Thursday, January 29, 2015

Winning A Crystal Kite!

At the Miami SCBWI Conference, my book THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL was awarded the Crystal Kite Award for the Southeast Region. Chris Cheng, who is the originator of the Crystal Kite Awards, made the the presentation. Our Regional Advisor, Linda Bernfeld looks on:

The award is in the shape of a kite and comes with white gloves so you don't smudge the crystal. Here's a closer look at it:

A big thank you to everyone who read and voted for JESSIE. I appreciate it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Raising A Reader

I met Aimee Reid, author of MAMA'S DAY WITH LITTLE GRAY, at the Miami SCBWI Conference.

Aimee asked me to write a post for her blog on raising a reader. I took her up on that challenge because my son is a voracious reader, and I knew it would be fun to reflect on all the reasons why. Hop over to Aimee's blog to read my thoughts on Raising A Reader.

Friday, December 5, 2014

104th Annual NCTE Convention

The NCTE conference was held at the Gaylord Resort and Conference Center. I snapped this picture in the Atrium.

I was on a panel called, "Linking Young Adult Literature and Non-Fiction," with authors Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Lisa Luedeke, and Jacqueline Woodson. After each author spoke, educators Barry Gilmore, ReLeah Cossett Lent, Jennifer Buehler, and Joan Kaywell presented ways to use our books in the classroom. Here's a description of our session:

Join popular YA authors and literacy experts for this session that links YA literature to nonfiction texts. Hook students through storytelling, and they will become motivated to discover more. Participants will learn how fiction can lead students into deeper reading and expanded study through inquiry, research, writing, and speaking.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti spoke about her non-fiction titles. Her newest book is TERRIBLE TYPHOID MARY.

My topic was how I research historical fiction. I talked about how my process for THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL differed from the process for my forthcoming novel, CAROLINA GIRLS. It's all a matter of how much knowledge you have beforehand, as to whether research or writing comes first.

Lisa Luedeke shared how contemporary fiction can be used to broaden classroom discussions about hot topics like bullying, underage drinking, and parental neglect. 

And coming off her National Book Award win from the night before, Jacqueline Woodson wowed the crowd by reading from her book, BROWN GIRL DREAMING.

Jacqueline's poetry and rich reading voice were the perfect way to end our session. 

I spent the rest of my time at NCTE learning. I attended as many sessions as I could fit in watching authors like Kate Messner, Varian Johnson, Linda Mullally Hunt, Augusta Scattergood, Erin Dionne, Linda Urban, Christopher Paul Curtis, and many more. NCTE is truly a "writers' bucket list" experience.

Happy Holidays to all, and I hope you'll add lots of books to your shopping lists!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Putting the Personal In History - Augusta Scattergood and Shannon Hitchcock

A photo with Augusta Scattergood following our presentation, Putting the Personal in History, at the Bloomingdale Public Library in Valrico, Florida.

Here's the official description:


Augusta Scattergood and
Shannon Hitchcock

Saturday, November 1, 2014
2:00-4:00 p.m.
Bloomingdale Public Library
1906 Bloomingdale Ave.
Valrico, FL 33596-6204

In this session, Augusta Scattergood and Shannon Hitchcock will reveal how they used events that were up close and personal to write their Crystal Kite Award-winning novels GLORY BE and THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, as well as their current works-in-progress. Augusta and Shannon will interview each other to reveal how writing what you love, finding the hook, and careful research can benefit any manuscript, not just historical fiction. I like to think of this session as dueling banjos, but with books.

Augusta and Shannon will also dialog about how to find your story's heart. And will share the best writing advice they ever received, as an extra added treat. Plus there will be some fantastic door prizes, including a book bag full of brand new books!

Bring your writing notebooks, pens, and ideas for your own stories and we'll brainstorm together in this interactive session.

Augusta Scattergood's next book, THE WAY TO STAY IN DESTINY, will be released by Scholastic in January 2015. Learn more about Augusta at her website. Shannon Hitchcock's next book is entitled CAROLINA GIRLS and will also be released by Scholastic. Learn more about Shannon at her website.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

I recently heard Deborah Wiles speak at the SCBWI Orlando Conference, and was thrilled to get an autographed copy of her latest novel.  This is from the book jacket:

It's 1964, and Sunny's town is being invaded. Or at least that's what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote. They're calling it Freedom Summer.

REVOLUTION has an unusual format. It's part novel and part scrapbook. In my opinion, that's the book's greatest strength and greatest weakness. I can absolutely see that the black and white photos make a great tool for classrooms. On the other hand, stopping to read a nine-page essay about Cassius Clay, (Muhammed Ali), took me out of the story at hand.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. But with this caveat: Skip all of the photos and essays and read the novel straight through. Then go back and study all of the extra material. It really is fascinating and worth the time, just not when you're trying to become engrossed in a novel.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Ballad of Jessie Pearl Featured on SCBWI Blog

Lee Wind posted a very nice interview with me about winning the Crystal Kite Award for the southeast region. You can read it on the Official SCBWI Blog:

And in case you missed it, I wrote an article for Writers Digest called Writing Historical Fiction Based on a Family Story. You can read it here:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Remembering Cynthia Chapman Willis

Cynthia Chapman Willis

I worried when Cindy died about what would happen to her stories. Over the past couple of years, I had critiqued two novels that she had been working on, but never got the chance to finish. I shouldn't have worried. Cindy took care of her manuscripts by leaving them to her dear friend and  colleague, Wiley Blevins. Wiley got right to work using Cindy's notes and his long history of collaborating with her. When Wiley finished, he gave me the privilege of being the final person to critique Cindy's manuscript. I had such a good time doing so. It was like being given the opportunity to spend one more day with her. Cindy's voice spoke to me on every page. I remembered our many conversations about her love for animals and wanting to write a high concept book. I truly believe that A Fighting Chance has evolved into the manuscript that Cindy envisioned. Wiley shared with me that Cindy said, "One of the things I mind most about dying is that I have so many stories yet to tell." I hope she has the opportunity to tell at least one more.

In addition to working on Cindy's manuscript, Wiley himself has a new novel out called, The Healing of Harold Lily. He describes it as a "hillbilly Romeo and Juliet." I recently purchased a copy and can't wait to read it.

Best of luck to Wiley on selling Cindy's manuscript and in garnering sales for his new book!