Category: Authors


Walter Dean Myers Dies

WalterDeanMyers 318x500 Press Release: Obituary   Walter Dean Myers  (1937 2014) Fallen Angels

According to an announcement from Harper Collins, Walter Dean Myers has died at the age of 76 following a brief illness.  He is the author of more than 100 books for children and teens.  But most of all as we are starting to address diversity in children’s literature, his pioneering voice will be missed.  He wrote about African-American children and teens in a way that honored them deeply.  He will be missed on a vital level.

In library school back in the day, one of our required books in my YA Literature class was a Walter Dean Myers book, Fallen Angels.  It was a book I would never have read on my own because it deals with war and soldiers and I just don’t tend to read that sort of fiction.  But the quality of that writing kept me looking for all Walter Dean Myers books that followed.  He wrote with such humanity that it was impossible to turn away.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the news.

Nancy Garden Dies

Annie on My Mind 

Nancy Garden, author of Annie on My Mind, died on June 23rd at the age of 76.  Garden created books that spoke to the needs of LGBT teens and families.  She wrote in many genres, but my favorite will always be Annie on My Mind.

I first encountered the book in library school, reading about diversity and completely fell head over heels for it, so much that I made sure that it was in my first library I served in as a librarian.  There, in the early ‘90s in southern Missouri, the library director decided that because an influential member of the community had complained, that Annie did not belong in our collection.

The tiger came out in me, and when I found out my director had pulled the book from the shelves, I confronted him.  I’m sure that my arguments were not very well put together, but my passion moved him.  The book returned to the shelves.  Soon after that, I got to add Heather Has Two Mommies and other important LGBT books of the time to those shelves. 

Annie on My Mind was not just an amazing read, but also an inspiring one.  I learned that even as a very young librarian, I could rescue books and make sure that families in my community had access to them.  I’ve never stopped doing that.  Thank you, Nancy Garden.

Freaky Friday Freaky Friday Freaky Friday

Mary Rodgers, author of Freaky Friday, has died at age 83.  She is also the composer of the musical “Once Upon a Mattress.”  Though Freaky Friday was her most well-known work, thanks in large part to Disney creating two movies based on it, she did write other books for children as well. 

Eric Hill Dies

Where's Spot? (Picture Puffin - Lift-the-flap book) Spot Goes to the Farm

Eric Hill, the creator of the beloved Spot, has died at age 86.  His first Spot book, Where’s Spot, was published in 1980 and incorporated a lift-the-flap feature that continued in the Spot books. 

You can visit the official Spot website for more information on the series.

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AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog.

Jonthan Auxier Headshot - web square

Can You Hear Me Now?: Skype Visits

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about one valuable tool way to connect with readers: Skype visits! Below are a few things I’ve picked up from numerous Skype visits …

Get a “Studio”

This is actually one of my biggest challenges right now. If you plan on doing a lot of Skype visits, you will save a lot of time by having a set space with lights and an appropriate background—that way you don’t have to fiddle around framing the shot beforehand. Unfortunately, since having baby #2, my office has been relocated to our unfinished basement. It’s actually a good place for me to work, but it has a definite “dungeon” vibe. One of my goals after The Night Gardener comes out is to spend a little time putting up some lights, so at least the dungeon looks cheerful!

NightGardener Cover

Use Skype as an Incentive

The first thing I like do with Skype visits is use them as a way to incentivize teachers and librarians. I usually do not charge for visits, but I do require that the entire class has read my book. This has value for two reasons. First, it motivates teachers to actually read my book aloud—assuring greater exposure and (I’m hoping) a bigger fan base for subsequent books. Second, it’s much easier to answer direct/specific questions from students—video is a pretty stilted medium, and it goes better if the kids already feel like they know me through my work.

Encourage Preparation

While kids can be awesomely creative, they are not always fast on their feet. Many times a kid will start asking a question only to forget what they were saying halfway through. In order to cut down on this, I ask teachers to work with kids to develop questions before hand an write them on cards (which they can consult). This has the added bonus on cutting down on repeated questions.

Develop “Bonus Material”

I try to think of my Skype visits like the “deluxe blu-ray” experience for my book. I try to include behind-the-scenes stories to share with kids so that they feel special. For example, when talking Peter Nimble, I read the scene from Treasure Island that first inspired me to write a blind character. I also read aloud a short chapter from Peter Nimble that my editor made me cut out because it was too gruesome—kids love it!

MsM

Make Each Visit Unique

I try to also do something that is unique to that specific class. Often this involves drawing a silly digital portrait of the teacher. Of course, there is such a thing as taking this idea too far. A few weeks ago, I wanted to make a really memorable Skype visit for an awesome, supportive teacher. I ended up playing a “game” with kids where I let them all pick a different ingredient from my fridge to mix into a bowl. Then at the end, I promised to eat it. I’m not going to say I actually puked … but I came pretty darn close! (You can read all about it here.)

That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! Tomorrow we’ll be talking about how to craft an effective school program! In the meantime, you can catch up on previous posts (listed below), and please-oh-please!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Stops So Far

WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out
4/21 – Finding Your Tribe: entering the publishing community

4/22 – Do I Really Need a Headshot?: crafting your public persona

4/23 – I Hate Networking: surviving social media

4/24 – A Night at the Movies: the ins and outs of book trailers

4/25 –  Giveaways! … are they worth it?

WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
4/28 - Can I have Your Autograph?: 5 things to do before your first signing

4/29 –  Cinderella at the Ball: planning a successful book launch

5/1 – Being Heard in the Crowd: conferences and festivals

5/2 – The Loneliest Writer in the World: surviving no-show events

WEEK THREE: The Business of Being an Author
5/5 – Handling Reviews … the Good and the Bad!

5/6 – Back to the Grindstone: writing your next book

5/7 – The Root of All Evil: some thoughts on money

5/8 – The Green-Eyed Monster: some thoughts on professional jealousy

WEEK FOUR: Ongoing Promotion

5/12 – Death by 1000 Cuts: Keeping busywork at bay

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JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores on May 20—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children’s books old and new.

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The Guardian has shared a video celebrating the 25th anniversary of the beloved We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.  In the video, the two sit down and discuss the origins of the story and the impact of the art work.

The very talented father and son, Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers have both written separate pieces in the New York Times on the need for more children’s books to be written featuring children and people of color.  Both pieces are powerful and vital.

Walter Dean Myers writes of his own complex relationship with books and then his own role as a writer:

When I was doing research for my book “Monster,” I approached a white lawyer doing pro bono work in the courts defending poor clients. I said that it must be difficult to get witnesses to court to testify on behalf of an inner-city client, and he replied that getting witnesses was not as difficult as it sometimes appeared on television. “The trouble,” he said, “is to humanize my clients in the eyes of a jury. To make them think of this defendant as a human being and not just one of ‘them.’ ”

I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do when I wrote about poor inner-city children — to make them human in the eyes of readers and, especially, in their own eyes. I need to make them feel as if they are part of America’s dream, that all the rhetoric is meant for them, and that they are wanted in this country.

Christopher Myers writes so poetically of the children we are not supporting and instead are abandoning:

We adults — parents, authors, illustrators and publishers — give them in each book a world of supposedly boundless imagination that can delineate the most ornate geographies, and yet too often today’s books remain blind to the everyday reality of thousands of children. Children of color remain outside the boundaries of imagination. The cartography we create with this literature is flawed.

My hope is that their voices are heard, that we move beyond platitudes to true inclusion of people and children of all sorts of diversity.  In the meantime, I will do my small part of selecting books for my community that show the rainbow of diversity that we serve and also blogging here and featuring books about diverse people.  We can make a change!

natamb medal1 Kate DiCamillo is New National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Kate DiCamillo has been named the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014-2015.  She was named by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington who had the following to say about her:

Kate DiCamillo is not only one of our finest writers for young people but also an outstanding advocate for the importance of reading. The Library of Congress is pleased to welcome Kate as a worthy successor to our three previous National Ambassadors.

SLJ has an interview by Travis Jonker with our new ambassador who will be inaugurated on January 10th. 

Ned Vizzini Dead at Age 32

It's Kind of a Funny Story Be More Chill The Other Normals

I saw rumors swirling this morning about this, but didn’t want to post anything until something looked official.  What a tragedy to lose a tremendous writing talent so very young.  According to the LA Times, Vizzini committed suicide on Thursday in New York City. 

Vizzini was the author of several books, including It’s Kind of a Funny Story which was a fictionalization of his own time spent in a psychiatric ward due to being suicidal.  That book was made into a movie in 2010.  I particularly enjoyed an earlier book of his, Be More Chill and found it to be a great book to booktalk to teens.  I was also a fan of one of his more recent books The Other Normals which I had hoped would have a sequel since I loved the world he built so much and the humor too.

This is a deep loss for YA literature.

Charlotte Zolotow Dies

Charlotte Zolotow has died at age 98.  She was an author and editor of children’s books.  She wrote more than 70 picture books, including Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present and William’s Doll.  She worked as an editor at Harper & Row with her own imprint, Charlotte Zolotow Books.  The New York Times has details of her life and work.

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