Katia Raina, Debut YA Author Presents CASTLE OF CONCRETE.

Today it is my pleasure to feature my friend and debut YA author KATIA RAINA, with a sneak peek at her new book, CASTLE OF CONCRETE. Here’s Katya:

CASTLE OF CONCRETE is a young adult novel set in the last year of Communist Russia, about a shy Jewish girl Sonya who reunites with her once-dissident mother after a long absence and falls in love with a boy who may be an anti-Semite.

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Where I got the idea for the story:

You’d think it’s such a straightforward question, right? But the path to this story idea, for me, was meandering.

The short answer is: the idea for this story came straight from my soul and the core of who I was. I grew up in Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Russia, I grew up quiet, an outsider and a Jew-in-hiding (I didn’t have what the Russians would consider a typically Jewish look). I was missing my mama and having a hard time connecting with the society in which I lived. I read lots of fairy tales and science fiction, and lots of romance. Then, when I got older and thought I was in love, I went out on a date with a boy, who used an anti-Semitic slur against a stranger. I didn’t know if he knew that I was Jewish or not. I never said anything. I never found out. But the “what if” questions never quite left me alone. Merging with memory and imagination, eventually these questions led me to write CASTLE OF CONCRETE.

Three things you should know about the main character Sonya:

  1. Sonya thinks she is a shy and quiet mouse, a myshka. She has no idea how fierce and crazy she can be!
  2. Sonya used to be a good student. Back when she wasn’t as focused on boys. Ahem.
  3. Sonya’s talents are ice skating, piano playing and singing. She is not necessarily champion/super star material in any of these areas. But when she lets go, when she is feeling the magic and trusting herself, she definitely has her shining moments, in all three.

The book is coming out on June 11, but I have been already beyond thrilled at the excitement and early reception. Here is the link to pre-order the early copy! 🙂 

https://www.amazon.com/Castle-Concrete-NOVEL-Katia-Rainia/dp/0999541633/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=34D5AELYWG0DP&keywords=katia+raina&qid=1550768775&s=gateway&sprefix=katia+%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Katia Raina photo, cropped

Follow Katia’s blog, The Magic Mirror, for updates!

Twitter: KatiaRaina1

Instagram: katiawrites

Facebook: katia.raina

When she was a child, Katia Raina played at construction sites and believed in magic mirrors. She emigrated from Russia at the age of almost sixteen. A former journalist and currently a middle school English teacher in Washington, D.C., she has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her family just outside of D.C., and still believes in magic.

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PB Author Katey Howes Presents: BE A MAKER, a New Picture Book.

I’m so pleased to be back here on Darlene’s blog to talk a bit about my new book, BE A MAKER, and to share a fun craft that pairs well with the book.

BE A MAKER is a picture book about all the things a child can make in a day – like a tower, a mess, a friend, and a difference.  It’s published by Carolrhoda, an imprint of Lerner books, and is illustrated by Elizabet Vuković.

Right now, the Maker movement and Makerspaces get a lot of buzz. And that’s a great thing – I love that we are encouraging kids and adults to tinker, explore and build. But sometimes, I think people get the (mistaken) idea that being a “maker” means you have to be good at coding, or robotics, or welding a gigantic fire-breathing mechanical dragon from spare parts. Now, that’s some awesome making, for sure, but I want kids to understand that there are countless ways to create and that it’s not size or complexity  – or even electricity – that makes your creation valuable. What matters is that you feel proud of what you made. BE A MAKER was born of that idea.

BE A MAKER is told in 2nd person and contains 2 questions that I hope will lead the readers – young and old – to reflection and discussion. It opens with:

Ask yourself this question in the morning when you wake: In a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?

and later closes with: Ask yourself this question as the sun begins to fade:

In a day of making choices, are you proud of what you made?

Be A Maker by Katey Howes, copyright 2019

In between, readers follow the main character as she makes music, plans, a snack, a friend, and a pledge to make her neighborhood a better place.

Before I read the book to a class of kids, I ask “How many of you think of yourselves as makers?” Results vary, but it is never unanimous.

After reading BE A MAKER to a class, I ask the same question.

And every hand goes up.

When I then ask them what they are proud of making, the answers come fast and furious.  I make cake! Legos! Songs! Stories! I make people smile! I make my mom laugh! I make boats. I make pompoms.

 There’s no hesitation and no judgement. Each thing made is valued – not weighed or compared. The kids feel proud of themselves and eager to try making new things.

With this in mind, I created a simple craft that can be adapted for an individual or a whole classroom. I call it the Maker Mobile.

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You’ll need:

-A dowel, stick, embroidery hoop, clothes hanger or other item to use as the base.

-string -card stock -scissors -glue

  1. Cut card stock into matching shapes. For this example, I made 2×2 squares and then cut each on the diagonal to make triangles.
  2. Have kids think of something they like to make. Count the number of letters in that word. They will need twice that number of cardstock shapes.
  3. Write each letter of the word on 2 matching shapes.
  4. Line up one set of shapes spelling out the word, vertically (spelled top to bottom.) Like this:

 

F

R

I

E

N

D

S

 

  1. Flip the shapes over. Glue the string to the backs of those shapes.
  2. Glue the other copy of the word on top of the string, facing up.
  3. When the glue is dry, hang the string from your dowel or other base.
  4. Repeat with other words on different lengths of string until you like the look and balance of your mobile.
  5. Glue or tape a long strip of cardstock with the words “MAKERS MAKE…” to your dowel.
  6. Tie string to the ends of your dowel and hang!

Variations:

For large groups, consider making a bigger mobile with a hula hoop as the base and one string from each student.

  • Challenge kids to think of two words with an equal number of letters to put on opposite sides of the string.
  • For less cutting and gluing, purchase adhesive-backed foam shapes to use in place of cardstock.
  • For more variety, encourage kids to make their strings from any materials available in your maker space/craft area.

 

Katey Howes Headshot

Katey Howes is thrilled to be making books for children. She also makes bad jokes, great apple crisp, and messy mistakes. Katey lives in Upper Makefield, Pennsylvania (really!) with her husband and three adventurous daughters makers. Katey is the author of picture books Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe and Grandmother Thorn. In addition to her own blog about raising readers, Katey contributes to websites including All the Wonders, The Nerdy Bookclub, STEAM Powered Family and Imagination Soup. Katey is a member of SCBWI and is very active in the kidlit community. Find her online at kateyhowes.com, on Twitter @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindness: How Can You Make a Difference?

In a world where we are bombarded by mean words, negative news, and depressing events, it sometimes feels like kindness is hard to find.

Sunday, 2-17-19 is RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAY. This is a day set aside to reflect on how we might be kind to our fellow man. Buy the person standing in line behind you  a cup of coffee. Pay the toll of the person behind you. Give a piece of chocolate to the woman who greets you so warmly at the gym. Let the “other” person have the parking spot closer to the store. You get the idea.

There are so many ways we can show kindness to others. Many of us do kind things every day. But, why not make an effort to really ramp up the kind quotient on Sunday and see how good it makes you feel. When we pass on acts of kindness, it changes the giver as well as the receiver.

For those who want to take kindness to another level, read below.

If you had $1,000.00 to spend, how would you use it to benefit your neighborhood or community?  Entrepreneur Ari Nessel of THE POLLINATION PROJECT, will grant  awards of $1,000.00 each to individuals who want to make a difference. You can apply for one of these awards at: http://www.thepollinationproject.org.

Here is a perfect opportunity to do something lasting for your neighbors, friends or town.  Pass it on. May kindness follow you wherever you go.

Historical Fiction: The Devil Is In the Details by Marilyn Ostermiller

Earlier this month Marilyn Ostermiller gave us a wonderful post with some tips on how she conducts research when writing historical fiction.  Here she is with part two of that process:

THE GREAT ALONE, and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, two of 2018’s most popular historical novels, take readers back in time to 1974 and the 1950s, respectively.

The characters in historical fiction can be imaginary, but the world they inhabit must be based on the reality of a particular time and place.“The devil is in the details” is an appropriate idiom to describe this writing process.

Writers who carry it off, research every aspect of when and where the story takes place, from dialect to popular foods and the endless minutia of daily living.

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Author Kristin Hannah was well-acquainted with Alaska’s wilderness, before she wrote THE GREAT ALONE, which received the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction of 2018. She tells the story of a Vietnam veteran, who returns home emotionally unstable, a violent threat to his wife and daughter. Hannah knew the area from her childhood. Her parents went to Alaska in the 1970s for adventure, fell in love with the state and started a business there. kristenhannah.com

 

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Likewise, Delia Owens set WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING where she grew up, the rural South during the 1950s. Her main character is an illiterate 10-year-old girl, who must fend for herself in the North Carolina marshes after her mother, and then her father, abandon her. Owens also drew on her experiences as a wildlife scientist, in Africa, and the U.S. deliaowens.com

 

Authors who write historical fiction don’t need to rely on personal experience, but are more likely to tell an engaging story if they set it in interesting times. That might explain all the action- packed, emotionally charged novels set during times of social upheaval, such as war. World-building for them begins with maps, history books, news accounts and such memorabilia as personal letters, scrapbooks, matchbooks, diaries and old photos.

A photo that guided me through the first chapter of a children’s book I’m writing helped me visualize what it would have been like, during the Great Depression, to be caught in a bank panic, desperate to worm your way through a jam-packed crowd to lay claim to your life savings. A black and white photo, that captured the intensity of the moment, showed dozens of people,  jostling together, all intent on surging past a guard into the bank.    bank_run_on_american_union_bankPhoto credit: National Archive

Memorabilia and souvenirs are ripe sources for historical fiction. I remain intrigued by a World War II-era menu my mother saved from a restaurant in Shreveport, La. She was visiting my father, an Army soldier poised to ship out to Italy. For her, the menu was a romantic memento. For me, as a writer, I see a young couple with an uncertain future, about to be separated by a war being fought an ocean away, and I wonder what they said and what they were thinking. That’s where historic fiction begins. b49bb3fb-45d9-4252-a2f0-23f464d866f0

What’s in your attic with the power to evoke a story from the distant past? So many  stories are just waiting to be uncovered. Please share your comments and some of your favorite historical fiction books.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who has expanded into children’s literature. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne

 

 

 

 

Authors and Illustrators and Editors…Oh My:When Creating a Book is a Collaborative Effort + Free PB manuscript critique by PB Author Vivian Kirkfield.

I’ve always been a fan of collaboration. As a kid, I loved getting together with friends to plan a fun project. As a kindergarten teacher, I treasured the contributions from parents who brought a wealth of diversity and talent to school functions. It seemed natural to me that there would be a team effort when a book was created—with input from author, illustrator, and editor. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

In theory, the author brings her vision to the story with words. The illustrator adds another layer of vision. But some editors may fear if too much communication is allowed between author and illustrator, the author may try to influence the illustrator to do things her way. Although I understand that point of view, I also believe that there is so much good that can come out of working as a team.

At this point in my writing journey, I have multiple book deals. That is certainly something to cheer about. But it’s also given me the opportunity to experience different publishing processes. The first contract I signed was for SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, May 1, 2019). Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor

I never saw early sketches, there was no collaboration between author and illustrator, and when the color layouts were finally shared with me, there were many changes that needed to be made for historical accuracy. I’m grateful that those changes have been made and the finished product will be stellar, but that is why a book that was signed in November 2015 isn’t launching until May 2019. Happily, for the other two books that also launch next year, there has been a level of collaboration which exceeded even my expectations. 

PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019) began as a Picture Book Idea Month thought back in 2013. cover on amazon

When one of my in-person critique buddies, author/illustrator Jill Weber, saw it at the end of 2017, she fell in love with it and brought it to her long-time editor in NYC who also fell in love with it and bought it on the spot. Jill signed on to illustrate and what followed was pure pleasure for me, although lots of hard work for Jill. She showed me early sketches—I loved each one. She shared early color illustrations—they were fantastic. And when the book dummy was complete, we shared a cup of hot chocolate at our favorite local meeting place while I got to flip through the pages to see Pippa Mouse and all the other characters come to life. Hurray for collaboration! 

When my agent sent FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK to the editor at PomegranateKids, she also sent some sketches from one of her illustrator clients. Essie had a feeling that Mirka Hokkanen’s style would be the perfect match for my lyrical text. And she was spot on right! The editor loved the partnership and signed Mirka to do the illustrations. four otters cover amazon

Mirka and I live 5000 miles apart and can’t meet for hot chocolate, but we were able to connect via Facebook messaging and email. And thank goodness for that, because Mirka, being a conscientious illustrator, did her research before she began drawing (sadly, not every illustrator does that). She uncovered a big problem. All ten of the endangered animals were supposed to inhabit the ecosystem of the Colorado Rockies. “No!” Mirka said. “Not the Golden Cheeked Warbler.” “Yes, it is,” I replied. “It’s found in Colorado Bend State Park!”

Now, wouldn’t you think that Colorado Bend State Park is in Colorado? I certainly did. But no. It’s actually in Texas.

1st spread

Thank goodness for Mirka’s attention to detail and for our ability to collaborate. We researched other birds and found the perfect substitute—the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Of course, we immediately let the editor know why we were making the change and he was totally fine with that. But how much better it was that we made the change before the publisher fact-checked and discovered my incorrect information.

Later in the process, Mirka sent me a sketch of one of the spreads and she questioned why I had peregrine falcon babies in a burrow. “Don’t they live on a high cliff ledge?” she asked. They certainly do, but the ‘bobbing beaks retreating to the borrowed burrow’ referred to the five burrowing owls from the previous spread, not to the six peregrine falcons who were circling overhead. 5 burrowing owls

If Mirka and I were not collaborating, she would have spent a lot of time refining her sketch and perhaps even crafting the block from which she would make the woodcut illustration. Or worse, if I didn’t get to see the book until it was almost ready to ship, expensive changes would have to be made. Hurray for collaboration!

Just a few weeks ago, I got to see the dummy for FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Illustrator Gilbert Ford had a huge task…nine nonfiction picture book bios in one compilation book. The editor kindly asked me to comment on the PDF, but there was very little for me to say except how much I loved it! And although I haven’t seen any sketches yet for MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020), I’m thrilled with the portfolio of Allenanna Harris, the illustrator who will be bringing that story to life. I know she will do a fabulous job and I look forward to the collaborative effort that will create a wonderful picture book for children.

Although this writing journey can be frustrating at times and disappointing at others, I always feel blessed to be on it. And lucky to have all of you as my traveling companions. I truly believe that we can turn our dreams into reality if we keep moving forward, help one another, and never give up. Our destination is within reach.

Vivian is giving away ONE PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE to a random person who leaves a comment on this post. All commenters names will be placed in a hat and one winner will be drawn and announced on this blog on Thursday February 7, 2019. If you share this post on Twitter or FB, or reblog it, let me know and I will add your name twice to the hat.

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Vivian Kirkfield’s career path is paved with picture books. She shelved them at the library during her college years. She read them to her students when she taught kindergarten. And she writes them. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, February 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite Monopoly partner. You can visit her website at Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Linkedin.

PB Author Laurie Wallmark Presents:Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life.

Best-selling Non-fiction PB Author of ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston books), and GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE (Sterling) has a new book about one of the most glamorous women from WWII era Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr. LAURIE WALLMARK’S  new book explores the brains behind the beauty of one of Hollywood’s most popular leading ladies.

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  • Horn Book:  “Lamarr … devised a new and improved system, the workings of which are explained in simple terms in Wallmark’s peppy text”
  • Kirkus: “The process of invention and inspiration are explained in a succinct and inspiring way”
  • Publishers Weekly: “Part picture book biography and part tech primer”

Darlene here with my review of the book:

HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE is an engaging and entertaining tale of the brains behind a Hollywood legend. I love how playing the piano inspired Hedy to invent a secure torpedo guidance system. This book gives clear and easily understood descriptions of frequency hopping and how her pioneering work helps us keep cell phone calls and texts private. My favorite quote: “Do good anyway…think big anyway…build anyway.”An inspiring message from an inspiring woman. 5 Stars

Laurie Wallmark
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Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life (Sterling, 2019)
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017)
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston, 2015)

I Resolve to…Cut Back on…

…PLASTICS! Stories about the plastics floating in our oceans and waterways and the dangers this poses to marine life filled headlines in 2018. One statistic stated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than marine life.  That’s a pretty sobering statistic.

Many communities banned plastic straws and some even eliminated plastic bags as an option when shopping for groceries.At the start of a new year, when our minds are focused on “resolutions” and starting fresh, I am resolving to work on cutting back on the use of plastics in my life.

I already use cloth bags for groceries. I have stopped asking for straws at restaurants. I try to recycle as much plastic as I can. I also try to store food in containers that can be reused. I have a stainless steel bottle that I take to the gym and refill. I also use a pitcher with a filter in it for drinking water, so I don’t buy those plastic bottles. (FYI: bottled water costs more per gallon than gasoline when you buy it in those portable bottles. Think of how much money you’d save each year if you went to a filter system.)

I know there is more…much more that I can do.  If healthy oceans and marine life are important to you and your families, maybe you’d like to know what YOU can do to cut back on plastic use.  

One company is making a difference. 4ocean cleans up ocean plastic from oceans around the world, collecting and recycling it into bracelets that support and help pay for the continued clean up effort. You can help by buying  a bracelet. Each bracelet purchased pays for the clean-up of one pound of ocean trash.  Visit: http://www.4ocean.com

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Visit:  http://www.myplasticfreelife.com   for 100 IDEAS and WAYS to get rid of plastic in your life.

May 22019 be a healthy year for all of us!