Class of 2k9 Offers Great New Choices in Fiction

April 24, 2009

One of my recent discoveries for finding new books has been the Class of 2k9 Web site. This concept of first-time middle grade and young adult authors banding together as a group started in 2007, and the Class of 2k9 Web site has links to authors and books from both 2007 and 2008.

This year’s list includes authors of 21 books. I’ve read two of them so far, Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry and Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton. I enjoyed both of them and recommend them to mother daughter book clubs.

On the site you can find out what’s going to be released in the next month or two, and find out information about the authors and their books. When I checked today I found  links to blogs, recipes, and other resources that you can use to plan your next mother-daughter book club meeting.

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Tanya Egan Gibson, Author of How to Buy a Love of Reading, Asks “What’s Your Reading Story?”

April 22, 2009

Tanya Egan Gibson has a novel coming out next month called How to Buy a Love of Reading.  It’s about a high school girl who has never loved books, and her parents commission a book to be written just for her.

Gibson has added a feature to her novel’s website where anyone can share a story about how reading changed their lives. Gibson says she envisions “this as a community of stories about the power of stories.” She also says that “all submissions will be posted (subject to approval to weed out spam and profanity), and between now and the novel’s release date on May 14th, three of them will also be chosen to be made into flash-animated ‘books’ on the site’s virtual bookshelf.  (The winners will also each receive a signed copy of HTBALOR.)”

I plan to post my story in the next week, and I would love to read other stories from readers at mother-daughter book club as well. Here’s the Web site where you can check it out and post a story:

www.howtobuyaloveofreading.com. Just click on the icons to read other stories and find a link to submit your own.


Young Reader’s Choice Nominees

April 20, 2009

Voting for The Young Reader’s Choice awards finished up last week, and results will soon be announced. Each year, the Pacific Northwest Library Association presents this award. Nominations are accepted from children, teachers, parents and librarians in the Pacific Northwest, which includes the U.S. states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington as well as two Canadian provinces—Alberta and British Columbia. Only books that have been in publication for three years can be nominated, and only Pacific Northwest students in 4th through 12th grade can vote. Voting takes place between March 15 and April 15.

Here’s a look at all the nominees for 2009:

Junior Division

  • Room One: A Mystery or Two – Andrew Clements
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – Kate DiCamillo
  • Homework Machine – Dan Gutman
  • The Year of the Dog – Grace Lin
  • Rules – Cynthia Lord
  • Gossamer – Lois Lowry
  • The Higher Power of Lucky – Susan Patron
  • To Dance –  Siena Cherson Siegel

Intermediate Division

  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable – John Boyne
  • Half-Moon Investigations – Eoin Colfer
  • Ark Angel – Anthony Horowitz
  • The Pinhoe Egg – Diana Wynne Jones
  • Fablehaven – Brandon Mull
  • Dairy Queen – Catherine Gilbert Murdock
  • Small Steps – Louis Sachar
  • Endymion Spring – Matthew Skelton

Senior Division

  • The Road of the Dead – Kevin Brooks
  • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn
  • An Abundance of Katherines – John Green
  • The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl – Barry Lyga
  • New Moon – Stephenie Meyer
  • Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

For more information about past nominees and award winners, visit the Web site:

http://www.pnla.org/yrca/


Sage Cohen, Author of Writing the Life Poetic, Talks About Poetry

April 17, 2009

My friend Sage Cohen is celebrating the release of her new book Writing the Life Poetic and she’s blogging about poetry to help celebrate National Poetry Month. It’s a great time for a mother-daughter book club to consider choosing poetry to focus on for a whole month, even if that month is sometime down the road. Here’s a Q and A with Sage on the role of poetry in our lives.

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Q&A with Sage Cohen, Author of
Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry

How does poetry make the world a better place to live?

SC: I think poetry fills the gap left by the so-called objective truth that dominates our media, science and legislation. Many of us want to comprehend and communicate the complexity of human experience on a deeper, more soulful level. Poetry gives us a shared language that is more subtle, more human, and—at its best—more universally “true” than we are capable of achieving with just the facts.

How has integrating the reading and writing of poetry into your life impacted you?

SC: I will risk sounding melodramatic in saying that poetry saved my life. I stumbled into a writing practice at an extremely vulnerable time in my early teenage years. Poetry gave me then, as it does today, a way of giving voice to feelings and ideas that felt too risky and complicated to speak out loud. There was a kind of alchemy in writing through such vulnerabilities…by welcoming them in language, I was able to transform the energies of fear, pain and loneliness into a kind of friendly camaraderie with myself. In a way, I wrote myself into a trust that I belonged in this world.

Do people need an advanced degree in creative writing in order to write poetry?

SC: Absolutely not! Sure, poetry has its place in the classroom; but no one needs an advanced degree in creative writing to reap its rewards. What most people need is simply a proper initiation. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to offer such an initiation. My goal was that everyone who reads it come away with a sense of how to tune into the world around them through a poetic lens. Once this way of perceiving is awakened, anything is possible!

Why did you write Writing the Life Poetic?

SC: While working with writers for the past fifteen years, I have observed that even the most creative people fear that they don’t have what it takes to write and read poetry. I wrote Writing the Life Poetic to put poetry back into the hands of the people––not because they are aspiring to become the poet laureate of the United States––but because poetry is one of the great pleasures in life.”

Who is Writing the Life Poetic written for?

SC: Practicing poets, aspiring poets, and teachers of writing in a variety of settings can use Writing the Life Poetic to write, read, and enjoy poems; it works equally well as a self-study companion or as a classroom guide. Both practical and inspirational, it will leave readers with a greater appreciation for the poetry they read and a greater sense of possibility for the poetry they write.

What sets Writing the Life Poetic apart from other poetry how-to books?

SC: The craft of poetry has been well documented in a variety of books that offer a valuable service to serious writers striving to become competent poets. Now it’s time for a poetry book that does more than lecture from the front of the classroom. Writing the Life Poetic was written to be a contagiously fun adventure in writing. Through an entertaining mix of insights, exercises, expert guidance and encouragement, I hope to get readers excited about the possibilities of poetry––and engaged in a creative practice. Leonard Cohen says: “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” My goal is that Writing the Life Poetic be the flame fueling the life well lived.

Is it true that your book and your baby were conceived and birthed at the same time? What did you learn from this process?

SC: Yes, I often refer to my son Theo and Writing the Life Poetic as my multi-media twins! I found out I was pregnant with Theo about two months into the writing of the book and I was making final edits to the book in layout two weeks after he was born. It was fascinating to have two of the most potent creative processes I’ve ever experienced happening in tandem. What I learned is a great respect for the birthing journey; it is one that has completely rewritten me along the way.

I am writing a monthly column this year for The Writer Mama zine titled “The Articulate Conception” which chronicles my journey of becoming an author and a mom. Through the course of ten essays, I am exploring this double-whammy birth trajectory–from the twinkle in my eye to the bags under my eyes. The first column is available here: http://thewritermama.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/the-articulate-conception-planting-seeds/.

What makes a poem a poem?

SC: This is one of my favorite questions! I’ve answered it in my book, but it’s a question that I’m answering anew every day. And that’s what I love about poetry. It’s a realm where invention is not limited entirely by definition; there is room enough for the endless possibilities of the human. Every time we try to draw a line around what a poem is, something spills over into the next frame, shifting the point of view and demanding new names: olive, token, flax, daffodil. A poem is all of these, or none of them, depending on the quality of light and how the blade in the next room stirs the night.

What do you think people’s greatest misperceptions are about poetry?

SC: I think the three greatest stereotypes about the writing of poetry are:

1.    That one has to be a starving artist or deeply miserable to write great poetry.
2.    That reading and writing poetry are available only to an elite inner circle that shares secret, insider knowledge about the making of poems.
3.    That poetry does not fund prosperity.

I hope very much that Writing the Life Poetic helps offer alternatives to some of these attitudes and perceptions.

Why is National Poetry Month (April) a great time to read and write poetry?

SC: Every month is a great time to read and write poetry! But National Poetry Month is special because there are a number of inspiring opportunities to read and write in virtual tandem with poets everywhere, which creates a feeling of momentum and community. On my blog, I have a brief list of some fun ways to plug into the fun. http://writingthelifepoetic.typepad.com/writing_the_life_poetic/2009/03/national-poetry-month-starts-tomorrow-are-you-ready.html

I’d love to conclude with a poem of yours. Would you be willing to share one?

SC: Of course! Happy to!

Leaving Buckhorn Springs
By Sage Cohen

The farmland was an orchestra,
its ochres holding a baritone below
the soft bells of farmhouses,
altos of shadowed hills,
violins grieving the late
afternoon light. When I saw
the horses, glazed over with rain,
the battered old motorcycle parked
beside them, I pulled my car over
and silenced it on the gravel.
The rain and I were diamonds
displacing appetite with mystery.
As the horses turned toward me,
the centuries poured through
their powerful necks and my body
was the drum receiving the pulse
of history. The skin between me
and the world became the rhythm
of the rain keeping time with the sky
and into the music walked
the smallest of the horses. We stood
for many measures considering
each other, his eyes the quarter notes
of my heart’s staccato.  This symphony
of privacy and silence: this wildness
that the fence between us could not divide.

About Sage Cohen

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. An award-winning poet, she writes four monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Sage co-curates a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. To learn more, visit www.writingthelifepoetic.com. Drop by and join in the conversation about living and writing a poetic life at www.writingthelifepoetic.typepad.com!

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Sage and her son, Theo


Add a Little Poetry to Your Mother-Daughter Book Club Meetings

April 8, 2009

April is National Poetry Month, and it’s a good time for mother-daughter book clubs to consider selecting poetry for a meeting.

There are many ways you can enhance a book club poetry meeting to extend to the whole family. My book club chose to read poetry for a month a few years ago, and everyone in the family got into the act. First, we all headed to our local library to pick out books of poetry that we wanted to read (in addition to our assigned book). My husband and I went for some of the classic poets that we read when we were younger, because we wanted to remind ourselves of some of our past favorites. We chose Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and others. We also added a few poets we weren’t familiar with, like Langston Hughes.

Our daughters both chose books with poetry that would make them laugh. They liked Jack Prelutsky’s A Pizza the Size of the Sun, and It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles. We took turns reading our favorites out loud over the dinner table each night.

We also tried our hand at writing poetry. I can’t say that anything profound came out of our efforts, but it was a great creative endeavor, and we wrote poems we could be proud of. When it came time for our group meeting, we had a great time reading some of our favorite poems out loud and sharing some of the work we had written as well.

Check out some of these titles of poetry that kids may enjoy if you plan to have a poetry meeting of your own:

•    Kenn Nesbitt—Revenge of the Lunch Ladies, My Hippo Has Hiccups: And Other Poems I Totally Made Up, and several other collections of poetry.
•    Jack Prelutsky—A Pizza the Size of the Sun and It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, plus more titles of poetry.
•    Robert Louis Stevenson—A Child’s Garden of Verses.
•    Emily Dickinson—The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.


Heather Vogel Frederick Talks About Authors Meeting With Book Clubs

April 1, 2009

Today I’m featuring a guest post from author Heather Vogel Frederick, author of the novel series for tweens, The Mother-Daughter Book Club. Here she talks about the pleasure of connecting with her readers.

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Guest Blog Post by Heather Vogel Frederick

When I began writing The Mother-Daughter Book Club a couple of years ago, I had no clue what was in store for me.  How could I possibly have guessed that the book would soon be bringing me into the homes and hearts of readers around the country?

It all began as a marketing brainstorm – instead of the expense of a full-blown book tour, I’d offer to visit with book clubs by speakerphone or Skype’s free videoconferencing service.  This “virtual” tour was meant to last just a month or two, but it quickly took on a life of its own as invitations flowed in from mother-daughter book clubs around the country.  In the ensuing months, I’ve simply been having too much fun to stop the ride and get off.

Is it a time commitment?  Sure.  But how often do writers get the chance to interact with their readers?  Aside from a brief flurry of signings after a book’s initial publication, most authors work in a vacuum.  Writing is a solitary pursuit, after all.  Talking with one’s audience offers a unique opportunity to enrich and extend the conversation that every book begins between author and reader.  I genuinely enjoy spending time with the tween age group I write for.  I love their enthusiasm and delight and honesty and curiosity.  I love answering their questions and offering encouragement and advice.  And these virtual visits are also a very real way for me to give back.

Years ago, when my adolescent self was mooning around Concord, Massachusetts, dreaming of being a writer someday like Louisa May Alcott, one of our town’s most illustrious former residents, my mother managed to wangle an invitation to tea with a local author.  How she did this I’ll never know, but I imagine it was in much the same way she managed to wangle an original sketch from Barbara Cooney when the artist was visiting our next-door neighbor one day – she simply marched up to her and asked.  When it came to anything that might benefit her daughters, my mother was a fearless wangler.

The author’s name was Elizabeth Baker, and although her books for young readers are sadly no longer in print, the memory of our visit endures.  On the appointed afternoon, I showed up on her doorstep, uncharacteristically dressed to the nines (thanks, mom!) and clutching a manuscript in my nervous hands.  Mrs. Baker ushered me into her living room, and while I started in on the tea and homemade cookies she’d prepared, she patiently read my story.  I waited with bated breath for her response (secretly hoping she’d tell me it was brilliant and should immediately be published, of course).  While that didn’t turn out to be the case, Mrs. Baker more than made up for any deflated spirits on my part with generous praise and savvy writing tips.  I was thrilled.

After our chat, she gave me a tour of her ultra-modern office, which could only be reached via a catwalk suspended high above her living room.  This architectural innovation awed me into a state of near muteness, as did the workspace itself.  Her secluded aerie was lined with miles of bookshelves and file cabinets (which were orange, as I recall – cutting edge hip for that decade) and flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking her wooded property.  Mrs. Baker was the first person I ever met who worked from home, and I decided then and there that’s what I wanted to do someday as well, book-filled office and all.

Today, my cozy office may not be an architectural marvel, and it may overlook a simple backyard bird feeder instead of a broad expanse of woodland, but it is filled with books and light and the view it offers me is something I doubt Mrs. Baker ever could have imagined.  Connected to the world via phone and internet, I can sit in my armchair and be transported to living rooms and family rooms from Anchorage to Atlanta, Nebraska to New York.  And as I gaze at my laptop screen during these Skype visits, I see reflected in the faces of my readers echoes of myself at their age, poised on the brink of life and bubbling with possibility.  In their hands they often clutch questions for me in much the same nervous, excited way I clutched my manuscript oh-so-many years ago, and my hope as I watch them is that I might prove to be their Mrs. Baker, and inspire some of them the way she inspired me.
Now if someone could only invent a technology for teleporting the yummy-looking cupcakes and other treats that are standard fare at book club meetings, I’d really be able to join the party!

For more information or to invite Heather to talk with your book club via speakerphone or Skype, please visit her website (www.heathervogelfrederick.com).