Good News from the Online Author Visits Team


Martha Brockenbrough’s novel, THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, won a Washington State Book Award. She also spoke at the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book, and completed the manuscript for a biography of Alexander Hamilton that will be out in 2017.

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Dori Hillestad Butler has several cover reveals to share. First, HAUNTED LIBRARY #9: THE GHOSTS AT THE MOVIE THEATER (Grosset & Dunlap, Spring 2017) and HAUNTED LIBRARY #10: THE UNDERGROUND GHOSTS (Grosset & Dunlap, Summer 2017), which is a “Super Special” (that means it’s half again as long as previous books) and will conclude the series.

Dori also has a new easy reader series launching with Peachtree Publishers in 2017. The King & Kayla books are a prequel to her popular BUDDY FILES series.

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Chickens hatch holiday hilarity! Janet Lee Carey’s new picture book, THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: STARRING THE CHICKENS (Caney Creek Books, October 2016) Illustrated by Molly Blaisdell  is out just in time for the holidays. Grand gifts given on each day of Christmas will delight all chicken lovers. Gentle warmth and humor will wrap families and friends in the joy of Christmas. Contact Janet to schedule a singalong Skype!

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Clare Hodgson Meeker teamed up with bestselling crime author Elizabeth George to teach a sold-out, one day writing class at Hugo House earlier this month called Building a Mystery. Beginning with the question, What is a mystery?, Clare used a just-published picture book called Bonesville to illustrate the elements of a traditional mystery and talk about how to use these element in outlining your story:
1) A secret, strange problem or crime that has to be explained or solved;
2)  A tight, fast-paced plot from beginning to end with lots of problems, twists and turns;
3) Suspense is key: lots of conflict involving characters readers care about to make them want to find out what happens next;
4) Clues to help solve the mystery and red herrings to throw them off course;
5) Setting that triggers the story idea and sets the mood for the mystery ( note to self: a great focus for writers to gather details when on an exotic vacation);
6) Characters who already have full lives before the mystery and live on after it is solved; and
7) A theme or nugget of human wisdom that is illuminated by the story. An example from Bonesville: If you know what you fear, you’ll fear it less.
a page from Bonesville written by Jean-Luc Fromental and published by AbramsKids
Elizabeth George focused on character and setting in the afternoon. She begins to envision each of her Inspector Lynley mystery novels by creating a place for the novel and characters who fit in to that place. She then imagines scenes where characters will be placed in conflict and begins to outline a story from there. She gave a wonderful writing exercise to illustrate how Character is Story:
1) She gave the class 4 characters –  a man 25 years old; a woman 86 years old; a boy 7 years old; and a girl 16 years old 0- and asked us to name each character.
2) Does anything about these names suggest the first inklings of a story?
3) Can you make a connection between the characters?
4) Think about characters lives before the crime or “primary event” as she called it.
5) Once their lives start touching on each other, you are already creating story. And as the characters are created, they will tell you what the story will be.
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Dana Sullivan was just informed that his VERY FIRST royalty check from Sleeping Bear Press is on the way! It’s for illustrating DIGGER AND DAISY GO ON A PICNIC, which published in 2014. Fellow Online Author Trudi Trueit is kindly showing Dana the ropes by letting him know the tradition of using your first royalty check to take all your author pals for dinner. He says maybe this one will be a picnic.
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twotruthsandalie-hc-convertedLaurie Ann Thompson is thrilled to be able to announce her next book, TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE: IT’S ALIVE!, which was co-authored with Ammi-Joan Paquette and will release onJune 27, 2017, from Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins! Mia Wenjen over at the awesome book blog Pragmatic Mom hosted a cover reveal and some sneak peeks at this fun middle-grade nonfiction/fiction hybrid, which will be the first in a series. “Every story in this book is strange and astounding. But not all of them are real. Just like the old game in this book’s title, two out of every three stories are completely true, and one is an outright lie. Can you guess which is which? It’s not going to be easy. Some false stories are based on truth, and some of the true stories are just plain unbelievable. And they’re all accompanied by dozens of photos, maps, and illustrations. Amaze yourself and trick your friends as you sort out the fakes from the facts!

wsba_logo_2014Also, she was honored to have EMMANUEL’S DREAM be celebrated as a Washington State Book Award finalist for the 2016 Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award in the Picture Book category! The book awards are given based on the strength of the publications’ literary merit, their lasting importance, and their overall quality to an author who was born in Washington state or is a current resident and has maintained residence there for at least three years.
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Trudi Trueit has put on her crafty hat with the release of two new nonfiction titles for early readers: BIRTHDAY CRAFTS & MOTHER’S DAY CRAFTS (The Child’s World). These titles are great for educators and parents looking for easy, fun, and affordable project ideas for children, ages 6 and up. Each book offers a brief history of the holiday, followed by a series of crafts with complete instructions and materials list. P.S.Trudi worked in a craft store in high school and can make pretty much anything out of Popsicle sticks!




Back in the days before the emergence of Skype and other magical methods for getting a writer’s face in front of young readers (and writers), back when school budgets and curricula had more room for “frivolous” stuff like hearing from and talking to the author of a book that students have read and enjoyed, I did a lot of in-person school visits. I got to see places I would never have otherwise gone. I got to experience all kinds of towns, neighborhoods, schools, teachers, librarians, administrators, parents. But the most enjoyable and memorable part for me, unsurprisingly, was meeting the kids.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that although the schools wanted their students to “get” something from my presentations, and I wanted to accommodate them, most of the kids just wanted to have fun. So I developed ways to wrap the “serious” information I gave them—writing stuff, research stuff, book stuff, publishing stuff, even personal stuff (“How old are you, anyway?”)—in fun activities. I put together slide shows that were (and are) partly tongue-in-cheek, I came up with skits, and lighthearted exercises, and games, and audience participation activities, and book giveaways, and question-and answer sessions. All the while, of course, I’d be sneaking in “real” writer-related inside information for the students who were seriously interested and the adults who were just plain serious.

Part of my slide show presentation has always touched on briefly showing and talking about my books. This was true even in the early days, when slides were really slides, riding around on a Kodak Carousel. Not long after my first book, SOMEONE WAS WATCHING, was published, the German rights were bought by a German publisher. Soon the book was published in Germany with a new cover and a German-language title. A box of the German editions arrived on my doorstep one day. So in my presentations I began showing photos of the US and German covers and telling the kids that it was exciting to know that my book was being read thousands of miles away across the ocean by young readers who read and speak only German. I’d ask them to tell me which cover they liked better, and tell them that the German title, NEIMAND HAT ETWAS GESEHEN, was obviously German for SOMEONE WAS WATCHING. Serious writer information.

It wasn’t until after several years of using this self-assured bit of show-and-tell that I visited a middle school where a teacher in the audience brought me up short and caused me to revise my future presentations. In a good way. More story. More humor. And I still got to use my two book cover slides. It turned out that the teacher was a German-language speaker. And reader. So she didn’t have to take the word of a know-nothing author about what NEIMAND HAT ETWAS GESEHEN means. She raised her hand and stood up and told me (and the audience) in her authoritative teacher-voice that the German publisher had pretty much turned the title of SOMEONE WAS WATCHING upside down. What those four foreign (to me) words actually mean, she said, is NOBODY SAW ANYTHING.

Funny, right? The audience (kids, especially) thought so. So did I. And from that point on, the story I told was still about the German edition and the two covers and the two titles, but it was also about what I’d mistakenly assumed and what I learned from a teacher that set me straight, because that’s what teachers do. And that’s one of the great things about being a writer and writing and doing research and figuring out how it’s all going to come together. Sometimes you think you know something about the world or a story or a character or yourself and then all of a sudden you realize you don’t. The truth lies somewhere else. And you need to go another direction. And serendipity happens.


Much like the sometimes imprecise translation of one language to another, the format and content of in-person school visits don’t translate precisely to the format and content of online visits. But that’s not necessarily a criticism. For instance, a prima donna author (there are a few) on the other end of a Skype connection can’t demand a lunch of organic greens and line-caught Chinook salmon sushi and French sparkling water served at exactly thirty-eight degrees. More important, the kids still “get” something from online visits. The information comes through; the inspiration comes through; the smiles come through; the fun comes through. And if that prima donna author begins tooting his own horn too loudly, the teacher/librarian can simply turn down the volume.