Monday, August 27, 2018

Fundamental STEPS to Writing Historical Fiction-- Highlights 2018

Congratulations to Joyce Hostetter who won THE HERO TWO DOORS DOWN and to Clara Gillow Clark who won PACO'S PAINTBRUSH. Clara Gillow Clark is the blogger from whom I won FOOD FIGHT FIESTA. (And no, I didn't rig the contest. always picks my winners!)

Several weeks ago when I blogged about teaching at Write 2 Ignite, I mentioned that I have another opportunity to teach this fall. I'm thrilled to share that I'll be part of the faculty for Highlights Foundation's Historical Fiction Workshop led by my friend and mentor, Joyce Hostetter

Following the acronym STEPS, this is what Joyce and her team will cover:

STORY: Finding stories embedded in history and embedding history into our stories.

TIME: Allowing the historical era to shape characters, dialogue, actions, and more. Lila Weaver will present a talk on going from an eyewitness to a story teller.

EXPERTS: Seeking insight from archivists, specialists, eyewitnesses, and survivors. This is MY talk!! (I guess Joyce decided that after hearing my excitement over finding each new expert for Half-Truths, she would have me share my experience with others.)

PLACE: Infusing the story with a sense of locality and culture. This talk is by Julie Chibbaro.

SOURCES: Researching history and documenting resources.


Check the schedule and you'll see that besides talks on these subjects, participants will meet one on one with Joyce. They will have time to work on their manuscript and receive input from the faculty and other attendees. Carolyn Yoder, Joyce's editor, will also join the group for a question and answer session. 

 If you don't know Joyce, then here's the link to the Highlights blog where she talks about her journey as an historical fiction novelist. It's always fun to hear how she wrote BLUE without a thought that it would turn into a series. DRIVE is coming out this fall and Joyce is now writing her fifth book in the Bakers Mountain Series!

If you want to make history come alive to middle grade or young adult readers, then this is the workshop for you. To read more about the workshop and enter the great giveaways that Joyce is offering, click here for the special newsletter on the workshop. 

Hurry! The workshop is limited to eight students and is filling up--but Joyce and I would love to see you there too!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Paintbrush for Paco: Backstory, Picture Book Review, and Giveaway

I'm getting ready to fly up to Philadelphia to visit my new grandson and want to give away another book before I do. This is a short giveaway--I'm drawing the winner on Saturday so the book can be mailed out the following Monday. Get your comments to me ASAP!

Two years ago I was fortunate to attend Highlights Summer Camp and met a number of great writers who are now publishing their books. YEAH! A PAINTBRUSH FOR PACO is by one of my fellow campers, Tracey Kyle. (little bee books, 2018).


Here's a word from Tracey on her journey:

I was totally unprepared when I switched from teaching high school Spanish to teaching middle school.  I quickly found out that I needed to mix up my instruction by assigning more creative projects and doing less traditional testing to assess their skills. 
That was the seed for A PAINTBRUSH FOR PACO: a book that celebrates kids’ creativity and honors their need for movement and activity.  My students began asking me, “When’s the next project?” They welcomed the chance to draw, design and color. They were calmer in class and happier overall.

A PAINTBRUSH FOR PACO underwent countless revisions over a two-year period, but the main theme of the book never changed. I worked on it for two years in between grading papers and preparing lessons, sometimes getting up at 4:00 a.m. so I could think before the chaos of the day.  I brought it to two summer camps at the Highlights Foundation, and revised it with their insightful and talented faculty.  I sent it out to my critique partners. Even after my awesome agent, Jennifer Unter, sold it to little bee, I continued revising until the editors were happy. I grew so attached to PACO that he felt like one of my students. When I saw Joshua Heinsz’s brilliant illustrations, I knew PACO was (finally!) ready.


Paco has a problem. In school, he would rather be outside pretending he is a matador,

or drawing a picture.

Fortunately for him, his Profesor is very understanding.

Paco is thrilled to discover the art classroom where he can paint and create as much as he wants. 
Azul. the blue in a beautiful sky. Blanco. the white in the clouds floating by. Amarillo, the rays of the sun shine bright. 

After being complimented by his teacher, Paco realizes he is a painter. 

Later that night, Paco crawled into bed, a palette of colors swirling in his head. Negro y blanco, azul y rosado. Rojo y verde y anaranjado.

The book is told in lovely rhyme and the bright, bold illustrations by Joshua Henisz will make the story stick in a reader's mind. The book includes an author's note on the importance of encouraging creativity in children, and a glossary. This book is perfect for a K-first grade classroom. 


To enter, please leave me a comment by Saturday August 25. DON'T FORGET: Leave your email address if you don't think I have it. 


PACO'S PAINTBRUSH is Tracey's third book. I won FOOD FIGHT FIESTA from Clara Gillow Clark's blog and it's packed in my suitcase for my grandson's big sister and her mother who is also a Spanish teacher.  I hope you'll hop on over to Clara's blog to check out this fun book too. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Hero Two Doors Down: A Review and Audio Book Giveaway

Congratulations to Jo Lyn Worden who won JUNK and to Dorothy Price who won BULLY.


The Hero Two Doors Down is perfectly titled. Written by Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson's daughter, this fictionalized account of eight-year-old Steven Satlo's friendship with his hero, is a book that elementary age boys and girls will enjoy.

The year is 1948 and baseball is king. In New York, you are either a Yankees or Dodgers fan and Steve and his father share a great passion for the Dodgers. The author paints an authentic picture of the time period: neighbors sitting out on their front stoops listening to the game on the radio, going to an opening game as a huge occasion for a young boy, and school chums playing stickball together. Although Sharon Robinson says this is a work of fiction, it is based on the stories which Sharon heard her mother and Steve's mother tell. 

Central to the book is Steve's excitement when he hears that Jackie Robinson, his hero, is moving onto his street  Although this section of Brooklyn had been primarily a Jewish neighborhood, the Robinson family is one of the first black families to integrate the area. When some neighbors protest, Steve learns valuable lessons about prejudice from his father. 

Steve is thrilled when Jackie accompanies him to the school yard and teaches his peers how to slide home, provides tickets to a game for his class, as well as when he is invited to decorate the Robinson's Christmas tree. Since he's Jewish, this was a first time experience for Steve. A misunderstanding ensues when Jackie and his wife Rachel buy the Satlow's a Christmas tree--not knowing their friends are Jewish. 

In many ways Jackie Robinson was a role model and inspiration to Steve. Jackie had a rough childhood and encouraged Steve to solve problems peaceably and not with force. The two were lifetime friends and Jackie comforted and encouraged Steve after his father died. 

Chris Andrew Cuilla and Lisa Renee' Pitts both did a great job as narrators. This book would be a good classroom resource for third and fourth graders. 

To entice you, here is an audio snippet of the book and the trailer, narrated by Sharon Robinson.

Younger children will like the picture book Jackie's Gift: A Baseball Tale for the Holidays also by Sharon Robinson.


Leave me a comment by August 23 and your email address if you are new to my blog. If you share this on social media or become a new follower of my blog I'll enter your name in the giveaway twice. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Two New Picture Books--Two Giveaways!

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press, I receive their new picture books. This is good news for all of you--more picture books to give away!


What kid (or adult, for that matter) wouldn't be drawn to a book with the title of Junk

Where most people see trash, Sylvia Samantha Wright sees possibilities. But even she doesn't always see what the trash can be turned into--she just knows it's something. She collects leaky tires, a pack of gum with a few sticks left, empty paint cans, discarded pipes and motors. Each time, she's questioned what she's going to do with the discarded trash she answers, "I'm working on something."

But she really has no idea what she's going to do with her stuff. An encounter with Ezekiel Mather changes everything. He reassures her that she will indeed, discover what she needs to know. 

When the community's water tower springs a leak, the mayor finds herself with a serious problem.

A problem, that only Sylvia--and her junk--can fix. 

Written by Nicholas Day with whimsical illustrations by Tom Disbury, this adorable picture book will entertain and educate kids and adults. With a positive slant on creative recycling, this book is a great curriculum resource for ages 4-8.


A bullfrog named BULLY. Why didn't I think of that? I guess because author illustrator Jennifer Sattler did! 

True to his name, Bully takes over a pond full of lovely lilies. He commanders everything from the lily's beautiful fragrance to the blossoms themselves. When a bee comes along and informs him that he's squashing the last remaining flower and Bully dismisses him, the bee has an idea. 

Suddenly, the bee, along with his insect friends, out-maneuver Bully. 

He's forced to leave his precious lily pad

and find a new home. 

In a humorous manner Sattler shows what happens when people bully others. Kids--and adults--will get the message.

Sattler closes this book, another great classroom resource for pre-school through second graders, with several suggestions on how children can exercise kindness.

Here's a lily pond that Bully would love!
(Although he might have to share it with a few gators)
The Villages, Florida 

Please leave a comment by August 16 with your email address if you are new to my blog and let me know which book you prefer to win. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Coming Up on Write 2 Ignite!

Congratulations to Deb Allmand who won the Audio book of Between the Lines on last week's blog.

I'm excited about several upcoming teaching opportunities. In September I'll be presenting three workshops at the Write2Ignite ConferenceGeared towards Christian writers who want to write for the children's and young adult market, as well as to teen writers, Write2Ignite is a day and a half of learning, networking and encouragement. 

I hope these teasers will inspire you--or a writer you know--to register for the conference.

Strangers in a Strange Land

In Exodus 2:22. Moses named his son Gershom because he was a stranger in a strange land. As Christians, in some ways, we are also "strangers" in the secular publishing world. 

How do we honor Christ as writers in a largely non-Christian domain? What is our calling as Christian writers? What is our privilege?  How do we fit in--or don't fit in--to the secular publishing world? There are no easy answers. But in this interactive workshop we’ll examine ourselves, what this "strange" land is, the ways we can integrate our faith into our writing, and our presence in the secular world.

Fiction Writing (Teen Track)

I love teaching teens--they have out-of-this-world ideas for their characters and plots. True, sometimes their lack of inhibition has to be tempered by plausibility--but their enthusiasm is contagious and inspirational! 

For my part, I'll teach them to,
  • Exercise their muscle words (all groans aside, this does involve actual EXERCISE!).
  • How and why writers need to use mentor texts.
  • How the red pencil is their best friend.
  • How to jazz up their writing through "Show, Don’t Tell."
  • How details make the difference when crafting genre fiction.

Writing Historical Fiction

I love historical fiction almost as much as I love teaching teens! 😁

This hands-on workshop will include: 

  • RResearch. Should you read newspapers? Magazines? Books? Fiction or nonfiction? Microfilm? How do you know when your research is done? 
  • EExperts. How to find experts for your story? What do you ask? How do you use your expert's story to inform yours?
  • AArrange. Create a system to keep track of notes, interviews, and photos. 
  • DDetails and Drafts. What details do you need to create an authentic story? How do you move from rough drafts to honing on your story?

If you plan to attend this workshop, please bring your favorite historical novel. If you're working on a project, bring one or two pages of your work.


Please share this post with a writer or teen who might be interested in attending the conference. And stay tuned. In a few weeks I'll share my other teaching opportunity coming up in October!

GIRL ON FIRE: A Graphic Novel Review by Guest Blogger, Elliott Kurta

Written by a Grammy-winning musician,  Girl on Fire  is Alicia Keys ’ latest project. Aimed at mature middle-schoolers, this graphic novel i...