Monday, October 30, 2017

Restart by Gordon Korman: A Review and Audio CD Giveaway

What if you’re an 8th grade football player who has built your reputation around bullying. You’re suddenly given the opportunity to rewind the clock and restart your life. Would you do it? 

That’s the problem that Chase Ambrose faces in Restart by Gordon Korman. After falling off his roof and going into a coma, he wakes up in a hospital and can't remember anything. Not his mother, brother, or the picture on his phone of three boys (including himself) who are thrilled over some sort of prank. (Note: since this review is of the audio CD provided by Recorded Books quotes might not be absolutely accurate. I did my best!)


I reach back for an image of mom and come up totally empty. Ditto dad, home, school, and friends, and I come back empty….I’m blank. I’m like a computer with it’s a hard drive wiped clean. You can reboot it and it’s operating system works fine. But when you look for a document file to open, nothing’s there. Not even my own name.

The doctor says his ability to access his memory has been damaged and there's no telling when it will return. Meanwhile he must re-meet everyone in his life for the first time. In this way, he learns about himself before his accident. He sees his father and step-mother and step-sister and thinks, "They already know me, but don’t like me. What did I do to them? They look like I’m a time bomb going off in their face. Karin shrinks back like I’m going to eat her."

Being in his own room is weird. There are dozens of photos and shelves of trophies. "I’m really somebody. I only wish I knew who. I’ve been parachuted into someone else’s life. What kind of person am I?"

Korman uses multiple points-of-view to show how Chase is perceived by his peers. Through their reactions he gains clues as to who he used to be. In Chapter 2 the reader meets Shoshanna Weber at a frozen yogurt parlor. He smiles at her and she "goes ballistic," dumping her yogurt on his head. "He looked as if he’d never seen me in my whole life—not like he’d played a starring role in destroying my family."

Back in his POV on the first day of 8th grade, Chase gets dropped off and has no idea who anyone is:

All I see are football players who push people out of the way and are supposed to be my friends. They eye each other like they don’t believe me.  I don’t blame them for not believing me. I'm surrounded by all these people and I’m still alone. 
He meets with the principal who chooses his words carefully:

"This is a rare opportunity to rebuild yourself from ground up. Don’t squander it. Millions would want a blank canvas." I’m struggling to find the person I was, and he wants me to change? What was wrong with the old me that now I have to be somebody else?

Chapter 4 is narrated by Brendan, a member of the video club who is shocked when Chase comes to sit with him. Despite Shoshana's disapproval, he becomes Chase's new best friend and invites him to the video club. 

Meanwhile, his football buddies, Aaron and Bear (other POV characters), are loud and obnoxious and wonder why he'd rather hang out with the video kids than with them. Chase tags along when they go to a local nursing home for their community service. He finds out that he'd also been sentenced to service and discovers the awful prank the three of them pulled off. He befriends Mr. Solway, a Korean vet, who jokes that they are "memory loss buddies." This friendship proves pivotal in the book.

Aaron wonders, "Is the old Ambrose trapped in there and will come out and be normal?"  Chase wonders the same thing. His new normal is being a stranger in a strange land. "I’m definitely famous at school, but am I famous good or famous bad? Everyone has a slightly different version of me. Who should I believe?"

As Chase searches for who he once was and who he is now, his father pushes him to become the champion football prayer he once was. Returning memories of feeling powerful and confidant on the football field layer in more conflict for Chase.

Korman's ability to delve deeply into Chase's POV makes this book an insightful look at bullying. In moments of awareness, Chase realizes that he and his friends bullied others to feel better about themselves, and that he’ll never be able to erase their memories of who he was before his concussion. 

The last third of the book moves quickly through misunderstandings between characters, lies, complicated motivations, high stakes, and ultimately to Chase taking responsibility for his behavior before falling off the roof. 

Restart (Scholastic, 2017) is masterfully written and will be a great classroom resources on  bullying. Up until the end it seemed a little stereotypical: before his accident, Chase was the bad, bullying football player, and afterwards he became a goody-goody that Bear and Aaron didn't recognize. But in the end, Shoshanna in her forthright manner gave an honest perspective of Chase: 

It's the mix of good and bad that makes my head spin....
The big question is what kind of person is Chase going to be now? He gave the medal back--that's a plus. But there are minuses too, like at school, when he lied to cover up for his old friends. I'm not saying that to make him look bad; I'm trying to give you a totally honest picture of Chase today. Thanks to falling off that roof, he's been given a chance to restart his whole life.

A Mini-Author Interview (via Twitter)

CAROL: What prompted Restart?

GORDON: The topic of how kids treat one another-and why- has always been fascinating to me. This began as almost a thought experiment about the nature versus nurture of what makes a bully. 

CAROL: The multiple POV works so well for this story. Why did you decide to use it?

GORDON: I've been doing multiple POV for a couple of decades, dating back to NO MORE DEAD DOGS and before. It doesn't work for every type of story, but it's great for portraying an environment- a middle school, let's say--as the rolling, chaotic maelstrom and axes to grind that it really is. Often, different narrators will see the same set of events completely different. It's a style I use a lot lately, and kids genuinely seem to respond to it. 

Audio CD Giveaway

The fact that the audio CD is narrated by multiple narrators conveys the real feel of a school environment. To enter the giveaway, please leave me a comment by 5 PM on November 3. If I don't have your email address, please leave that too! Share this on social media or become a new follower of my blog, and I'll enter you twice. Just let me know what you did in your comment. 

Bonus: Here is an audio snippet from Brendan's POV.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Emotional Wound Thesaurus + Three Stories of Perseverance

Today I have a special post as part of the Writers Persevere event that authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are running for the next few days to celebrate their newest book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. This book looks at the difficult experiences embedded in our character’s backstory which will shape their motivation and behavior afterward. 

To help them celebrate this release, many of us are posting stories about some of the obstacles we’ve overcome as writers. As we all know, this isn’t an easy path. Writing is hard and as writers we tend to struggle with doubt. Sometimes too, we don’t always get the support we need to follow our passion, or we have added challenges that make writing more difficult. Because people are sharing how they worked through challenges to keep writing, I decided to share three friends' stories. I trust their perseverance, in the light of discouragement, pain, and rejections, will encourage you as much as they've encouraged me.

Kathy Wiechman

I started writing when I was five. I loved putting words on the page. My mother, a published poet, encouraged me.

When I was an adult, I decided to try to get published. I had no idea how difficult that would be. Or how long it would take me. Novels were my passion, but I also wrote poems.

I submitted my writing. And I received rejections. I took classes, went to conferences and workshops, wrote, and submitted. Many people encouraged me, told me I had talent, but publishers kept turning me down. Some of my friends thought I was “out of my mind” to keep trying.

I finally sold a poem in 2002, but my mother did not live to see that success. She died in 1998.

I struggled with health issues, and the older I got, the more often I felt discouraged, thinking I wouldn’t live long enough to achieve my dream of a published novel. My sister advised me to think about how much I enjoyed writing and how many friends I had met along my journey. If I had to decide between being published or having the friends I had made, I would choose the friends in a heartbeat. That realization changed my attitude.

I changed my focus from the drive to get published to loving the process. My new attitude made me a happier writer. I don’t know if my change in attitude improved my work, but my dream came true.

I had written and submitted novels for 39 years before my first success in that genre. I was offered a contract for what was the eleventh novel I’d completed. I still focus on enjoying the work, and now I am a happy—and published—writer. 
Kathy Cannon Wiechman is a former Language Arts tutor and teacher. Her debut novel, Like a River, was honored with the inaugural Grateful American Book Prize. Both Like a River and her second novel, Empty Places, are frequently used in classrooms. Not on Fifth Street is her third book. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband.

Linda Phillips

My high school counselor told me I’d never make it as a writer.  I’ve come to determine she really meant to say, “be sure you keep your day job” not, “you stink as a writer.”  But I heard the latter, and thus delayed my writing career until well into my adult years as wife and mother.  Up to that point my writing life consisted of a growing stack of journals, desperate attempts to make sense out of growing up with a mother suffering from bipolar disorder. The unresolved questions from my formative years began surfacing in the form of poems, and to my delight and surprise, a number of them were published in adult literary journals. That was the beginning.  It took a dear friend’s suggestion that the scattering of poems seemed destined for a novel, and it took another seven years for the refining fires of editing to produce a publishable book. Today, I am thankful for all the bumps in the road that led to Crazy, and for the doors it has opened to encourage persons whose lives have been touched by mental illness.  
Linda Vigen Phillips is the author of Crazy (Eerdmans/2014), a YA novel in verse about a teenage girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness. While she awaits the release of her second book, Heart Behind These Hands (October 2018), she volunteers at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and counts the days between grandkid visits.   

Kathleen Burkinshaw

The Last Cherry Blossom’s writing journey began in 2009.  My daughter asked me to speak to her seventh-grade class about the people under the famous mushroom clouds on August 6th- like her grandmother. I had never spoken publicly about my mom surviving the atomic bombing. I had only learned details of that day 8 years earlier. I was seriously ill, hospitalized for a month, and diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy(RSD).  RSD is a neurological disorder of the sympathetic nerves causing debilitating, chronic, burning pain.  I couldn’t walk on my own and had to endure grueling physical therapy.  During that time, my mom shared her heart-breaking memories of August 6th.  I now realize that she didn’t tell me, just so I would know; but to encourage me because as bad as things were, I shouldn’t give up hope.   All along I thought it was therapeutic for her, yet it ended up also being therapeutic for me. 

My mom agreed that I could discuss her experience in Hiroshima because she felt that the seventh-grade students might relate to her story since they were the same age that she was that horrific day. I started writing about life in Hiroshima during the last year of WWII through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl. Finding information about daily life in Japan written in English, took time and patience. Every step on this journey doubled in difficulty because of my RSD pain. There were days my hands hurt so much I couldn’t type, but I was blessed with wonderful friends and family who typed for and encouraged me. Shortly after I received my publishing contract, my mom passed away, overshadowing any other obstacle I had or would encounter. I became determined to honor her by creating through my pain and writing her story.

Kathleen Burkinshaw is a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC.The Last Cherry Blossom, is a SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist (southeast region), 2016 Scholastic WNDB Reading Club selection, and recently nominated for the NC Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award. 

Want to add more depth to your stories? Check out The Emotional Wound Thesaurus here. And here's a link to a sample entry. Want all the thesauri at your fingertips? Check out One Stop for Writers. It's my go-to writing resource for checklists, tips, and timelines. It should be yours too!

Do you have a story to share, or some advice for others? You can join Becca and Angela at Writers Helping Writers from October 25-27th, where they are celebrating writers and their stories of perseverance. Stop in, and tell them about a challenge or struggle your faced, or if you like, write a post on your own blog and share it using the hashtag #writerspersevere.  Let’s fill social media with your strength and let other writers know that it’s okay to question and have doubts but we shouldn’t let that stop us. 

There’s a prize vault filled with items that can give your writing career a boost at Writers Helping Writers.

The giveaway is only from October 25-27th, so enter asap. And don’t forget to share this using the #writerspersevere hashtag so more prizes will be awarded!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Shared WIP Tag- Part II: Meet My Cast of Characters

Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won Blood Brothers from my last blog.
Thanks to all of you for leaving comments two weeks ago on Part I. In Part II, I answer several thought-provoking questions about the Half-Truths cast. At the end you'll find a list of my blogging colleague's posts. Check them out--these are young adult writers with limitless imaginations!

1. Who is the main character?

Anna Katherine Dinsmore. Her friends call her Kate; her best friends call her Katie. She turns 14 in Half-Truths and recently moved from a tobacco farm in eastern NC (where this picture "was taken"--well, sort of, truth is, I found it on Pinterest) to ritzy, Myers Park, NC (a part of Charlotte).
I imagine Kate was about 10 when this picture was taken.
That's Speckles next to her. 
2. What is the goal of the protagonist?  

   After moving from Crossroads, she wants to find a place where she fits in.

2a. The antagonist
   - Ginny, a friend she used to play Civil War with when she visited her grandparents in Myers Park. Ginny wants to keep Kate away from her crush, Robert. 
     - Kate's grandmother, Cecelia Dinsmore, who wants to make Kate into a debutante. 

3. Is there a possession or memory the MC keeps close?
    The marble her granddaddy made and gave her. 

4. What is the protagonist's greatest fear?
    That her daddy will get injured in the Korean conflict. Or worse.

5.  Who is your favorite character?
     Like many of the other bloggers in this tag, I like them all. Sometimes I even like Kate's uppity grandmother, Cecelia, who drives Kate crazy.

6. List some of the more prominent characters, and then provide a line that describes them.

EileenEven though I’ve had the whole summer to get used to the idea of moving to Charlotte I’m still not ready to leave. “I still don’t see why we can't stay." I say, tugging on my goat’s rope to get her to hop up on the truck. Why can Eileen jump over the chicken coop but when I want her to do something she digs her heels in and refuses to budge?
Eileen is a Nubian goat.
Random fact: Carl Sandburg had Nubian goats
in his mountain home in Flat Rock, NC.
They're from African descent.

Lillian: As I duck under the clothes line, I smile at the maid and wrap Eileen’s rope around my wrist. Her skin is the color of sand and up close I see her hair is nappy at the roots and her nose is flared. If a body’s not looking close, she’d pass for white. I’ve never seen a colored gal with green eyes like mine.

I've been studying pictures on Pinterest until my eyes blur. Here are two contenders for Lillian, although neither are quite right. The first is the correct time period, and I'm thinking the young woman at the top right has Lillian's skin tone, but I picture her hair to be longer, like one of the two young women on the bottom. 

Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban with civil rights heroine Daisy Bates and the “Little Rock Nine,” at New York’s Imperial Theater on June 13, 1958. Horne and Montalban were starring in the musical, Jamaica at the theater.

Wrong time period, but this is Anita Florence Hemmings
who passed for white in order to attend
Vasser in 1893.

Ginny: In Journalism the next day, I’m hoping that Ginny figured out that I’m not a good gossip gal and that I’d be re-assigned back to the News staff. No such luck. She simply smiles sweetly and tells me I can have another chance by reporting on the fall festival. “Make sure you write up all the booths real well,” she says. Her sweeter than honey smile doesn’t fool me. “By any chance has your grandmother talked to Mrs. Tillett since your luncheon? I do hope she doesn’t forget to visit my booth!”
The girl seated on the left could
be Ginny. As long as her hair is red.

Robert: Robert is still avoiding me. Boys! If he didn’t keep slicking down his cow lick in that dang cute way he has—I’d write him out of my life too.
If the boy sitting down with the football had a cow lick,
this would be a great picture of Robert.
(Ad is dated 1952. Perfect!)

7. Who is the funniest character
Maggie, Kate's younger sister:

I stare at great-grandfather Jeremiah’s portrait over the fireplace and Maggie follows my gaze. “I’ll be flabberdoozled! Look it, Frank. That’s you!”
“Flabberdoozled?” Granddaddy repeats. He bites his bottom lip but his laughing eyes gives him away. 

“You know, Granddaddy!” Maggie looks at him impatiently. “Flabbergasted and bamboozled. Flabberdoozled!”

Smartest character? Lillian.

Quirkiest character? Eileen.

8. How do you come up with names?

I flip through books like these:

as well as websites like this one on civil war names. 

9. Are any characters influenced by someone in your life?

Lots. But I'd prefer to keep their identities secret. (You never know when someone will come up to you and say, "You really didn't write about me, did you?")

Here are my fellow bloggers in this Shared WIP Tag. I hope you'll check out their characters too. You'll find some doozies!


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