Barbara Lowell’s BEHIND THE BOOKCASE – Author Interview

Children’s author Barbara Lowell returns to the blog to talk to us about her latest book, BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: Miep Gies, Anne Frank and the Hiding Place.

About Barbara

Barbara Lowell is the author of nonfiction and historical fiction picture books, nonfiction early readers, and nonfiction educational market books. Her books include GEORGE FARRIS WHAT A WHEEL, DARING AMELIA, ALEXANDER HAMILTON AMERICAN HERO, MY MASTODON, and more books for children.

One of her latest books, SPARKY & SPIKE: CHARLES SCHULZ AND THE WILDEST, SMARTEST DOG EVER, is a Junior Guild Library Selection.

 

Before the interview, let’s learn more about Barbara’s new book:

BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: Miep Gies, Anne Frank, and the Hiding Place by Barbara Lowell, illustrated by Valentina Toro

Release Date: September 01, 2020

Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing

Genres: Picture Book, Nonfiction Biography

BUY THE BOOK HERE:
indiebound

Plot Summary:

​Anne Frank’s diary is a gift to the world because of Miep Gies. One of the protectors of the Frank family, Miep recovered the diary after the family was discovered by Nazis, and then returned it to Otto Frank after World War II. Displaced from her own home as a child during World War I, Miep had great empathy for Anne, and she found ways–like talking about Hollywood gossip and fashion trends–to engage her. The story of their relationship–and the impending danger to the family in hiding–unfolds in this unique perspective of Anne Frank’s widely known story.


 

The Interview

Valerie Lawson: I’m so happy you’ve returned to the blog for another interview! The last time you were here, your very first picture book was coming out. Now you have just celebrated the publication of your THIRTEENTH book!

CONGRATULATIONS! How have you changed as a writer from that first book, GEORGE FERRIS WHAT A WHEEL, to now? What have you learned about the publishing industry that surprised you?

Barbara Lowell: Thank you, Valerie! And thank you for inviting me on your blog!

What surprised me about writing and publishing is that writing a new book never gets easier. You think it would, but it doesn’t. I really didn’t have any expectations about working with an editor, but what I have found is that they are a joy to work with. I have learned so much from every editor’s revision skills and knowledge of the business.

I’m a more confident writer now then I was at the beginning, but I always remember that I have lots more to learn. It’s a joy to learn from many, many fantastic writers that have chosen to write for kids.

VL: Your newest picture book, which came out on September 1st, BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: Miep Gies, Anne Frank and the Hiding Place, has been described in a review by Booklist as: “A historically accurate but gentle introduction to the Holocaust for elementary-age readers.”

What else can you tell us about it?

BL: It’s the story of the young woman, Miep Gies, who as an Austrian child after World War I was sent by her parents to live in the Netherlands. She was malnourished as a result of the war and might have died. Families in the Netherlands offered to care for Austria’s children.

Miep loved the Dutch way of life and chose to stay with her Dutch family. In 1933, she became Otto Frank’s employee after he moved from Germany to Amsterdam to escape Nazi persecution. He is of course, Anne Frank’s father. Miep along with four other people, helped to hide the Frank family and their friends during the Holocaust in the annex above their offices. She had a close relationship with Anne Frank and after Anne’s arrest, Miep found and saved Anne’s diary. I think it’s important that children know Miep’s story and that she along with other brave people were willing to hide and care for an estimated 25,000 Jews in Amsterdam.

VL: You write nonfiction and historical fiction picture books, nonfiction early readers, and nonfiction educational market books for reluctant readers. What are the unique challenges for each genre that you have to make sure you address as you create each story?

BL: At present, I’m concentrating on nonfiction and historical fiction picture books. Everything I have written has required research. Fortunately, I love researching. I think the challenges are the same for each genre and for every writer.

Writing is hard. Finding the right focus and structure is the first step and often the most difficult. Then comes writing the first draft. I am so happy when I complete one because the next step, revising, is my favorite. I love the revision process especially after I receive feedback.

VL: I love the way you find the most amazing quotes and unique bits of historical detail for your stories. Talk about your intensive research process and how you find all of these great gems – if you don’t mind sharing your secrets!

BL: My ideas primarily come from reading adult nonfiction but some have come from visiting sites. When I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, I knew I needed to learn more about Miep Gies. After reading her autobiography, I decided to write BEHIND THE BOOKCASE.

The idea for GEORGE FERRIS WHAT A WHEEL came from Erik Larson’s book Devil in the White City. I learned that 2,160 people could ride George Ferris’s Ferris Wheel, a structural engineering marvel, at the same time. I look for ideas that interest me and ones I think kids will find interesting too.

When researching an idea, I try to find as many primary and secondary sources as possible. When researching DARING AMELIA, I found a book by Amelia Earhart’s sister which gave me the line “It’s just like flying,” in reference to Amelia jumping up after crashing her homemade roller coaster. I look for as many sources as possible and dig until I’m sure my research is right.

With SPARKY & SPIKE, I read everything that Charles Schulz wrote about his life, and every interview with him that I could find although the book is about his childhood and his dog Spike, the inspiration for Snoopy. My sister gave me an idea recently. I bought an autobiography by the subject and found multiple other ideas in the first chapter. I guess it’s about paying attention. I love to learn so lots of things interest me.

VL: For you, what makes a great subject for a nonfiction or historical fiction picture book. What or who inspires you?

BL: It’s usually someone who has persevered despite odds and hasn’t given up their dream. What I love most is writing about children who have done something unusual, something that kids will find intriguing.

I’m inspired by good people doing brave things without regard for their own well-being. That’s why it was important for me to write about Miep Gies in BEHIND THE BOOKCASE. She is a hero to me.

Barbara at book signing for SPARKY AND SPIKE.

VL: I absolutely adored your book SPARKY & SPIKE: Charles Schultz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever, about Charles Schultz and his own dog that inspired his character of Snoopy. Not only was the story fantastic, but also the comic book style illustrations were amazing. Talk about your experience creating and publishing the book.

BL: First, I think the absolute best illustrator for the book did the art. As if by magic, he had a letter written by Charles Schulz with a drawing of Snoopy. Dan Andreasen had written to Schulz when he was a child asking for advice about drawing. The letter is in the book.

The first manuscript I wrote was about Charles Schulz’s childhood through the first appearance of Peanuts on October 1, 1950. A freelance editor suggested that I write only about Charles as a child and his dog Spike. I took her advice and wrote a second manuscript. SPARKY & SPIKE is actually a combination of both manuscripts. Many of the earlier spreads were taken from my original manuscript.

VL: What drew you to tell the story of Anne Frank from a different perspective?

BL: It’s important for writers to find a new way of telling a familiar story. And I wanted to tell Miep’s story too, not just Anne’s. Miep was a remarkably kind woman who faced adversity and risked her life in attempt to save the lives of others. Anne Frank relied on Miep when she hid in the annex. She shared her struggles with Miep when she couldn’t with her family. Miep brought the truth of what was happening in the outside world to the hiders but she also brought joy to them. That’s why I told the story of the red high heels Miep gave to Anne.

VL: I know you love to travel, what are the most unusual places you’ve ever visited? And have any of your travel adventures ever inspired a story idea?

BL: The most unusual places were: Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia, a more remote part of the islands. Pitcairn Island of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, although we didn’t leave the ship, the islanders sailed to us. And circling Easter Island multiple times because the ship wasn’t able to enter the port safely.

I have one idea from traveling. I visited an amazing museum in Sweden and decided to write a story about what I saw there. But I haven’t figured out the best way to tell the story.

VL: What’s next for you? Can you share with us any projects you are currently working on or anything that might be coming out soon?

BL: I have a new nonfiction picture book that will be released in Fall 2021. I wish I could tell you the title and more about it, but it hasn’t been announced. But – it’s a story about the son of a very famous American. I working on more picture books both nonfiction and historical fiction and have one manuscript ready for submission.

We will keep an eye out for your upcoming book! Thank you so much for joining us, today, Barbara. It’s been a pleasure talking with you!

Learn more about Barbara by visiting her website HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

SCBWI Oklahoma June Twitter Chat Guest – Kelly Starling Lyons

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our next Twitter chat session is Tuesday, June 23rd. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Kelly Starling Lyons is the children’s author of several books, including this year’s Caldecott Honor Book GOING HOME WITH DADDY and the ever-popular Jada Jones series.

She also a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf, which hosted the phenomenal Facebook Live event #Kidlit4BlackLives which brought members of the kidlit community together for an online Rally for Black Lives earlier this month. If you missed this wonderful event, you can now view it on YouTube HERE.

Here’s an introduction to Kelly:

June 23rd – Kelly Starling Lyons – Children’s Author

Kelly Starling Lyons is a children’s book author whose mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery. She is a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf and an advocate for kidlit diversity.

Her books include CCBC Choices-honored picture book, ONE MILLION MEN AND ME; ELLEN’s BROOM, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection; TEA CAKES FOR TOSH, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and winner of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Award for Juvenile Literature (sponsored by the AAUW of North Carolina); HOPE’S GIFT, a Storytelling World Award winner, IRA/CBC Children’s Choices selection and SIBA Okra Pick; and the popular JADA JONES chapter book series.

Learn more about Kelly by visiting her website: http://www.kellystarlinglyons.com

Her Twitter handle is @kelstarly

I hope you’ll join us for a fascinating conversation with Kelly this Tuesday!

***Missed our chat with Kelly? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

SCBWI Oklahoma May Twitter Chat Guest – Brad McLelland

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

This month’s chat session was Tuesday, May 26th.

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Brad McLelland is an Oklahoma author who joined us this week for our latest monthly Twitter chat. He has co-written an award-winning Middle Grade series with long-time friend Louis Sylvester.

Here’s an introduction to Brad:

May 26th – Brad McLelland – Children’s Author

Brad McLelland was born and raised in Arkansas. He spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South before earning his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini-Aussie who gives hugs, and a chubby cat who begs for ham.

Brad co-wrote his Middle Grade debut, LEGENDS OF THE LOST CAUSES, with Louis Sylvester. This book won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award and is a Junior Library Guild Selection book. The pair teamed up to write the sequel, THE FANG OF THE BONFIRE CROSSING, which was published in Feb 2019. Book three THE KEY OF SKELETON PEAK was just released in Feb 2020.

Learn more about Brad by visiting his website: http://www.bradmcbooks.com

Brad’s Twitter handle is @bradmcbooks

We had a fascinating conversation with Brad. He talked about his writing journey beginning at the age of 8 when he wrote his first story, the ambitious ideas he and his writing partner had for their series in the beginning, and how they work as a team to write their series.

 

***Interested in the rest of our conversation with Brad?

View the full chat recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

SCBWI Oklahoma April Twitter Chat Guest – Barbara Lowell

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our next Twitter chat session is Tuesday, April 28th. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


Barbara Lowell is an Oklahoma author and an active member of SCBWI OK. She has several published picture books. Barbara finds interesting characters from history, researches them until she finds just the right way to tell their stories and, lucky us, we get to read them.

And she also happens to be one of my most beloved critique partners. I’m so excited we get to have a conversation about her books!

Here’s an introduction to Barbara:

April 28th – Barbara Lowell – Children’s Author

Barbara Lowell is the author of nonfiction and historical fiction picture books, nonfiction early readers, and nonfiction educational market books. Her books include GEORGE FARRIS WHAT A WHEEL, DARING AMELIA, ALEXANDER HAMILTON AMERICAN HERO, and more books for children.

Her book SPARKY & SPIKE: CHARLES SCHULZ AND THE WILDEST, SMARTEST DOG EVER, is a Junior Guild Library Selection.

Her newest book released this February,  MY MASTADON, received a starred review from Kirkus.

Her upcoming title, BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: MIEP GIES, ANNE FRANK, AND THE HIDING PLACE is scheduled for release this fall.

Learn more about Barbara by visiting her website: https://www.barbaralowell.com

Her Twitter handle is @barbara_lowell

I hope you’ll join us for a fascinating conversation with Barbara this Tuesday!

***Missed our chat with Barbara? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

Book Review – MY MASTODON by Barbara Lowell

 

I have to admit that I am a little partial to this story as I had a very small part in shaping it from its very beginnings when my wonderful critique partner, Barbara Lowell, first brought this adorable story to the attention of our critique group years ago.

I immediately fell in love with Sybilla, the young girl whose family lives in a natural history museum and whose best friend is a mastodon skeleton. I really wanted to see this story become a book…and now it is finally here!

Barbara at Magic City Books in Tulsa at the Launch of MY MASTODON
Barbara signing my copy of MY MASTODON, a dream come true!

Although it’s been a long road to get Sybilla’s story from beginning concept to reality, and it has seen many, many revisions, it’s even better than I could have imagined. The gorgeous illustrations by Italian illustrator Antonio Marinoni are a perfect fit.

MY MASTODON by Barbara Lowell

Published by: Creative Editions

Release Date: February 25, 2020

Genres: Picture Book, Nonfiction, Biography

indieboundbn-24h-80

 

Plot Summary:

Inspired by the 19th-century lives of artist and scientist Charles Willson Peale’s family, this is a tale of a girl and her favorite companion—a fossilized mastodon!

(Plot summary from author’s website.)

Isn’t that a fascinating place to grow up? In a museum? And that story is based on a real family!

I love Sybilla and how she thinks of herself as an explorer, just like her father. I also love how she helps out around the museum.

 

Sybilla has strong feelings about what should and should not be done with her mastodon. When she hears her friend will be sent away, she campaigns to have him stay.

And even creates flyers advertising her opinion.

 

 

She also has a pretty great older brother, Rembrandt, who doesn’t like seeing her so sad. I don’t want to spoil the ending, so you should read this wonderful book yourself!

But don’t just take my word for it, this book received a starred Kirkus review!

“Accomplished illustrations further elevate this engaging introduction to America’s first family of science.”

Here are what other reviewers had to say:

“It’s a sweet and remarkable story, with Marinoni’s exquisite illustrations inviting the reader directly into the Peale’s museum home, a world of taxidermic animals and towering skeletons” – Booklist Review 

“Nurtured by intelligent eccentric family members and permitted familiarity with priceless scientific curiosities, Sybilla has an ideal Enlightenment-era childhood” – Publishers Weekly

I know you will love this story as much I as do!

Happy reading!

Learn more about Barbara Lowell here.

 

Tulsa Library Day of YA Coming!

 

This coming week, the Tulsa Library is hosting a wonderful event called Tulsa Day of YA. This FREE event “celebrates young adult literature and those who love it by bringing together authors, fans, and aspiring writers through workshops, panel sessions, and academic discussion.”

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I can hardly wait!

The event begins with a special opening keynote on Friday night, February 21, with Justina Ireland, author of DREAD NATION, in conversation with Tulsa Artist Fellow Juliana Goodman.

I just finished reading DREAD NATION and it is so good! I can hardly wait for the sequel coming out soon!

On Saturday, February 22nd, the day begins with a Women in YA panel featuring Cindy Pon, Justina Ireland, Sonia Gensler, M. Molly Backes, and Juliana Goodman with Ally Carter moderating.

How awesome to have two fabulous Oklahoma SCBWI writers on this panel! Am I right?

The rest of the day continues with great break out sessions and a FREE lunch. The day concludes with a book signing! What more could a lover of YA want?

All events will be held at Central Library, 400 Civic Center, Tulsa, OK 74103.

To attend this free conference, you must register in advance. Lunch will be provided on site. If specific accommodations/assistance are required or would improve your experience at Tulsa Day of YA events, please reach out to Teen Services Coordinator Leah Weyand at leah.weyand@tulsalibrary.org or 918-549-7490.

For details on the speakers, the schedule, or answers to your most pressing FAQs, visit the event website here.

2020 SCBWI Oklahoma Twitter Chat Season Begins! January Guest – Traci Sorell

 

As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it an agent, editor, author, or illustrator. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.

Our 2020 Twitter chat season starts on Tuesday, January 28th. I hope you’ll join us!

CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.


I’ve had the pleasure of meeting our first guest, Oklahoma Children’s author, Traci Sorell, and she is having an amazing debut year!

Her first picture book, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA, is such a delight and has won critical acclaim. She followed that up with a double book launch for two more amazing books and then traveled all over the country promoting her wonderful work. We are truly privileged to have her as our first guest.

Here’s an introduction to Traci:

JANUARY 28th – Traci Sorell – Children’s Author

Traci Sorell grew up immersed in stories. The ones her mother told at bedtime and the accounts of her ancestors’ lives mirrored her Cherokee heritage. Books she brought home from the library and selected during her school’s annual Reading is Fundamental (RIF) Day showed a world beyond her life in rural northeastern Oklahoma.

As an adult, Traci has lived in four U.S. time zones and abroad in Madrid, Spain. Her early writing reflected the Native American history, law, and policy focus of her educational and professional background.

Now she lives back inside the Cherokee Nation with her family. She started writing for young people when she wanted more contemporary fiction and nonfiction children’s books featuring Native Americans to share with her son. Traci’s first nonfiction picture book, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA (Charlesbridge, 2018), features the universal spirit of gratitude as experienced through modern Cherokee culture across the four seasons. Her other works include: AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE (Kokila, 2019), INDIAN NO MORE with Charlene Willing McManis (Tu Books, 2019), and POWWOW DAY (Charlesbridge, 2020).

Traci’s debut picture book WE ARE GRATEFUL: Otsaliheliga, was awarded the 2019 Sibert Medal Honor Award, the 2019 Orbis Pictus Honor Award, the 2019 Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award, and was an Oklahoma Book Award Finalist.

Learn more about Traci by visiting her website: https://www.tracisorell.com

Her Twitter handle is @tracisorell 

This first #okscbwichat of 2020 should be an exciting one! I hope you’ll join us for our conversation with Traci!

***Missed our chat with Traci? View the recap HERE.


You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.

Book Review – SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

 

I adore everything about Laurie Halse Anderson, from her kickass attitude to her uncompromising writing to her posts about weird Scandinavian breakfasts when she’s on vacation and fully embracing the hygge philosophy.

I absolutely loved her book SPEAK, and this more personal, more intense follow up, SHOUT, I loved even more.

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

Published by: Viking Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Poetry

indieboundbn-24h-80

 

Plot Summary:

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

I almost cried just from reading the dedication page.

“for the survivors.”

This book may hit a little close to home.

But then, we are all survivors, right? We’ve all survived some kind of hell. Not all of us are brave enough to explore it so thoroughly in our writing and put it on display for others to see, to share, to learn from.

I had no idea before I started reading this book that SPEAK was based on Anderson’s own experience of being raped as a teen. This book, SHOUT, is a response to SPEAK, and it talks a lot about what she went through at the time of her assault and how it shaped her life afterwards.

This should give you an idea of how that went:

“…too many grown-ups tell kids to follow 

their dreams

like that’s going to get them somewhere

Auntie Laurie says follow your nightmares instead

cuz when you figure out what’s eating you alive

you can slay it”

Fucking powerful.

Here’s another passage that stopped me in my tracks – probably because it  was way too relatable to me.

“…the overlap of my stories and my life

is a garden courtyard, sky-strung with stars

and scars where planets were torn

from their orbits

the courtyard where that stump grows

is surrounded by stone walls

three miles high, carved

with thousands of locked doors

and secrets that bloom open

in the moonlight”

Ouch. Ouch. OUCH.

But don’t get me wrong, this book is not all sadness and pain. There is definitely hope and strength and joy.

I absolutely loved this poem called “yes, please”. I think it should be distributed far and wide to all, especially those confused about consent.

yes, please

“yes”

sounds like heaven falling from the sky

yes smells like hot, hot

sweet apple pie

yes dances hip to hip, eye to eye

sober, yes

demands very sober, cuz yes shares this body

touch me

with permission only, yes–signed, sealed

deliverance from evil, no sin to be

tempted, but only with yes in the sheets

yes in the backseat, yes to a condom

yes, please go down on me until yes!

because yes is not swipe right, yes is hello

I want to get to know

you because maybe we

might yes, but the dance comes first, yes

the interplay of hey, flirt, hey, the pounding heart 

of questioning yeses and not, let’s go

slow revolyestionary notion

that behold, this body and soul

that yes welcomes yes embraces yes

that taste of someone who has proven

worthy

of your yes

is worth the questing, slow beckoning

interrogating, interesting, conversating

adventuring yes is ongoing 

yes enthusiastic 

yes informed

yes free-given

yes the truest test

of sex

the consent of yes is necessary

Every woman human should read this book.

Young, old, and in-between.

Period.

Thank you, Ms. Anderson for having the courage to Shout about this important issue and to share your story with us.

Learn more about Laurie Halse Anderson here.

 

Book Review – STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A.S. King

 

I am a huge fan of A.S. King and have been ever since I read her novel PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. The voice was so authentic and gut-wrenching. Part of me WAS Vera – at least, my teen-self floating close to the surface could really relate to the heavy shit Vera was going through. (Honestly, you should stop whatever you’re doing and go read this awesome book right now. Seriously. I will NOT be offended.)

Each book of hers that I have read has been just as stellar as the first. And did I mention that she always adds a dash of magical realism just to make things even more interesting?

STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A. S. King

Published by: Penguin Young Readers Group

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Contemporary

indieboundbn-24h-80

 

Plot Summary:

Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she explores the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she’s finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can’t quite recall.

After decades of staying together “for the kids” and building a family on a foundation of lies and violence, Sarah’s parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage. As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original —and yet it still hurts. Insightful, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful, this is a vivid portrait of everyday abuse and survival that will linger with readers long after the last page.

Sarah’s crisis starts when her art teacher tells her that there is no such thing as an original idea and that’s it. She can no longer create. That “truth bomb” explodes her entire world and she starts spiraling. But is that really what happened? Is that really where the problem started?

Sarah starts bumping in to her past and future selves who have a few things to say about Sarah’s crisis. At first, she thinks maybe she’s hallucinating, but other people can see her other selves, too. Her other selves have memories she can’t remember and opinions that rub her the wrong way. Will she listen to them or continue to self-destruct? (Even though self-destruction isn’t an original idea.)

That’s the other thing I love about King’s books, they are deceptively deep. You’ll be seeing things from the perspective of a pagoda, learning how to build an invisible helicopter, sending passengers love as they fly overhead in airplanes, or having conversations with different versions of yourself then BAM! You realize she’s hit you across the brain with some heavy philosophical shit out of nowhere that makes you disoriented for days. (In a good way.) She tackles heavy issues in a fantastical way like no one else.

Trust me, once you read one of her books, you’ll want to read them all. You can start with this one. It’s amazing.

Learn more about A.S. King here.

 

2019 SCBWI Oklahoma Twitter Chats

 

 

One of my favorite “jobs” is that of Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, and one of my favorite things about that position is hosting a monthly Twitter Chat for our members where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it an agent, editor, author, or illustrator. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.

 

We meet on the fourth Tuesday of the month from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, join us! We love meeting new people.

Here are details on the chats we’ve already had so far in 2019, plus those still remaining. You can read the recaps for all of our chats, from this year and from those in years past, HERE.


 

JANUARY 22nd– Jonathan Koelsch

Jonathan Koelsch has been illustrating professionally since graduating with honors from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design, and attended Kansas City Art Institute’s illustration program for 3 years.

Jonathan frequently incorporates graphic design in his illustration work, and as an illustrator skilled in design is often hired by designers to create icons and logos. He has illustrated and designed comics, covers, posters and graphic novels for several independent publishers, in many art styles, from “American” style, to cartoon, to manga.

Most recently, Jonathan fully illustrated the two-thirds (42 pages) and cover of the Luther graphic novel, for Faith Inkubators, a Lutheran curriculum publisher (lutherstudy.com).

You can learn more about Jonathan on his website.

His Twitter handle is @jkArts 

You can read the chat recap with Jonathan HERE.

 

FEBRUARY 12th– Jennifer March Soloway – SPECIAL CHAT

Jennifer March Soloway is a literary agent who represents authors and illustrators of picture book, middle grade, and young adult stories. She enjoys all genres and categories, such as laugh-out-loud picture books and middle-grade adventures, but her sweet spot is young adult.

A suspense junkie, she adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries. Throw in a dash of romance, and she’s hooked! But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. Regardless of genre, she is actively seeking fresh new voices and perspectives underrepresented in literature.

Jennifer is actively building her client list and welcomes queries to soloway@andreabrownlit.com.

Find out more about Jennifer and about her full wish list by visiting her agency’s website.

Her Twitter handle is: @marchsoloway

You can read the chat recap with Jennifer HERE.

 

FEBRUARY 26th– Mekisha Telfer

Mekisha Telfer is an associate editor at Roaring Brook Press (Macmillian), where she is building a list of picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels. She got her start in publishing in 2014 as an editorial assistant with Simon and Schuster BFYR/Salaam reads, and has also worked briefly at Glasstown Entertainment.

Some titles she’s had the privilege of working on include the New York Times bestselling series TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han, EMERGENCY CONTACT by Mary H. K. Choi, THE GAUNTLET by Karuna Riazi, and Stuart Gibb’s Moon Base Alpha series. Mekisha is committed to supporting unrepresented voices and is always on the hunt for character-driven stories with a mix of humor and heart.

You can learn more about what Mekisha is looking for from her manuscript wish list here.

Her Twitter handle is: @MekishaTelfer

You can read the chat recap with Mekisha HERE.

 

MARCH 26th– Alex Slater

Literary Agent Alex Slater has been with Trident Media Group since 2010. For many years he oversaw the foreign rights sales of all of Trident’s young adult and children’s projects, which includes the work of R.J. Palacio and Louis Sachar.

Now with his own list, he’s kept his focus on YA and middle grade with an eye towards contemporary fiction, light fantasy, narrative nonfiction, and any work in general that expands the ideas of representation in children’s literature. Particularly, his manuscript wish list includes graphic novels, stories that blend genres, and historically underrepresented voices. Some of his clients today include Keah Brown, Jodi Kendall, Adam Perry, and SCBWI’s 2017 Emerging Voices Award Winner Anuradha D. Rajurkar.

You can learn more about what Alex is looking for from his manuscript wishlist here. Or by visiting his agency website here.

His Twitter handle is: @abuckslater

You can read the chat recap with Alex HERE.

 

APRIL 23rd – Jess Rinker

Children’s author Jess Rinker received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has won many awards for her work including short story, creative nonfiction, and most recently an honorable mention for the Katherine Paterson Prize from Hunger Mountain for her middle grade novel THE YOUNG TRAVELERS CLUB.

In addition to writing, Jess also teaches in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and works as a freelance developmental editor.

Jessica Rinker’s debut picture book biography, GLORIA TAKES A STAND, comes out March 12, 2019 from Bloomsbury Children’s Books. Her second biography, SEND A GIRL: The Brenda Berkman Story, comes out March 2020.

​Jess also writes middle grade and her debut novel THE DARE SISTERS comes out Fall 2020 and Fall 2021 from Imprint/Macmillan.

​Currently she lives in New Jersey in a tiny town along the Delaware River with her husband, Joe McGee, who is also a children’s author.

You can learn more about her by visiting her website.

Her Twitter handle is: @jm_rinker 

You can read the chat recap with Jess HERE.

 

MAY 28th– Lisa Papademetriou

Lisa Papademetriou is the author of A TALE OF HIGHLY UNUSUAL MAGIC (a South Asia Book Award Highly Commended Title), the New York Times-bestselling novel MIDDLE SCHOOL: MY BROTHER IS A BIG, FAT LIAR and HOMEROOM DIARIES (both with James Patterson), the CONFECTIONATELY YOURS series (over 750,000 books in print), and many other novels for middle grade and young adult readers.

Her books have appeared on many prestigious lists, including Bank Street Best Books of the Year, the NYPL Books for the Teen Age, the Texas Lone Star Reading List, andtranslated into French, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, & Japanese. Her latest book, APARTMENT 1986, was a School Library Journal Popular Pick.

She has written for the Washington Post, authors the StART Up Studio column for Innovate413, and serves on the faculty of the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College. A former editor, she is the founder of the humorous grammar website, IvanaCorrectya.com.

Lisa evinces her passion for community and education by serving on the board of the Northampton Education FoundationClick Workspace, and Athena Girls, and by giving workshops locally and across the United States on the subjects of writing, grammar, and creative courage.

You can learn more about her by visiting her website.

Her Twitter handle is: @axyfabulous 

You can read the chat recap with Lisa HERE.

 

JUNE 25th– Joe McGee

Children’s author Joe McGee writes funny, quirky, offbeat stories for kids (and adults who still hold a piece of the magic). He has two picture books published, PEANUT BUTTER & BRAINS (Abrams) his debut PB which came out in 2015, and the sequel, ALIENS & JELLY (2017). A third book in the series, PEANUT BUTTER & SANTA CLAUS is scheduled for release in 2019.

Joe also has two series of Chapter Books coming out with Simon & Shuster (Aladdin) with the first book in the CREATURE CAMPERS series coming out this January 2019, and the first book in the JUNIOR MONSTER SCOUTS series scheduled for release in Fall 2019.

Joe is also on the faculty of Sierra Nevada College, Writing for Children & Young Adults low-residency MFA program, and is on the faculty of Rowan University, Writing Arts department.

You can learn more about him by visiting his website.

His Twitter handle is: @mcgeejp

You can read the chat recap with Joe HERE.

 

JULY 23rd– Sharon Martin

Sharon Edge Martin has been a writer since she wrote her first poems at the age of eight.  She has worked as a waitress, an artist’s model, a musician, a bookkeeper, a jewelry designer, a newspaper editor, and a teacher, but no matter what other job she is doing, Martin is always a writer.

 Martin’s fiction stories have appeared in adult and juvenile magazines, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Her poetry for children and adults has been published in Amelia, BylineEllery Queen Mystery Magazine, and dozens of small press and literary magazines and anthologies, including Elegant Rage, Dragon Poet Review, Malpais Review, Poets’ Market from Writers’ Digest Books, and in Michael Bugeja’s The Art and Craft of Poetry.  Her poetry chapbook, No Sanctuary, was published by Amelia Press in 1997.  In 2017,  Froggy Bottom Blues, a picture book illustrated by Timothy Lange, was published by Doodle and Peck. She won the OWFI Best Book of Poetry for her book, Not a Prodigal, and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award for the same book in 2019.

Martin is an active member of SCBWI Oklahoma and is past president of Oklahoma Writers’ Federation.  In addition to her writing for children and young adults, she pens a weekly column on education and politics.  The essays appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer.  She is active in the spoken poetry scene in Oklahoma and hosts a monthly reading in the historic Tidal School.  The building, now owned by Tidewater Winery, was commissioned by John D. Rockefeller to serve the children of his oil company employees.

Sharon and her husband, artist Dale Martin, live on a farm in Oklahoma. When she isn’t writing, you can find her tending chickens or working in her garden.

You can learn more about Sharon by visiting her website.

Her Twitter handle is @sharonedge.

You can read the chat recap with Sharon HERE.

 

SEPTEMBER 24th– Rachel Murray

Associate editor Rachel Murray started at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers in 2014. She has experience with picture books, chapter books, middle grade fiction, and young adult novels in a variety of genres. She has had the pleasure of working on projects such as Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos, illustrated by T. L. McBeth; First & Then and subsequent books by Emma Mills; and the NYT-bestselling Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson.

Rachel has begun building her own list with picture books and is looking to expand into the middle grade and young adult space. She has particular interest in horror/ghost stories/anything that gives her chills, contemporary romance, and magical realism. She welcomes characters with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

You can learn more about Rachel by visiting her publishing house website.

Her Twitter handle is @rachelrmurray

You can read the chat recap with Rachel HERE.

 

OCTOBER 22nd– Gwendolyn Hooks

 Gwendolyn Hooks is the author of the NAACP IMAGE AWARD winning picture book biography, Tiny Stitches-The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas and Block Party, a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her newest books are The Garden and If You Were A Kid During the Civil Rights Movement. Gwen’s next book, Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights for Freedom,is scheduled to release on October 1stof this year.

Other books include the popular Pet Club and Confetti Kids series. She writes both fiction and nonfiction, early readers, and chapter books from her home Oklahoma. An advocate of diverse books, Gwendolyn shares their beauty by encouraging young readers to explore the world through them.

You can learn more about Gwen by visiting her website.

Her Twitter handle is @GwentheGweat


We take a break in November and December due to the holidays. We’ll return again in January 2020 with a brand new Twitter chat schedule! It’s filling up fast, but if you have a suggestion for a guest, feel free to let me know. I’m happy to hear your ideas.