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.

Castle_Advance

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.

Advertisements

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.

thumbnail

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Lost in Research Land by Rosi Hollinbeck.

Welcome to part three of an ongoing series of posts about how authors conduct research for their books. Today it is my pleasure to have ROSI HOLLINBECK talk about her research for an MG she is writing.

If you write historical fiction, you know research will be a big part of what you do if you are going to do it well. Research is actually one of the things I like best about writing historical fiction. It is so much fun to learn about everyday life in a particular period I haven’t experienced and to find fun bits of history to drop into my story and make it come to life. But where to begin and how to go about doing the research is the dilemma. All writers need to develop methods that will work for them and help them dig for the historical gold.

One thing editors never want to see in a bibliography is the word Wikipedia. After all, just about anyone can get into a Wikipedia article and add to it or change what is there, so they can be a bit unreliable. That said, Wikipedia is where I always begin. Not because I think I will be able to take facts from the articles and use them, but because when you scroll all the way to the end of the article, you will find a pretty comprehensive bibliography. That is the place to begin. Look through the list and find good adult books by respected authors, the more recent the better. I once wrote an article on spec for a children’s magazine for which I used a book that had been printed in the 1970s. I later heard the editor who had turned the article down speak to a group, and she complained that she had no articles on that particular topic in her inventory and really wanted some. I spoke to her after and mentioned I had sent such an article. She remembered it and told me the sources I had used were too old. The main source I had used was an excellent adult book with the same focus as the article. I hopped on line and found the author of that book had revised and published a much later edition. I polished up the article and listed the later edition. This time the editor took the article to acquisitions!

This doesn’t mean you should never look at older sources. I am working on something right now where I am using books published in the 1920s, but one is the published diaries of my subject and the other is a book written by the subject’s sister about her famous brother. Diaries, letters, and biographical writings by family members are terrific sources no matter how long ago they were published. Also, even though I said to look for good adult books, don’t overlook good children’s nonfiction books as they might well have good bibliographies that will lead you to other sources. If you use a book you don’t own, copy the title page, the copyright page, and every page on which you found pertinent information and file those.

P1010049

Look for newspaper and magazine articles in the Wikipedia list. You can access most articles through on-line services where you can not only read the articles but print copies out for your records. It is a lot easier to go back to an article you have printed out and filed than to go back to the on-line service and look it up again. You want to keep records of every source you use. You will need to have that information when you try to sell your book or article. There are some good on-line services that are free. The Library of Congress: https://loc.gov/ is a good place to start. Some of the on-line services are quite expensive, but you will probably be able to access them through a library. My public library has some services I can use from home by putting in my card number. Some I have had to use at the library of a local university. Make friends with the librarians. They love to help people find things and will lead you to discover even more and better information.

Check the bibliographies of any source you use. These might lead you to better, more specific sources. If you run across a section in a book that is very specific to what you want, check the end notes to see where that author got their information.

If there are people still around from the time period about which you are writing, contact them and see if you can interview them. If your story is set in Medieval England, you are out of luck, but if your story is about surviving the Dustbowl in Oklahoma, you might just be able to talk to someone who did. Don’t be shy. Ask if you can chat about old times. Chances are you will find a real treasure. Make sure to ask if you can record your conversation. While you are talking to them, ask if they have any family diaries or letters that might help in your research. It never hurts to ask, and you never know what you will uncover.

Ask a college professor who specializes in the area of your subject or write to an author who has written about your subject. Most of these folks love to talk about their special subject and can fill you in with lots of information and lead you to other sources that will be helpful to you.

You can get some great sources cheaply. My historical novel is set in 1926. I was able to buy some helpful CDs on line. One is a 1925 Sears catalogue. Did you know Sears sold food? I was able to find out the prices clothing, food, hardware, tools, camping gear, etc. from that. My character is a boy scout and refers to his Boy Scout Manual many times. Since he is pretty poor, he doesn’t have a new one. I was able to get a 1914 scout manual on a CD for a few dollars. I bought a 1926 Farmer’s Almanac that even helped me get the phases of the moon correct in several scenes. And the 1925 Columbian Atlas I found on Amazon helped me get the routes of roads and trains right. If your character talks about the 1926 World Series, as mine does, you had better know who was in it, who won the games, and what the scores were. It’s all on line. Trust me. If you don’t get those details right, someone will complain!

fullsizeoutput_a83

There are many books available on the craft of writing and some have good sections on research. My go-to book when it comes to research is Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas. It has two chapters on research that are chock full of great tips. It’s a very accessible book and will help you be a better writer whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction.

Don’t forget to get back to your writing! Sometimes I have so much fun doing the research that I get lost in Research Land and forget to work on my own writing for days and days.

 

Y8PHuzW1

Rosi Hollinbeck writes mostly for children — fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Her work has been published in Highlights, Highlights High Five, and Humpty Dumpty magazines, The Noyo River Review, and some anthologies. She has a middle-grade historical novel, a contemporary YA novel, and some picture book manuscripts out on submission. She also writes book reviews specializing in children’s books for the San Francisco Book Review, the Manhattan Book Review, the Tulsa Book Review and for her own blog which you can find at https://rosihollinbeck.com/blog/.

 

 

Jeffry W. Johnston, YA Author Presents: FOLLOWING, his new release.

Today it is my pleasure to host a fellow KidLit  Author’s Club author Jeffry W. Johnston, who just released his latest mystery/thriller titled FOLLOWING (Sourcebooks Fire).

Following cover

“A twisty mystery” – Kirkus Reviews
“Moving and authentic” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Students that love a good mystery will enjoy this book” – School Library Connection
“A slow burn thriller that veers in surprising directions, with a final twist no one will see coming” – Booklist

Here is a link to the entire Publishers Weekly review   https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4926-6461-1

Daily Times photo

Other books by Jeffry W. Johnston:

THE TRUTH, from Sourcebooks Fire
2017 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
2017 In the Margins Book Award winner
“A tough, fast, twisty brawler of a book” – Booklist
“Recommended for readers who enjoy edgy thrillers” – School Library Journal
“This captivating thriller keeps the pacing fast, the tension high, and the emotions raw.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

FRAGMENTS, from Simon Pulse,
2008 Edgar nominee for Best Young Adult Mystery
2008 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
“This novel will keep teens reading to the very last page.” – Booklist, Editor’s Choice, Great Read.

Jeffry W. Johnston is the author of the Edgar-nominated Fragments and the In The Margins Book award winner The Truth. Both were YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers selections. He also writes freelance articles on numerous subjects, including film and television. He writes music, plays guitar and sings in a band, and loves movies, reading, baseball (he has always been and always will be a Phillies fan), and bingeing entire TV series. He lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and, when he’s home from college, their son.

http://www.jeffrywjohnston.com

Make Valentine Treat Bags For Your Favorite Valentine.

This is one of those easy craft projects I saw in a magazine and instantly did a forehead slap – why hadn’t I thought of this? If you and your kiddos want a clever way to say “I Love You” for Valentine’s Day, make some of these HEART ENVELOPES to put a sweet treat into.  All you need are construction paper or doilies, scissors and glue. Just follow the photo instructions and you’re all set!

2     3

Glue the seams together like in the photo below.

4    5

Don’t be limited using just one color or paper style. Try lining the envelopes with tissue paper or doilies for a fancier, Victorian effect:

7   6

If you’re looking for some perfect picture books with a Velantine’s Day tie-in, here are two of my favorites:

LOVE IS KIND by Laura Sassi  Love Is Kind by [Sassi, Laura]

 

SEALED WITH A KISS by Beth Ferry  Sealed with a Kiss

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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.

51eh5ngcyil._ac_us218_

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

 

51j5p18mjnl._ac_us218_

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.

cropped-pippa-home-page-031-e1543009948671

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.