Monday, January 18, 2010

ALA Winners, Yuyi Morales & Kekla Magoon

Oopsie, I slept right through my well-intentioned plan of waking up early and watching the ALA Webcast. Then I figured out I did not have the required Windows Media Player. The good news is, by the time I woke up, this announcement was posted with all the ALA winners.

Better news? Yuyi Morales won a Belpré Illustrator Honor for illustating “My Abuelita,” written by Tony Johnston . Whoo hoo! The Pura Belpré Awards honor Latino writers and illustrators whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.
See Yuyi's video on Making My Abuelita here:

Making My Abuelita from Yuyi Morales on Vimeo.

More good news from ALA is that Kekla Magoon won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award for her book, “The Rock and the River.”

Hooray for talented award-winning writer and illustrator friends.

Hooray for talented writer and illustrator friends with or without awards.

Hooray for talented writer and illustrator friends, published and not, who keep putting their heart and hope into their craft, their art, their stories.

It all begins with heart and hope, so keep imagining, writing, drawing and creating.

Oh, and while we are in the mood for hoorays, Hooray for publishers who put images of people of color on the covers of books the first time around.

I interviewed Kekla last April right here on The Imaginary Blog (along with Bethany Hegedus as Kekla and Bethany are co-editors of the literary magazine Hunger Mountain's Children and YA section).

You can read the whole interview here.
And here are a few highlights of Kekla's responses:

My novel, The Rock and the River, is set in 1968 Chicago. The civil rights movement is in full swing. Sam Childs (age 13) has been raised in the movement, as his father is a well known civil rights activist in their community. But Sam’s older brother, Stick, grows frustrated with the slow pace of change, as many young people did at that time. When Dr. King is killed, Stick leaves home and joins the Black Panther Party. Sam finds himself torn between the ideals of his father and his brother. He wants to believe in his father, to believe that non-violent protest will lead to the change he desires – but it gets harder for Sam to stand by as his community is being ravaged by police brutality and poverty. He begins to explore the Panthers with Stick, though he still struggles to decide what is right. Will Sam follow his father or his brother? His mind or his heart? The rock or the river?

Lynn: How do you juggle your time creating new work, promoting your published work and now editing your section of Hunger Mountain?

It’s a very big struggle for me to prioritize. Lately I’ve been using a series of to-do lists to help me organize my activities. I write the tasks right into my calendar each week. My writers’ group sits down every January to outline goals for the year, which I find really useful in targeting my long-term goals. On my own, I then break down the goals by month, and each month I break them down by week. This is not to say it that it all gets done! But it has helped me understand my work pace and process better, when I can look back and compare my intentions vs. my accomplishments. It has helped me understand what I can realistically accomplish in a day/week/month, which in turn has helped me stop putting pressure on myself to accomplish too much in too short a time. I’ve become better at saying NO to outside activities that will draw me away from my writing and professional goals. The hardest thing for me lately is to focus on producing new writing, since book promotion and editing are new and exciting adventures for me. But my writers’ groups definitely help me keep on task with my latest draft!

Lynn: Do you do school visits, too?

Yes! We each do school visits on our own book, but we also developed a joint presentation. It’s another area of our partnership that works really well. Since our books are set in 1959 and 1968, we are uniquely positioned to provide students with an in-depth presentation about the beginning and end of the civil rights era.

Our presentation is called “The Movement: Civil Rights in America 1959-1968.” It’s subtitled: “Two Books. Two Authors. One Powerful Presentation.” We lay out a timeline of civil rights movement, beginning with Bethany’s Between Us Baxters, which occurs at a time when segregation was still in effect in the South. She discusses Jim Crow laws, Brown vs. Board of Education, the Klan and the Citizen’s Councils, and the kinds of events that occurred that ultimately drove the black community to organize and launch the civil rights movement. Using a photo montage, we fast-forward through the parts of the movement that students more typically study in school, until we reach 1968 and the assassination of Dr. King. I talk about the effect that Dr. King’s death had on black communities around the country, and the new militancy and community organizing efforts that rose up in the wake of his murder. It’s a topic students don’t normally get to study, but is an area that needs more attention if we ever hope to understand the civil rights era as it truly happened.

Our presentation is fun and interactive, using audience participation and readers’ theater to engage students in the material. There’s a lot about our books that make them complement each other. Together, we cover the gamut of civil rights issues: Polly’s a white working class girl in a Southern rural setting, early in the movement. Sam’s a black middle class boy in a Northern, urban setting, late in the movement. The divergent perspectives and settings give us a means to examine the civil rights era from two fresh angles. We provide teachers’ guides and classroom material as a follow-up to our presentation.

We also both do interactive writing workshops for smaller groups.

It is wonderful to partner with Kekla on the school visits, as well. We brainstorm, work on promotional materials, rehearse with one another and keep each other laughing throughout the process of whatever is thrown our way.

Lynn: Do you have any tips for authors in the time management juggle?

Give up television! I am serious! I no longer have a TV! But I do catch episodes of my faves online (gotta see Lost and Damages!) but truly cutting back on the television has given me a lot more time than I once did. Now instead of watching American Idol I just hop over to facebook and follow editor Elizabeth Law’s witty banter and takes on the performances. I am caught up in five minutes.

Ha. Bethany’s quite right. But I love my TV, so that solution doesn’t entirely work for me. (Though, I will say that having DVR makes a big difference…) My suggestion is to include your writing activities in your calendar or schedule in advance, as if they are fixed events, with a date and time attached. Lately I have been managing my time this way, especially since I work from home full-time, which to the outside world often reads as if I’m not working. People have no qualms about calling me to do things in the middle of the day, as if I don’t have anything better to do. I find it easier to say no when I can open my calendar, see my writing plans, and decide if the other activity is actually more important to me.

Lynn: Since this is an imaginary blog, can you please tell us in what ways your writing and now editing career is different than you originally imagined?

Well, depending on how far I look back, the fact that I’m a writer/editor at all is something different from what I imagined my life would be like. As a child/teen I imagined myself as a doctor or teacher – all my varying career interests were much more “traditional” than the creative life I’ve patched together for myself in reality. Even looking back just to the time I started writing seriously, which was about eight years ago, I couldn’t have imagined myself making a full-time living this way. My previous professional jobs were very disappointing to me, and I quickly came to believe that any job I ever had would be messy and stressful and painful. As my writing life has evolved, I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be that way. Although writing bears its own messes and stresses and pains, that energy now feeds my work instead of detracting from it. I feel lucky these days to be doing something I love.

Come to think of it, Imaginary Readers, I interviewed Yuyi last year, too. But she kept winning so many awards, I had to keep updating the interview before I posted it. I will have to tally in Yuyi's latest award and post her interview soon, quick before she wins again.

Forecast: Many more awards to come for both Yuyi and Kekla.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 Santa Clara County Reading Conference at Asilomar

I just got back from the 2010 Santa Clara County Reading Conference at Asilomar.
I met some wonderful teachers, librarians, resource specialists and old and new author friends. Asilomar always has a great vibe. The natural setting and the buildings designed by Julia Morgan create an amazingly beautiful environment. When you add a few hundred people who are passionate about books for children and young adults, you cannot go wrong! I presented a workshop on "Writing Activities to Encourage and Inspire Young Authors." The participants were enthusiastic, did some writing of their own, and asked great questions, too.

Here's a bit of Asilomar sunset from Saturday evening.

Betsy Franco and her son, Tom Franco gave a Fireside Chat. They talked about their collaborative process on their new YA novel, Metamorphosis. Tom drew and the creative vibe was in the air. Tom showed his very unique tiger sculpture, Betsy shared stories about her other books, and they both talked about their creative work with children and youth. Inspiring and fun!

This is the first time I've been to the Santa Clara County Reading Conference, but I've been to Asilomar many times with San Francisco South's SCBWI conference for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. I've always had a thing for the pine cone motif on the curtains in the rooms.

Each time I'm back to Asilomar I feel like I'm visiting a beloved relative. Here's a bit of curtain from my room in The Lodge. Returning to Asilomar makes me happy. Seeing the familiar pine cone motif makes me happy. Meeting people who love books makes me happy. And I was happy to see that the gift shop had cotton socks with not just Asilomar written on them, but the pine cone motif woven in. So naturally I had to buy a pair so I could take a bit of the Asilomar vibe back home with me.

It started to rain before I had a chance to walk on the beach but just as I was leaving, traffic slowed for these gentle creatures. The car behind me at the stop sign did not seem to mind that I stopped, rolled down the car window and took a few pics. I like the pace of life at Asilomar.

The rain cleared on the ride back and I pulled off at the vista point to take this pic for my mom. She loves the fog rolling over the hills. Hey Mum, this one's for you.

I'm sure all my Imaginary Readers are hoping to see one more close-up of the pine cone on the curtain, right? You're in luck!

Forecast: The writer with the pine cone socks tapping away at the keyboard imagining she is back at Asilomar!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I've Been a Bit Swamped but Now I'm Back!

Dear Imaginary Readers,

You may (or may not :-) have noticed I've been away a bit. Yes, well, as you know I'm a children's book writer. So I have been doing what children's book writers do--working on my new books. I've been swamped but it's been a good creative swamp and we writers need to venture there alone from time to time to capture more words on the pages.

But what better time to return to the Kidlitosphere than after the holidays, at the beginning of a new year (and a whole new decade!), and right at the start (or a couple of days after the start) of The 2010 Kidlitosphere Comment Challenge. Take a look here, here, or here for more details. Thanks to Mother Reader & Lee Wind for helping me get me back on the BlogWagon!

What do you think, Imaginary Readers? Is it possible for me (or you) to make 100 comments on Kidlitosphere blogs in 21 days, creating one new habit of reading and making 5 (or if you are starting late, 5+) comments on various blogs per day?

Forecast: A whole lot of bloggy commenting going on!