I'll be saving!

Monday, June 14, 2010


An exciting new online kid's and ya book conference has just been announced by a couple of young enthusiastic writers.  They have scored some awesome presenters including my wonderful agent Suzie Townsend.  Registration for this August Conference isn't until July, but more news will be coming soon check the WriteOnCon site frequently.

WriteOnCon is an exciting online writer’s conference for children’s writers everywhere!
A team of seven: Jamie HarringtonElana JohnsonCasey McCormickShannon MessengerLisa and Laura Roecker, and Jen Stayrook started this project with a single goal: paying it forward. They'd all heard so many writers who wished they could attend a conference, but simply didn’t have the time or money. So they decided to bring a conference to them—a free online conference that anyone could attend in the convenience of their own homes. And so, WriteOnCon was born. (Rated MC-18: for main characters 18 and under.)  I love this part!!!

The response from industry professionals has been overwhelming (check out our awesome list of presenters) and more presenters names will be added as people confirm. In the meantime, they suggest you mark your calendar for August 10-12, and tell your friends so they can be here too. They're working hard to make this the best conference they can, and it’s going to be—EPIC!
Follow the link to their site and see what they have in store. And check back regularly for updates. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ripple Sketches & Kelly Light

The whole BP oil fiasco in the Gulf feels overwhelming, but a group of kid's book illustrators has decided to do something to help.  It began with illustrator Kelly Light putting up small sketches for small donations that go directly to  The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and The International Bird Rescue Research Center.  

The image shown is an sample of what is available.

Kelly decided to put the word out to see if other illustrators were will to contribute.  The response was so overwhelming that Ripple Sketches was born. The way it works, is you make a direct donation to one of the above two charities to help animal victims of the oil spill and send Kelly the confirmation number and your address, and she'll send you a sketch. Way to go Kelly.

Boston Glob-Horn Book Awards announced


2010 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards
for Excellence in Children’s Literature

The Awards were announced on June 8, 2010.
Presented annually since 1967, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards (BGHB) reward excellence in children’s and young adult literature and are given in three categories: Fiction and Poetry, Nonfiction, and Picture Book.

The 2010 BGHB winners are:

Fiction and Poetry:  When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Lam/Random House

Nonfiction:  Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking)

Picture Book:  I Know Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James (Groundwood)

For those of you who don't know, Groundwood is a small Canadian publisher.  Yeah Groundwood!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Joelle Anthony

For anyone who will be in Victoria, BC this coming Saturday (June 12), drop by Tall Tales Books for for a young adult reading and presentation beginning at 3pm by Joelle Anthony, debut author of Restoring Harmony. Teen fidler Sarah Tradewell and the author's husband, Victor Anthony will be providing musical accompaniment. I've heard nothing but good things about this dystopian novel set on the west coast and I'm very much looking forward to reading it.


This afternoon I'm having tea with my friend Margaret.  I love Margaret, and everyone should be lucky enough to have a friend like her.  Margaret, who is coming up to 84, holds a book and tea salon on Thursday afternoons.  That's the time when the local bookseller and various other friends drop by for tea and to talk about books. Margaret is eclectic.  She reads everything from literary fiction, to mysteries, from history and historical fiction, to social commentary, from picture books to young adult literature.  The only thing she stays away from is war stories.  Having lived through World War II in her native Finland, Margaret figures she's had enough war for a lifetime.

Until she was 80, Margaret used to make the 1mile or so trek from her home to the bookstore just about every day of the week.  I know because one of my daughters worked there for three years, and the three years before that, my editor's daughter worked there.  The bookstore has changed hands 4 times over the last 20 or so years, but Margaret has been a constant.  She'd walk down the hill, all 4' 10" of her, have a chat about what she'd been reading or whether this or that reviewer was off his rocker or right on the money.  She'd buy a book, and then  her husband Earnst would drive down and pick her and take her home.   The walk back would have been just a little too much.  She'd go home, read the book, and be back the next day for another one.  Margaret is voracious.  She reads faster and retains more than I've ever been able to.

These days, the book store comes to Margaret because she isn't able to get out any more.  She has a big window overlooking the garden that Earnst tends so lovingly.  Her world is one of books and her husband's garden.  Amber, the book seller, brings along a bag of books for the week for Margaret to choose from.  It's almost like a party.  All those books at once.  What a treat!  Margaret keeps up on reviews on-line, and she's always happy to have recommendations from friends.   I can't tell you how many books I've read on Margaret's recommendation, nor can I tell you have many of Margaret's books are in my 'to be read pile'. She's always giving me books, and not just for me either.  Sometimes when I arrive, she'll have a book just for Ali, who isn't a sci-fi fan, but Margaret is sure she'll like this one because the "world building is outstanding".  Or that wiener dog book she found for Katie because she knows that Katie is ga ga over wiener dogs. Yep, Margaret is a gem.  Everyone deserves to have a friend like Margaret. I'm so lucky that I do.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Reading Rockets: A video interview with Mem Fox

I came across this great interview with Mem Fox, who is such an inspiring writer. Reading Rockets: A video interview with Mem Fox on Reading Rockets, which is a really great site so check out the interview and have a look around at what else they have to offer.

a belated Newbery & Caldecott announcement

While I was flipping through the NY Times Book Review to catch up, (yes, time seems to have slipped away on me again) I caught an article announcing the Newbery and Cadecott Awards and realized that I hadn't even posted the winners.  So here they are:

2010 Newbery When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, which I have at the top of my pile because people have been raving about it long before it won.  In fact, my agent recently posted on this and she was ga ga over it.  Note to self.  Work harder so that she'll rave about me that way...

2010 Caldecott The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney which is a totally gorgeous and almost wordless retelling of the classic Aesop's fable set on the Serengeti plains.  Although I love this one, I must admit that I was rooting for All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee.

Of course there are lots of other ALA awards besides these two, so check them out.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Ed Verve

Ok, I admit it.  I used to love Betsy Bird's "Hot Men of Children's Literature" lists when they came out periodically until someone determined that they were politically incorrect...sigh.  But, if there were such a list again, which I'm not saying there is or even should be, British illustrator Ed Verve could be on it.  Don't ya think!  Besides that, his books totally rock because this guy has a style all his own. His new book is entitled Banana!, but check out The Getaway too. It's pure  awesomeness for the under five set.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


I like to start the day drinking tea and browsing the headlines, The New York Times, The Globe & Mail, Salon Mag., CBC news, and last but not least, my local paper. Then I dive into Google Reader for updates on the blogs I follow (about 25 or so).  There isn't a day that goes by when something sparks my interest from one or more of these sources.  Sometimes what I read outrages me, like the fact that the oil is still pouring into the Gulf Coast.  Sometimes what I read it makes me cry, or laugh, or rant and rave to my long suffering BF (actually he's probably more of a news junkie than I am  so the two of us sit side by side with our respective laptops zinging along the information highway).   I know that sometimes this little ritual of mine can be a time waster; a way of being connected to the world of words without actually doing any of the hard slogging myself. Still, I figure the benefits are worth the hour so two I spend each day.  

Take this morning for example.  I came across an article about an 18 year  girl who is now two weeks into a one month self-imposed experiment she calls "The Seventeen Magazine Project" where she takes all of the advice in Seventeen Magazine literally.  And I mean ALL of the advice!  I just wish I'd have thought of this for a YA book.  What a great read...all that ridiculous advice in action...Just imagine!  

And then there was the thought provoking blog post from Kiwi writer Leila Austin at YA Highway.   

"Whoever we are, wherever we’re from...home isn’t just a place you go back to. Home is in who we are. You can write yourself away from home, but one way or another, it finds its way in. Because that’s what home is. It finds you wherever you go."

Posts like this one just give me chills.  How could you not get inspired! And that is, I suppose, the get inspired to keep putting words on the page. 

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Stanley Books

Yeah!  I just read that my good friend Linda Bailey's canine character, Stanley, has made his debut on the stage of Manhattan Children's Theatre in New York City.  They based the stage production on the first two Stanley books, Stanley's Party, and Stanley's Wild Ride, but there are two other books out and I think Linda mentioned that a fifth book is coming.  Here's a short clip of the stage production.  Way to go Linda!

Librarians Do Gaga

I just came across this great Librarian video. Enjoy!

Chocolate Lily Book Awards

Here are the  BC Chocolate Lily Readers' Choice Awards for 2010.  In the Picture Book category, 

Congratulations to the winners and to the readers.

PENGUIN AND THE CUPCAKE by Ashley Spires  (Published by Simply Read Books)ref=sib_dp_pt.jpg

In the Novel category: Lois Pederson for MEETING MISS 405 by Lois Pederson, (OrcaBook Publishers)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

In defense of librarians

Below is a letter that my friend and fellow author, Helaine Becker sent to the National Post re:  a derogatory comment about librarians.  It's such a great letter, that I want everyone to read it.   Yeah Helaine!  And if you think this letter is great, you can check out her books too.  You'll find a link to her website at the bottom of the page.  PS. Helaine is really really funny:)

Dear Mr. Gunter,

I was enjoying your analysis of Easy Rider in this morning's National Post
("Getting over Easy Rider, "June 2,2010) when I was caught short by this
sentence: "The teens who were prompted by its anti-establishment message to
pledge themselves to change the world are today school librarians and public
broadcasting technicians living in suburban bungalows, looking around the
next bend at pensionability and wondering whether to open a B&B in Niagara."

Yikes! There's a sweeping stereotype there! 

I know you were trying to humorously make a point about becoming the essence
of establishment self-focus. But clearly, you have not met many school
librarians, nor do you fully appreciate what they do every day. (I can't
speak for the broadcasting technicians.)

I am not a school librarian, but in my career as a writer of children's
literature, I have had the great privilege of meeting and spending time with
hundreds of school librarians across North America - from Nunavut to New
Brunswick, from the Jane-Finch Corridor in the GTA to the rural communities
of Manitoba, Alberta and Yukon; in Texas, California, New York and Lima
(Peru). Virtually every single one of the people I met are still honoring
that pledge to change the world.

Don't be fooled by the prim reading-glasses-on-chains cartoon image.
Teacher-librarians are true revolutionaries, trying to change and improve
society by empowering the most vulnerable members of society: children. 

Their working conditions: abysmal. 

Their weapon: literacy. 

Their opposition: entrenched bureaucracy that gives lip service to literacy
and equity, but shows its true colors by gutting schools of books and
trained staff. 

Meet, for example, Nina W., a school-librarian in the great State of
California who currently has responsibility for three inner city schools,
virtually no support from administration (when I visited with her two weeks
ago, nearly 600 teachers had just been let go and were engaged in costly and
divisive legal hearings instead of teaching in the classroom). Yet despite
being stretched nearly to the breaking point, Nina still managed to
administer a Reading is Fundamental book program for Kindergarten and grade
1 students, organize author visits to inspire hundreds of children, and
facilitate delivery of books to needy schools that were collected on an
independent book drive.

Or meet Fabienne T., who works in a remote Northern community. Her student
body contains a high number of kids who come to school hungry, tired and
unprepared to learn because of upheaval at home and in their community. For
these children, literacy is truly a foreign concept - their own culture did
not even have a written language 40 years ago! Many elders there are
actually suspicious of reading as a form of learning, since their own
educational system involved a more active approach, being out on the land.
Yet Fabienne cheerfully strides from school to school, bringing books and
enthusiasm and a desire to help improve the opportunities available to her
charges. Those opportunities will only open to them when they possess the
skills needed to "make it" in the contemporary world, so with her copies of
"Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Twilight" in hand, Fabienne is truly
managing to change their worlds.

Or why not let me introduce you to Jenny E., who teaches in a tough primary
school in one of Toronto's most challenging neighborhoods. To see what she
has done with these old-too-soon kids is nothing short of miraculous, and
she's been doing it for more than 20 years, day in and day out (I'm sure the
number is higher than that, but I don't want to embarrass her!). 

The crisis facing school libraries today is an issue that has not yet
surfaced in the Canadian consciousness. Yet let me assure you, it is very
real, pervasive, and will have long-term consequences. Only a tiny
percentage of Canadian school libraries meet the minimal standards (Set by
the Canadian Library Association ) required to achieve learning objectives
in all curricular areas, not just literacy. 

A fully functional school library is the heart of a school, providing
necessary sustenance and support for teachers and students. It is at the
vanguard of "best practices," incorporating information literacy into school
culture, and it the avenue through which students learn how to do research,
analyze sources and interpret media messaging. 

School librarians are professionally committed to freedom of thought and
speech, and to the notion that teaching kids how to learn is the root of all
education. If that's not progressive, I don't know what is.

I know, I know, you didn't really mean to disparage school librarians -
yours was a throwaway comment designed for a laugh. But it perpetuated a
lie, and was a disservice to some of the most revolutionary members of our
society. But! Here's the good news! You can easily correct that disservice!

Let me suggest that, next Fall, you accompany me to some representative
school libraries in the GTA. Let me show you how we are letting down
Canadian students by underfunding our school libraries. Let me show you how
the mouth-noises that insist "we support literacy" are a lie when in fact
the school libraries in our country are short of books and staff.

On a personal note, it was in a school library that I first fell in love
with books. That early exposure and support has enabled me to live a full
and productive life as a literate citizen. 

When I speak to kids during my school presentations, I often ask them, "Why
are you learning how to read?" The typical response is, "so I can get a job
one day." "So I can get good grades." Or simply a shrug of shoulders - we
are made to read and write because the grownups want us to. 

I tell the kids that all of those answers are all acceptable ones, but are
not the best reasons. Do you really want to learn to read just so you can
grow up to become an obedient worker bee, or to boast a meaningless A on
meaningless report card? No.

No, The real reason you should want to learn how to Read well, Write well
and Speak well is because these are the tools that give you power - both the
power over your own life, and the power to persuade others to make
improvements to our world.

School librarians are bringing power to the people, every day. Please give
them their due. 


Helaine Becker

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