Writers are often told to write what we know rather than pretending to be in someone else’s shoes. I’m not sure how I feel about this. For the most part I get what it means, but I also think one can completely immerse themselves into a different lifestyle, time, place, or even person, especially if a lot of research is involved. For myself, my characters and their situations are completely made-up, but I do tend to add in things that connect to my real life. Take for example, my upcoming book, Roller Boy. I was trying to figure out where the whole idea came from and then thought, well, I do love Mexican food, and like Mateo, I take it gluten-free. Sorry if you’re reading this before lunch.As for roller-skating, I’m not good at all and I can’t remember the last time I skated, but I did enjoy whirling to the music as a teen and even attempted it again briefly as an adult when my children were involved. Watching them learn to skate well and do tricks was way better than risking my own life. At left, a picture of me, ha in my dreams! And here’s the necklace I’ll be wearing for my book release.As for Call Me Amy, there are several connections, the biggest being location. My grandparents lived on the Maine coast in a fishing village very similar to where Amy lives.Miss Cogshell, a character in Call Me Amy has a big ol’ lilac bush next to her back door and so do I.
Also, in Call Me Amy, Amy watches a seal take off for the ocean. After the book came out, I made sure I witnessed a seal release, too.Miss Cogshell collects miniature animals, which brought back memories of my mother’s own long-ago collection of them (and I think she still has them!).Amy’s Choice, a sequel to Call Me Amy, features a landscape painter and not only have I done some painting, but my great grandmother was a painter, too. Here’s one of her works:There is much talk about a lighthouse in Amy’s Choice, along with a tour to the top. Like Amy, I love lighthouses, too.In Amy’s Choice, Amy helps out in the town library, kind of like me! OK, maybe not this particular library, but isn’t it adorable?I’m sure if I thought about it long enough I could come up with more connections between my life and my characters’ lives, as I’m sure any author could. But, I think, what it comes down to is ‘writing what you know’ means more about the truths and emotions of life. We’ve all experienced loss, love, excitement, disappointment and a host of other emotions. To write about these feelings truthfully, whether your story is about a frog or about a leader of a foreign country is the heart of writing what you know. You don’t have to be a knight to know what it might feel like to wear that suit of armor and face a fire-breathing dragon, even if your only experience is with a scratchy sweater and a campfire.So, if you like animal stories with a coming-of-age character, set in a scenic coastal village, try Call Me Amy. To see that same character go through more adventures, such as climbing to the top of a lighthouse and setting up an exhibit of paintings, while making new friends, follow up with Amy’s Choice. And if you’re ready for a city boy who’s out to make the most of himself while practicing the fun sport of roller-skating, try Roller Boy, too! All are appropriate for ages 9 and up!
I am so excited to share the cover illustration for my upcoming novel geared toward readers aged 9 to 14. Roller Boy will be released by Fitzroy Books in late September. After working on the inside text for so many months (years!) I have to admit I was nervous about how the cover would turn out. Months ago I’d discussed possible ideas with my publisher—things I liked and things I didn’t like about covers. One idea in particular had caught my fancy, a wraparound city scene. But then I didn’t hear anything more, and didn’t see sketches. What would they come up with for Roller Boy? I wondered.
Covers are so important and there are some that just don’t work, either because they are poorly executed and designed, goofy cartoons aimed at the wrong age group, or the main character looks totally unlike how he is described in the book, or…, well, you get my point, the possible problems are endless. Would this be my new cover?Or how about this one? At least it shows a roller skate…As you can see, there are all sorts of ghastly possibilities when it comes to covers. BUT, I’m happy to say…I LOVE the completed Roller Boy cover!
First, here’s the back cover blurb:
Mateo always assumed he’d make the baseball team with his buddy Jason, but when only Jason makes the team, his mood sinks low. So low, he knows he has to do something about it. But what? What can he be good at?
When Mateo wins free lessons, he discovers he’s pretty good at roller-skating. And it doesn’t hurt that the most beautiful girl he’s ever laid eyes on happens to be Roller City’s star skater. But still, roller-skating? No way can Jason find out Mateo is whirling around in girly skates–anybody halfway to cool would be hanging at a skate park, on boards or blades.
Other issues stacked against him are the strong reservations of his mother, who feels Mateo should be spending his time studying, not skating, and his inability to eat gluten—no more grabbing a pizza with the guys.
Despite these conflicts, Mateo keeps his sense of humor and channels his innermost strength into an incredible ride on roller skates that just might take him all the way to regionals.
Here it is!
And the beautiful full cover spread:
What do you think? I can’t stop looking at it and all I can say is thanks to Fitzroy Books for producing such a gorgeous cover!
The next step in this exciting process will be my publisher sending out Advance Reader’s Copies to various major review sites. Please cross your fingers that they’ll enjoy reading about Mateo and his wild ride on roller skates, and as always, thanks for your interest and support!
We’ve all heard we have to “get into the chair” to accomplish our work. We’ve also all heard we have to “walk 10,000 steps” to stay healthy. ‘They’ say that sitting is the new smoking—yikes. Since there are only so many hours in a day, how can we possibly achieve this on a daily basis?
I’ll be the first to admit there’s no way I can squeeze in 10,000 steps, on vacation, easy, but every day, no way. BUT, I can do less, 7,000 if I push it. And I think getting up out of the chair frequently is just as important. This is not as easy as it sounds. Especially if there’s a deadline looming, whether real or self-imposed.
I’m finding if I plan on taking a long walk, it looms over me. I’ll tell myself just one more paragraph, just one social media comment. But, if I break it up into several short walks (which in the long run is healthier than all at once anyway), it seems much easier to accomplish. And I often come back with new insight on whatever writing problem I may have been trying to tackle.
Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. Ralph Waldo Emerson
If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. Hippocrates
It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. Socrates
We do not stop exercising because we grow old – we grow old because we stop exercising. Kenneth Cooper
Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. John F. Kennedy
Some of us have tried setting a timer to get ourselves writing, maybe we need to do it all day long—thirty minutes in the chair, thirty minutes out, etc.
What do you think? Do you have any tips on getting your work done AND keeping fit at the same time?
Congratulations to all the winners for this year’s ALA awards! There are so many wonderful new books released each year and it’s certainly not easy to stand out in the crowd. Here are a few winners from the children’s books categories who did stand out.
John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: Hello, Universe written by Erin Entrada Kelly, is the 2018 Newbery Medal winner. A funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships. The book is published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: Wolf in the Snow, illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell is the 2018 Caldecott Medal winner. A heartwarming adventure about helping others. The book was published by Feiwel and Friends, an Imprint of Macmillan.
Coretta Scott King Book Awards recognizing African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults: Piecing Me Together, written by Renée Watson, is the King Author Award winner. A timely, important, and deeply moving novel. The book is published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.
Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award to affirm new talent: The Stars Beneath Our Feet, written by David Barclay Moore, is the Steptoe Author Award winner. A debut novel that celebrates community and creativity–soon to be a movie. The book is published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults: We Are Okay, written by Nina LaCour, is the 2018 Printz Award winner. A beautiful story about grief and the power of friendship. The book is published by Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.
Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience:
Silent Days, Silent Dreams, written and illustrated by Allen Say and published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an Imprint of Scholastic Inc., wins the award for young children (ages 0 to 8).
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, written by Shari Green and published by Pajama Press Inc., is the winner for middle grades (ages 9-13).
You’re Welcome, Universe, written and illustrated by Whitney Gardner and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC is the winner for teens (ages 14-18).
Each of the above mentioned prestigious prizes has honorable mentions, as well. There were also lifetime achievement awards and other honors announced today. For the complete listing, click here.
Congratulations again to everyone involved in the business of making beautiful books for children.