Kathleen Burkinshaw on Authenticity in Historical Fiction.

Today it is my pleasure to help Kathleen Burkinshaw – the award-winning author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSON – celebrate the book’s third anniversary. In this post she discusses the research involved in the sequel she is writing for the book. Here’s Kathleen:

I’ve always loved reading history books and researching a topic to find unexpected or lesser known facts on a subject, long before my first book published. I also tend to get so caught up in research, especially when I find out something that leads me down a totally different path than I could have imagined (I can’t be alone here 😊). So,  I have to be sure I’m not using it as a way to avoid actually writing my story and being creative.  

For example, I have been working on the sequel to The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) for a while now. Health issues have gotten in my way and then because I hadn’t written in a while, insecurity settled in. So, I spent a lot of time looking for, purchasing, and reading books on life in Tokyo during the American Occupation, since the sequel takes place a few years after the end of WWII. I wanted to involve headlines and propaganda posters as my chapter headings like I had in TLCB.  I was ecstatic when I found out I could subscribe to a resource that included the STARS and STRIPES newspaper edition that reported from the Pacific region.  

But I couldn’t help but feel that my research was missing something, just not sure what that ‘something’ could be. Since, I couldn’t quite figure that out, I began writing more scenes for the sequel.  As I did, some of my insecurity lifted and I realized the importance of balancing my research time with making time to write creatively.  It didn’t work well for me to have an all or nothing approach.

However, I kept getting stuck in some of my descriptions and the direction I wanted my story to take.  I have mentioned before that while writing TLCB, I found my sources in unexpected places. One in particular was my family’s visit to Hiroshima, honoring my mother at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims, a few months after she passed away. Being there in person, I  discovered the beauty that my Mom often spoke about growing up in Hiroshima before the bombing.  I used this discovery in re-writing my descriptions of Hiroshima for my final edits.

Well, this time, a resource found me believe it, or not!  It began with a speaking engagement for a local book club. After the event, a lovely woman introduced herself to me and told me of her recent visit to Japan. Coincidence, yes, but the incredible part is coming next! Interestingly enough, she had a friend (who lives in Maryland), Mr. Pittell, that served in the US Air Force and had been stationed at Miho Air Base (now Miho-Yonago Airport) in Japan during the later Occupation years(1953-54). He recently sent her copies of photos that he took during that time.  She asked if I might be interested in seeing them. My eyes immediately lit up and I said a resounding, YES!!

She received his permission to show the pictures to me, and we met at a local coffee shop. Not only were there pictures, but he also had written a few descriptive paragraphs about them. He loved photography and these photos were a treasure trove for me! I had the opportunity to see literal snapshots in time capturing the essence of everyday life in the town and neighboring towns to Miho Air Force Base (about a 3-hour drive north of Hiroshima).

Most pictures were in black and white, but he did have some pictures in color. I was thrilled to be able to see how young women dressed during this time and to imagine my mom dressing like that as well. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her early teen years in Tokyo. I only have a few of her and my Dad when they first married and were on their honeymoon at Lake Yamanaka (she was in her mid-20s by then).

Mr. Pittell kindly let me keep his copies for a while to use as a guide for descriptions in my book.  This was the ‘something’ I was missing. I now had a better idea of what the towns, the soldiers, and the Japanese people looked like during the first years of the American Occupation.  These pictures also inspired another tangent to my story line for the sequel.  On top of that, I now have a wonderful new friend in the woman who shared these pictures with me.

You just never know where you will find your resources or where they might find you! I mean, what are the odds of meeting a woman who just received pictures from a soldier stationed in Japan during Occupation time?! 😊 I’m a firm believer that connections matter whether through emotions bared through your writing so that your voice or other voices can be heard; or in actually meeting someone and making that face to face good ol’ fashioned, in-person connection.

Once I finally complete my sequel, I hope that readers will feel the authenticity in and connect with my descriptions gifted to me by someone I didn’t even know!

Here is one of the incredible pictures that Mr. Pittell had taken:

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August also happens to be TLCB’s 3rd Blooming Anniversary and to celebrate, I have a Rafflecopter giveaway going on now through August 31st. Two winners will be chosen at random and win what is shown in the picture below along with a complimentary 45-minute Skype visit for teachers, librarians, and home school students. Below is the link to my TLCB Rafflecopter Giveaway. Thank you and Good Luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cd590dfc6/?

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Teresa Robeson Presents:QUEEN OF PHYSICS – her debut picture book + a giveaway.

Today it is my pleasure to feature children’s book author TERESA ROBESON with her debut picture book QUEEN OF PHYSICS about an unknown physicist who helped unlock the secrets of the atom. Here’s Teresa to tell you how it came about.

Thank you so much for inviting me to talk about my debut book, Darlene!

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I think it’s pretty common knowledge that though I don’t have an advance degree in physics, it’s my passion-hobby. It started with astrophysics, but I’m now just as intrigued with quantum and particle physics.

I can’t remember where I first heard of or read about Wu Chien Shiung, the Chinese American physicist who is the subject of my biography, but I was immediately taken by her since she was of the same cultural heritage and had the same love of physics.

So I researched her a bit more and drafted a picture book manuscript. After honing it for a while, I submitted it to a few places but got no bites. Then I did something one should never do: whine on social media about it. LOL! Someone I met in the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge saw my tweet (I was kind of mortified since I always thought nobody read my tweet back then) and offered to critique it. She then confessed that she is training to be a literary agent and wanted to take me on as her first client.

Sadly, she was never able to sell the story and quit the agenting business after only a year.

A year and a half rolled by and I was rather depressed that my story had gone nowhere. But then Jane Yolen (!!!) picked my story to as the nonfiction winner in the We Need Diverse Books mentorship program. Jane is a masterful teacher who guides with deep knowledge but lets you make your own choices. I attended the NESCBWI conference in the spring of 2017 so I could meet her in person.

Through the conference, I submitted the mentored version of that story to a number of editors. Christina Pulles, who was then with Sterling, expressed an interest in my manuscript. With that interest, I approached a number of agents and ended up signing with Natascha Morris of Bookends Literary.

And, finally, about two years after Christina expressed her interest, my book will be born!

Things I want the world to know about Wu Chien Shiung:

1) Despite facing racism and sexism, Wu persevered.

2) Wu always gave every task she undertook all her attention and effort.

3) In her later career, Wu used her knowledge of nuclear physics to work on treatment for sickle cell disease.

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Teresa Robeson draws upon her Chinese heritage, Canadian-American sensibilities, as well as her background in science and love of nature when she writes. She has been published in children and adult magazines. QUEEN OF PHYSICS, a picture book biography, is her debut. Teresa’s hobbies include making art, making soap, knitting, baking, helping out around the homestead, and wowing the chickens with her bilingualism (they are not impressed). 

 

http://teresarobeson.com

Teresa is offering to give away one of her lovely Women in STEM TOTE BAGS to a randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post.  The winner can choose either the white handled or blue handled bag. The winner will be announced in a future post on this blog. Good luck!tote bags 2 handle colors

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing.

On July 20, 2019, it will be 50 years since man first stepped onto the lunar surface of the moon. I was in high school back then and, like everyone else, watched the event unfold on television. There are all kinds of celebrations taking place to commemorate the occasion. You and your kids can be part of it by learning some interesting facts about the APOLLO 11  mission and sharing some moon-themed books.

Astronauts NEIL ARMSTRONG, BUZZ ALDRIN, and MICHAEL COLLINS were the team that launched from earth in Apollo 11 on July 16, and landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.  Apollo 11 traveled at 24,000 miles per hour. Their suits were made of white, nonflammable Teflon fiberglass. Collins stayed in the Command Module Columbia while Aldrin and Armstrong rode the Lunar Module Eagle onto the moon’s surface. From here, they stepped out to make their historic moon walk. They spent 21 hours and 36 minutes exploring the moon’s surface.

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It was the first time anyone had ever seen the EARTH from the moon and the photos taken of  the Big Blue Marble are now a common image.

The distance traveled? 953,054 miles.

500 to 600 million people (one fifth of the world’s population) watched the moonwalk on TV or listened via live radio.

TOY STORY character  BUZZ LIGHTYEAR is named after Buzz Aldrin. 

The Apollo space program was responsible  for the introduction of freeze-dried food, Velcro, memory foam, water filters, scratch-resistant coating for eyeglasses.

Want to know what the Apollo 11 astronauts ate on their 8 day trip? They had 70 different dehydrated foods to choose from including spaghetti and meatballs. The first meal eaten on the moon included bacon squares, peaches, sugar-cookie cubes, pineapple grapefruit juice, and coffee.

Here are some picture books that feature the Moon:

Owl Moon       The Moon Might Be Milk    Goodnight Moon  Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me    If You Decide To Go To The Moon

I Love You, Michael Collins by [Baratz-Logsted, Lauren]

GIVE SOMETHING AWAY DAY 4.0 with Kim Pfennigwerth and Darlene Beck Jacobson.

Hooray for July 15th! It is our fourth annual GSA Day or Give Something Away Day.

I am packing up a house and doing some serious pondering over which items stay and which go. It isn’t easy shedding 39 years of collecting …stuff. And while we have moved quite a few times, we’ve never gone through such a drastic cleaning out.

Children’s elementary school pottery – staying. Grandmother’s heirlooms some going to family members and a few staying.

Far too many kitchen items, going. Beloved knickknacks from over the years – a very good many are going. May the joy they brought me – go to others.

With so many items in every room – this move shows it is time to be practical. Time to simplify. We will appreciate the end result. So I am choosing what will still bring joy when I see it each day while at the same time looking for places that accept donations for many things that may help others.

But the absolute best thing about Give Something Away Day is something I talk about each year – something that cannot be measured. Giving something away is a kindness and kindness is a magical element. It is an action with absolutely no expectation for anything in return. What ‘something’ have you given away lately? What magic was gained from your kindness? Spending time with a friend? Holding the door for a parent with a load of groceries who is also holding a child’s hand? Reading to a child? Go ahead and plan on giving something away. It is guaranteed to lighten your mood and heart.

Hopefully, you will make Give Something Away Day fun too. Darlene and I would love to read your comments or plans.

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P.S. I have two pair of ‘somethings’ that I am giving away this year that feature two friends’ work. The two Bunny Book Club picture books (Bunny’s Book Club & Bunny’s Book Club Goes To School) written by Annie Silvestro and the first two Mia Mayhem paperback chapter books (Mia Mayhem Is a Superhero & Mia Mayhem Learns To Fly) illustrated by Leeza Hernandez.

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Take a bunny who loves the library and sharing bookish adventures with his animal pals then add a friend who is a bit fearful of her first day of school and this same bunny and pals come to support her and make many new friends. That is the fun you will find in Bunny’s Book Club and Bunny’s Book Club GOES TO SCHOOL!

MiaMayhem1                                                                        MiaMayhem2

Mia Mayhem is a new chapter book series starring Mia Macarooney. Mia is known for leaving mayhem behind her wherever she goes. To her surprise she receives a letter inviting her to a very special after school program. Even more exciting, Mia learnsshe is a superhero and that her parents are too. These first two books introduce adorable Mia and start her on the path to learning her superpowers.

Darlene Here: I also have TWO items to give away in a drawing. A paperback copy of YA historical novel THESE SHALLOW GRAVES by NY Times Bestselling author Jennifer Donnelly and a 30 page critique of an MG or YA novel in progress. Share your give-away experiences and be entered to win.  If there is something specific you’d like to be considered for, please let us know so we can make the give-away more meaningful to all.

Here’s a description of THESE SHALLOW GRAVES:  Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.
Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.
The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.
The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

donnelly cover

When you give something away…you get back much more in return.

How to Keep on Writing When the Going Gets Tough by Wendy Greenley

Thank you so much, Darlene, for inviting me to chat on your blog!

After publication of my debut picture book, LOLA SHAPES THE SKY people began asking about my writing journey and tips to success. The best tip I know is to keep writing and seeking feedback.

It can be HARD to keep writing. The perfect sentence you wrote? Sometimes no one likes it. The fantastic idea you had? Being published next year, by someone else. In the spirit of keeping everyone writing, I’m sharing a list of ten things I embrace. Perhaps it will help other writers keep going when bad stories turn into bad days, turn into bad months (yup, had those!).

  1. Connecting with like-minded people
  2. Feeling pride in achieving my goals and joy in celebrating other people’s successes
  3. The thrill of finding the perfect image or word
  4. Being an example of bravery to my children in the face of rejection
  5. Finding a way to share my heart with the world
  6. Getting stories out of my head (am I the only one who hears “voices”?!)
  7. Having an excuse to daydream
  8. Learning about myself by embracing vulnerability and peeling back emotions
  9. Creating a vision of better lives, better places
  10. Having a reason to go to writing conferences and meet amazing authors I admire

Actual sales of my materials and publication aren’t on this list. I can’t control that, so while it’s fantastic when it happens, I can’t hang my happiness hat on those items. Publication is my ultimate objective, but thinking about it doesn’t always make me happy!

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“In this lyrical origin story Thor wants all the clouds to make weather, but Lola only makes shapes. LOLA SHAPES THE SKY embraces every child’s magical experience of imagining whimsical shapes in the clouds with the timeless theme of supporting what makes us each unique. Be who you are—who you need to be!”

Kirkus Reviews: “Lola’s attitude inspires confidence in one’s imaginative abilities to pursue life’s aspirations.”

 

The achievable goals that I can take pride in are things like—doing another revision. Finding the heart of a story that went in too many directions. Rewording the opening to a story. It may have to be rewritten ten more times, but the immediate goal is giving it one more try.

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Enjoy the process! Happy writing everyone!

If anyone is in MD area this weekend, I’ll be one of the authors at the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival in Easton, MD. Stop by and say hi! http://chesapeakechildrensbookfestival.com/

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Bio: Wendy Greenley has been an ice cream scooper, night security guard, microbiologist, attorney, Cub Scout leader, Art Goes to School Volunteer, and public relations for a dog rescue. She enjoys being a critique group leader for the Eastern PA SCBWI. Connect with her at wendy@wendygreenley.com and Twitter @wendygreenley. A current list of events and appearances is on Lola Shapes the Sky’s Facebook page.

NJSCBWI Conference Rocks it Again!

This past weekend I attended my umpteeth conference with the NJ chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, NJ. It was fun and inspiring to spend the weekend with fellow authors and illustrators talking shop and re-igniting the writing spark thanks to workshops and critiques. Keynote addresses by PB Author Laurie Wallmark and MG Author Bruce Coville inspired us to keep on writing and reminded us that our stories have an impact and make a difference.

There were agents and editors looking for projects and plenty of attendees hoping to make a connection. I enjoyed seeing old friends again and making some new ones.

Here are some of the highlights in photos:

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Keynote Address by Award-winning author BRUCE COVILLE.

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With Author/Illustrators Patricia Keeler and Barbara DiLorenzo

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Illustrator Awards

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Enjoying cocktail hour with Marina Cohen, Kathy Temean, Johanna Staton

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Had a copy of WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS by award-winning Author/Illustrator  Vesper Stamper

Many thanks to Kim Pfennigwerth, Trisha Hamilton, Roseanne Kurstedt, Barbara DiLorenzo, Laurie Wallmark, Super agent Liza Flessig, all the other agents and editors who kindly shared their expertise, as well as everyone else who worked behind the scenes to make the weekend memorable.

If you missed the festivities, mark your calendar for next year’s event on June 20-21-2020.

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Fellow attendee Eileen Holden

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Agent Liza Fleissig with some of her NJSCBWI clients. So happy to be part of this distinguished group.

MG Author Malayna Evans Presents her Debut Novel:Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh + Win A Free Copy.

My inspiration for Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh: by Malayna Evans

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When my oldest son was nine years old (he’s now sixteen and 6’2”!), he asked me over lunch at my favorite coffee shop what ancient Egyptians looked like. I’m a pretty legit person to ask about that: I spent too many years (and way too many dollars) earning my Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history. When I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well, he told me someone should write a book about a kid who looked like him lost in ancient Egypt. I added the sassy little sister, also much like his, and, voila, I had an idea and two South Side Chicago protagonists. He and I wrote chapter one that very afternoon. (Okay, that chapter one is long gone … but the inspiration is still there.)

Three things to know about Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh (Month9Books):

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  1. The magic and oversized crocs and scorpions are fake, but the history is real. Well, much of it anyway. The setting, the main ancient Egyptian characters, even the artifacts and sections of magic spells are attested, as is the weird period of time—that Amarna Period—when the pharaoh tried to replace the old gods and goddesses with his favorite deity, the sun disk (Aten).

 

  1. Two real bits of history helped me shape the plot. One was a tomb from this period that features the second Amarna princess, Meketaten, who died young. (I needed a mummy, after all). And the second thing was a spell, which is usually written as three hieroglyphs right after a pharaoh’s name: ankh, wedja, seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity, and health. I figured exploring the meaning of life in book one was a pretty good theme. (I couldn’t save that princess–she really did die around this time–but saving her afterlife seemed like an emic spin on the age-old boy-saves-princess classic.)

 

  1. Absentee parents are hard. That doesn’t stop many kids from having to live with the situation. I wanted to explore that common problem as well. Jagger’s (barely existent) relationship with his father isn’t central to the plot, but it is key to Jagger’s personal growth, and perhaps also informs his big brother over protectiveness.

Thanks for reading. I hope kids will enjoy the adventure and hardly notice all the history they’ll be soaking up on the way. You can grab Jagger’s story here: https://www.amazon.com/Jagger-Jones-Mummys-Malayna-Evans/dp/194867162X/

Here’s Darlene’s review of the book:

Although 13 year old Jagger Jones loves ancient history, he’d rather learn about it from the comfort of his own bedroom than the constant globe-trotting to which his mother subjects him and his younger sister Aria. The trio are on their way to Jagger’s favorite place – Egypt. When they check into their hotel Jagger is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of someone calling his name, telling him to “Come”.

            Unable to stifle his curiosity, Jagger and Aria go outside into the Egyptian night to investigate. They discover an underground tomb and begin the adventure of a lifetime. Inside the tomb Jagger discovers the source of the voice – an Egyptian ankh – the symbol of life. When Aria touches the amulet, they are swept 3000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt.

            If Jagger doesn’t find some mysterious gemstones with magical properties, Mek, the sister of an Egyptian princess, will lose her soul and her chance at the afterlife. Jagger, Aria, and their entire family will also die and be wiped away from history as if they never existed. How can Jagger save the ancient princess and his own family? Why can’t he and Aria just go home?

            Readers will enjoy the action and details of ancient Egyptian history as they are swept up in the intrigue and magic of the Pharoahs and Egyptain Gods. They will also marvel at how the author mixes ancient magic with modern technology to affect the story’s outcome in clever and surprising ways. A quick, enjoyable read for any adventure loving kid.

 

Malayna is giving away a SIGNED COPY of her book JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH. Just leave a comment at the end of this post to be part of the random drawing. Winners will be announced on this blog on May 16, 2019.

 

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Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, she earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. She’s used her education to craft a time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is out in May of 2019. http://www.Month9Books.com

Malayna lives in Oak Park, IL, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hamster.  She’s considering adding chickens to the family.