Rodney Whittenberg Presents Live Interviews With Civil Rights Leaders.

For today’s post it is my joy and pleasure to bring an interview with Emmy Award Winning Composer RODNEY WHITTENBERG, whose new CD WE STOOD UP, explores the experiences of civil rights leaders through interviews and songs.  Sit back and enjoy this amazing project.

Nancy Rogers (NR): Lincoln Financial Foundation

First, a little background for context…Our company’s association with our namesake, Abraham Lincoln, goes back to our founding. In 1905, our founders asked permission of President Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, to use his father’s name for their new company – to reflect the ideals with which they intended to operate. 

Fast-forward to 2016…We Stood Up actually grew out of a 3-year initiative – which we called “Lincoln’s Legacy” – to celebrate the 150th anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation (2013) and the 13th Amendment (2015).  As part of the Lincoln’s Legacy initiative, we recorded oral history interviews with a wide range of people who spoke about how the ideals of freedom, opportunity and equality have evolved during their lifetimes. It was our intent from the beginning to produce an anthology of a selection of the interviews. We began with the premise that children would be most influenced – and perhaps most inspired – by other children. In many cases, the interview questions were posed by grandchildren, relatives or mentees of the interviewees – and you can sense the personal nature of some of the questions and answers.  We provided some suggested questions, but the kids were also encouraged to ask about what interested them. In several cases, these recording sessions were the first time that the children had asked questions about how their grandparents or mentors had felt about the things that happened when they were young. That realization helped shape the tone and spirit of We Stood Up. The addition of songs and poems seemed like a natural way to complement the stories being shared – and another vehicle for communicating complex ideas and feelings.     we-stood-up-cd-cover

The creative process was amazing on so many levels. First, there were the oral histories. Our own employees videotaped the interviews. They went to locations the interviewees had chosen, where they were surrounded by people and things that were important to them.

For Julian Bond, it was Florida during a family vacation; for Franklin McCain, it was the Woolworth lunch counter exhibit at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro; for Andrew Young, it was the Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA in Atlanta; for Shirley Franklin, it was the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the museum she oversees as board chair; for several others it was their own homes. The locations themselves informed the creative process. And of course, the stories and reflections shared during the interviews.

Our video team members were in awe, and so honored to be playing a part in something so meaningful. They worked countless hours to get the edits just right, and to do justice to the content. Our Lincoln staff has continued to work on the project, and they remain committed advocates today.

But it became clear to us as we moved forward that we needed a dedicated professional, with experience in producing both films and records, and we were introduced to Rodney Whittenberg of Melodyvision – who has been our partner in this project for over 2 years.  His creativity and guidance have been invaluable, and he has brought talent and passion in equal measure to the production of We Stood Up. Then there was the music. The music evolved the most significantly over the course of the project.

At first, we thought we would produce a spoken word album. As the album took shape, we realized that we needed a narrator to provide context and connect the interviews. Then, we began to realize that music would raise it to a different level – from an artistic standpoint, an entertainment standpoint, and an emotional standpoint.

 All of the songs are original, and are tailored to the interview content, and Rodney wrote and performed in all of the songs.  One of the truly gratifying things about this whole experience was the willingness of professional musicians and singers to donate their time and talent because they believed in the project. We had contributing performers who specialize in children’s music, but we also had R&B legend Sarah Dash – who couldn’t have been more supportive of the album. On the track, “Someone Thinks,” Sarah sings with her niece, and another niece runs the school where the kids’ chorus comes from.  The music was written for kids, but with adults in mind, too – so that it’s enjoyable during a long car ride with the family!  We also wanted it to feel new and old at the same time…to pay homage to the civil rights era, bus still sound current and relevant today.     

Rodney Whittenberg: Emmy Award Winning Composer.  Songwriter Composer Producer – We Stood Up:  l_r_whittenberg_001

For me this was a passion project. From the moment I first spoke with Nancy and learned about the Lincoln Legacy project I was hooked. I have been working on educational and art projects for the longest time and this made me think we could create something really special. The process started with listening to the interviews they had  created, then traveling around and doing interviews. The high point for me was The John Lewis interview. He was so inspiring, his commitment and courage seams superhuman.

The songs were inspired by the interviews and the stories. Working with legendary singer Sarah Dash was a high point of the process. She really helped and connected me with Sprout performing arts school in Trenton NJ.

My favorite moment on the CD is “John Lewis on Non – Violence” in to the song “Love”.

The best part of the CD is that it’s free for teachers, schools, libraries, and it is available on iTunes.  All of the proceeds go to Boys and Girls club of Phila. 

a-3820397-1399737314-6298Rodney Whittenberg is founder of Melodyvision where he works as a Creative Consultant by using his skills as a composer / song writer/ multi instrumentalist, producer / engineer / filmmaker and educator. He brings a fresh and unique perspective to each client and project adding value that results in creative solutions to often complex problems. Rodney has composed music for over 34 films and TV shows, and countless dance performances. Projects include: Anthony Bourdain’s show a Cooks Tour; PBS POV Documentary The Camden 28; horror cult classics Infested and Return to Sleep Away Camp. He’s received a regional Emmy for his score for the TV Documentary Mother Dot’s Philadelphia and Best Sound Design at the Terror Film Festival for Toll Taker.  

Rodney’s work as a filmmaker centers around his passion for telling a story from start to finish in a creative way. Projects include: HBO Family segments 30X30: Kid Flicks; WHYY Wider Horizon educational spots; and numerous music videos and short-form documentaries. His most recent passion project is as co-producer of the feature-length documentary Caregivers: Their Passion, Their Pain, which was recently featured on Radio Times and written up in The Guardian.  More info at www.melodyvision.com

We Stood UP

https://www.lfg.com/public/aboutus/lincolnfinancialfoundation/lincolnslegacy/anthology

We Stood Up iTunes link

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/we-stood-up/id1157789980

Itunes

Sound-cloud Link

https://soundcloud.com/user-774801037/sets/we-stood-up-final-master/s-BgaIn

Carol Simon Levin Celebrates Women’s History + Win a Free Book!

In honor of an historical moment in our US history, this post is brought to you by CAROL SIMON LEVIN  – just in time for the 2016 Presidential Election. Here’s Carol:

I was working on a coloring and activity book for “Bridge Builder in Petticoats” then realized we were at a historic moment in our country — 240 years after Abigail Adams wrote her husband John to “remember the ladies” when the founding fathers drafted the laws for a new nation and warning that “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice or Representation,” 168 years after the Seneca Falls Convention calling for women to get the right to vote, 96 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment actually granting women that right, we finally have a woman presidential candidate from a major party.  

I got the idea on June 8, 2016 (my birthday and the day Hillary got enough electoral votes to become the nominee), postponed working on “Bridge Builder” and have been burning the midnight oil (and then some!) working with 35 talented illustrators who created images for the 64 women I eventually profiled. The whole project was completed in just under 4 months so it would be out well in time for the 2016 election! 

carol-bookMy motivation is to help girls and women (and sympathetic guys) recognize that the vote is precious and we shouldn’t take it for granted.  I chose to do it by creating a unique coloring book with the hope that coloring might spur curiosity, and that reading the facts, fascinating factoids, and quotes from these amazing women would motivate the people to exercise their voices and their votes alongside their colored pencils!  As Carrie Chapman Catt wrote when the 19th Amendment finally passed, “The vote has been costly. Prize it.”  

Carol Simon Levin is a Youth Services Librarian, author, storyteller and program presenter based in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Whether she is impersonating the woman who helped to build the Brooklyn Bridge, telling the amazing stories of early women in aviation, engaging families in a rousing Halloween Hootenanny of songs and stories, expanding on the mathematical and artistic possibilities of a simple square, or sharing the story of a dolphin who learned to swim with an artificial tail (along with activities to help children understand what it is like to live with a disability), she always strives to create exciting programs that engage her audience’s interests and expand their horizons. 

imageShe is happy to bring her presentations to libraries, senior centers, historical societies, schools, camps and other venues. She has always been particularly fascinated by the history of technology and women’s history. Visit tellingherstories.com or facebook.com/TellingHerStories for more information on her books and presentations. 

Additional programs and resources for children and teachers can be found at: carolsimonlevin.blogspot.com.

Carol Simon Levin is a member of the New Jersey Library Association, the New Jersey Storytelling Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.     carol-red-jacket-library

TELL US YOUR FAVORITE HEROINE FROM HISTORY AND BE ENTERED IN A DRAWING TO WIN A FREE COPY OF CAROL’S BOOK!

Winner will be announced here on 11-9-16.

Janet Fox Talks About Her New MG Historical.

Children’s book author JANET FOX has always been one of my favorite authors.  Her YA historical novels are part of my collection and when I heard she was writing an MG, I knew I wanted to read it.  THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE did not disappoint.  Here is MY review of this wonderful novel:  CharmedChildrencover (1)

“This creepy, scary, spine-tingly middle grade novel takes place in Scotland in 1940.  Kat and her younger siblings Rob and Amelie, are sent by their parents to Rookskill Castle Boarding School in Scotland to escape Hitler’s blitz bombing of London at the start of WWII.  Rookskill is no ordinary boarding school.  And the Lady Eleanor who runs it, is no ordinary headmistress.  As soon as they enter its doors, Kat feels off balance and at odds with the place.  Teachers behave strangely.  Ghostly figures roam the grounds.  Children seem to disappear.  Secret passages, hidden doors, ghosts, strange noises and even stranger nightmares fill Kat’s days and nights.

Kat suspects the castle – and its occupants – are under some kind of spell.  But for what purpose?  Are there German spies about?  And, what does it all have to do with the mysterious chatelaine Lady Eleanor keeps fastened to her waist?  Is it good magic or a more sinister dark magic? 

     This is a splendid page turner for anyone who enjoys mystery, fantasy, or historical fiction.  Rich in details and grounded in time and place, it will keep you up at night and make you contemplate the very nature of good and evil.”

Now here is the interview:

How did you come to write for children?

I began writing for children when my son was little and it was clear he has dyslexia. I tried making stories for him that would help him learn – they were terrible! But it got me hooked on writing for children. I joined SCBWI, became friends with Kathi Appelt, who became a mentor to me, and then found my agent and Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I earned my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

You’ve had a successful career writing for YA with FORGIVEN, FAITHFUL, and SIRENS. What made you decide to write a book for the middle grade crowd?

I was actually trying to write new and different material, through my MFA program. I was trying to stretch and grow outside my comfort zone. When I had the idea for THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, I began writing and right away knew that the book had a middle grade voice and a middle grade sensibility. It reminded me of the books I read when I was that middle grade age. Plus Kat was a middle grade character. The novel couldn’t have been written any other way.

Where did the idea for THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE come about? 

I’d just finished drafting SIRENS, and lazily perusing the internet, when a friend of mine posted a picture of a piece of jewelry called a chatelaine. I’d heard of chatelaines, and seen a few (check out the chatelaine worn by Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey), but this one was weird. So weird that I pulled the image off the internet and put it on my desktop. So weird that I couldn’t stop staring at it. So weird that it made a story in my mind, and it wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d put that story down on paper.

You can see that chatelaine as a drawing in the opening pages of the novel. It served as a guide for the concept of this story.

 The Cover of the book is amazing!  Care to comment on it?

I love my cover art!! Greg Ruth is the artist. He perfectly captured several things about the story: the dark, foreboding, mysterious, huge castle; the rooks, my antagonist’s familiars; the moonlight and the wavery sun; the odd Lady; the four children who stand in the circle of light, not really sure they should enter. One of the themes of the novel is that “the power is within you” – to solve problems, to grow – and so the suggestion of crossing a threshold and how that holds both fear and hope is perfect and resonant.

blurb:  “Keep calm and carry on.”

  That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do: when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

            But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.

Tell us THREE things about the main character in the story.

Kat – Katherine Bateson – worships her father, who works for MI5 and is a spy abroad during World War 2. Kat has a knack for puzzle-solving and a facility for math and science, and is very practical-minded. And Kat must learn that the power of magic, and the power to rescue her friends and family, lies within her.

What’s next?      IMG_8226b

I’m working on a sequel, although nothing is sure yet that Viking will want one – but I have such a fun idea that I’m going to run with it. I’m also working on another middle grade fantasy. My agent is shopping a YA science fiction and a non-fiction picture book, and I’ve got a solid draft of a YA contemporary novel set in Montana. I’ve got lots on my desktop!

Three Cheers For Birches School: A Fantastic Welcome From Some Great Students.

This morning I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the fifth grade classes at the Birches Elementary School in Washington Township, Gloucester Co.  NJ for an Author Visit.  Their Social Studies teacher, Mary Byatt, had read WHEELS OF CHANGE and thought it was a great segway into her unit on the Civil War, reconstruction and the Industrial Revolution.  We had some great discussions about gender roles, civil rights, technology, and fun and games.

What an amazing group of students!  They were attentive, engaging, and really interested in what life was like in 1908.   Here are the photo highlights of  one of the best author visits so far.  THANK YOU MRS. BYATT AND THE FIFTH GRADERS AT BIRCHES!  YOU ROCK!

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Women Who Changed the World: New Book by Laurie Calkhoven + Free Copy Give-away

Laurie Calkhoven has always been one of my favorite writers of historical fiction.  When I heard about her new book, WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD, I had to ask her about it.  Here’s Laurie:

WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD grew out of my desire for a woman president! I had written a book called I GREW UP TO BE PRESIDENT.  On my school visits, kids loved hearing about the presidents’ childhoods. I made a point of telling them that presidents had all started out as ordinary boys who grew up to be extraordinary, and that they had the same opportunity.  Every time I talked about the book, I mentioned that it was one day going to include a girl.

I got tired of waiting. Why not write a book about ordinary girls who grew up to be extraordinary?  I put together a proposal and sent it to my editor at Scholastic, and happily she and her colleagues liked the idea as much as I did. Beginning with Pocahontas and taking us all the way through Misty Copeland, WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD is about 50 influential and inspiring American girls who grew up to change the world.

Women Who Changed coverThe research was both interesting and a challenge, especially for women like Pocahontas and Sacagawea. What’s real and what’s myth? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Even modern women can be a challenge.  Every biography, encyclopedia entry, and magazine article I read about Julia Child listed a slightly different height!

Thank goodness for the New York Public Library and its extensive databases. I couldn’t tell you how many books, magazine and newspaper articles, and database entries I read in total. There were at least 10 and sometimes 20-30 for each woman.  But along the way I learned wonderful, sometimes maddening, and always inspiring things.

Nellie Bly, for instance, got her start as a journalist after reading a newspaper article that called working women a “monstrosity.” She wrote an angry letter to the editor, who promptly hired her.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias, the greatest female athlete of the twentieth century, earned her nickname because she hit five homeruns in one neighborhood baseball game—just like Babe Ruth.

Patsy Mink, the first congresswoman of color and the driving force behind Title Nine, became a lawyer because she couldn’t find a medical school that would admit a woman.  Then she discovered that law firms wouldn’t hire her for the same reason. So, she started her own.

The first woman to reach both the North and South Poles, Ann Bancroft, said her dyslexia was the perfect training for joining a polar expedition. On an expedition you have to focus on putting one foot in front of the other—just like you have to do every single day with a learning disability.

Nobel-prize winning geneticist Barbara McClintock’s favorite microscope is on view at the Smithsonian. Don’t you just love that she had a favorite microscope?

I could go on and on. Harriet Tubman was forced to turn back on her first attempt to escape slavery. At 15, Lucille Ball traveled to New York City to study acting. Her teacher sent her back home with the news that she didn’t have any talent. Julia Child was a disaster in her first cooking class.

Those stories especially, about women who looked failure in the face and kept going, are my favorites.  Those are the stories I most want kids to read.  I want them to know that when someone tries to diminish them or their dreams, they can go on—and succeed.

    Author PhotoLaurie Calkhoven spent 20 years working in book publishing helping other people bring their books into the world and planning to be a writer “one day.” Finally, with 40 looming, she realized she had to make one day happen. Since then she’s written a broad range of fiction and nonfiction for young readers including six novels for American Girl and a series of historical action/adventure novels called Boys of Wartime. She lives in New York City.

One lucky reader of this post will have an opportunity to win a signed copy of Laurie’s amazing book: WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD.  To enter, leave a comment at the end of this post.  For a second entry, tweet about it or share it on your FB page.  You have until April 6, 2016, when the winner will be announced on this blog.

 

Interview With Children’s PB Author Laurie Wallmark: Blog Tour Exclusive + Give away!

Today I am pleased and excited to be a stop on a blog tour for debut PB Author Laurie Wallmark.  She’ll be talking about her wonderful historical PB about the life of Ada Byron Lovelace, the first female computer programmer.   The book has already earned critical acclaim and a starred review from Kirkus.  If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for a free signed copy of the book, check out the end of this post.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First, give us some background on how you came to the field of writing for children.
Unlike many of my fellow children’s book authors, I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a writer. I wrote some protest poetry and songs as a child, but that was about it. I didn’t major in English or Creative Writing. Instead, my undergraduate degree is in Biochemistry and my masters is in Information Systems. I’ve always loved reading children’s books, though. One day, out of the blue, I thought of an idea for a middle grade novel. I wrote for about an hour every day and soon had produced the perfect manuscript, or so I thought. I was wrong. Many years and many manuscripts later, not to mention a great deal of time spent working on my writing craft, I finished Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine.

Your debut PB Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books 2015) is historical non fiction. How did you discover Ada and decide to write about her?
The question of how I discovered Ada is one I’m often asked. The answer? I have no idea. Ada is one of the many historical figures and their associated accomplishments I’ve learned about growing up. As a child, like Ada, I wanted to be a professional mathematician, so I read many math-related books and articles. I would guess I heard about her from one of them. Another possibility is from my mother, since she was a math teacher. Maybe she introduced me to Ada. No matter how Ada came to my attention, she was clearly a good subject for my first picture book biography. In a previous career I was a programmer, and I now teach computer science. Ada Byron Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer. Without a doubt, I had to share her story.

What kind of research was involved in writing the book? What part of the research process did you enjoy?
I was fortunate in my research efforts become Ada lived at a time when people wrote letters. In doing my research, I relied heavily on a book (Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers) which contains a curated collection of letters to and from Ada throughout her lifetime. These letters provided great insight into Ada’s character and her relationship with others. I worry that future biographers will not have access to these treasure trove of primary research material, since fewer and fewer people write letters.

What was the most surprising thing you learned throughout the whole process of writing, editing, publication, etc.?
Although I knew that after a manuscript was acquired, you still have to do further revisions, I was surprised by the number of them. Each new version I created uncovered yet another area in the text that could be improved. My wonderful editor, Marissa Moss, was invaluable in leading me to find the true heart of Ada’s story. For the record, from when my agents first expressed interest in my story to when it was sent to the printer, I did about fifteen revisions. These were, of course, in addition to the multitude of revisions I had done throughout the years.

What’s next?
First up is celebrating the launch of  the book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, on October 13, 2015—Ada Lovelace Day. (For those who don’t know, this is an annual celebration of women in technology.) Two months later, I graduate from Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I will continue to write for children, both picture books and novels, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry.                 Ada cover 72dpi

ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston Books, October 2015) is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]

Laurie Wallmark writes exclusively for children. She can’t imagine having to restrict herself to only one type of book, so she writes picture books, middle-grade novels, poetry, and nonfiction. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not writing or studying, Laurie teaches computer science at a local community college, both on campus and in prison. The picture book biography, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, October 2015), is Laurie’s first book.
Website: http://www.lauriewallmark.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauriewallmarkauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lauriewallmark

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. The next stop on the tour is:  November 6, 2015 – Guest Post (Five Favorite STEM Women in History)
http://www.viviankirkfield.com Picture Books Help Kids Soar (Vivian Kirkfield)

All stops are listed at: http://lauriewallmark.com/blogtour.php.

Now, to win a free signed copy of ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE, leave a comment below and your name will be entered in a drawing.  Share this post on social media and you will get a second chance to win.  You have until Monday, 11-2-2015 to enter.  The lucky winner will be announced on this blog on Wednesday, 11-4-2015.

Internet Radio Interview With Stefani Milan

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure and privilege to do a radio interview with Stefani Milan on her show called READ ALL ABOUT IT.  We talked about my book, writing for children, historical research and more in the 30 minute spot.  Stephani does a wonderful job of making a person feel at ease and the time just flew by.  For any other authors out there who might like to do an audio spot, give it a try.  Stefani is always looking for authors that she can promote on the show.

Here’s the link to the program.  Let me know what you think.