David Patneaude, Author of the Month: A Step Forward with Fast Backward

If I were a Great Plains farmer who’d endured a genuine dry spell like the metaphorical one I’ve experienced over the past seven years, I’d be short on wheat, deep in debt, and unwashed. I’d be staring at the sky and into the mirror, wary of locusts and meteorites and plagues. Fortunately, none of that applies to me. Fortunately, I live in a figurative world. And right now, I’m just grateful that that metaphorical drought has almost ended.

I’ve hung in there—and reached (finally!) the end of my own personal water shortage—for lots of reasons: resolve, persistence, stubbornness, pride, the need to exercise my imagination, an addiction to writing, thick-skinned-ness, self-confidence, serendipity, and maybe last but certainly not least, luck. The result: This summer my new YA novel, tentatively titled FAST BACKWARD, will be published by Koehler Books.

I’m excited. Although I’d previously published ten successful books with traditional publishing houses, there were times during that knocking-my-head-against-a-wall period when I wondered if it would happen again. But those attributes or flaws or whatever you might call them (noted above) kept me going. I never considered quitting. I cranked out stories and revised others I’d been working on for years. I now have at least half a dozen that I believe are publishable, and I still hope to get them in front of publishers, and ultimately, readers. They’re YA and middle grade, realistic and fantasy and sci-fi, prose and poetry, contemporary and historical. I might even have a picture book or two in the mix.

I’m particularly proud of FAST BACKWARD, a story I’ve been working on for three years or more. It’s World War II–era, so it required a good deal of research (contrary to some folks’ opinions, I wasn’t around to observe the events as they unfolded), including a fact-finding trip to New Mexico. It also required a lot of thought and what-if-ing and organizing and revision and more revision and more research and a self-enforced ritual of routinely planting my rear end in a chair to get the words I wanted down and in the proper order.

Whenever I get a request to do an online (or in-person) author visit to a school or classroom, it’s because a teacher or her (or his) students (or both) have read one of my books and want to dig deeper into it. They want to get the story behind the story. Where did you get the idea? Why did you make the story end this way? Will there be a sequel? Where did you get the characters’ names? Do you have a favorite character? How long did it take you to write it?

And then the old standbys: What’s your favorite book you wrote? Do you ever put yourself in a story? Have you met any famous (interpretation: real) authors? What is (fill in the name) doing now? (This is one of my favorites because it tells me that for this young reader, that fictitious character has come alive.) Then there’s the kid who believes she or he has come up with a subtle approach to finding out how old I am. It goes something like this: “You told us SOMEONE WAS WATCHING was published in 1993 and that it took you four years to write it and get it published, so how old were you when you started writing it?”

But kids don’t want to know only about me and my books they’ve already read. They want to know what I’m working on now, and what’s it about, and when it will be published. During my “dry spell,” I could tell them what I was working on and what the various stories were about. They’d get excited. They’d ask when that book about the alien creature, or the murder mystery, or the girl who’d gone missing, or the girl with powers, or the other girl with powers, was going to be published. “When can I buy it?” they’d say. “When will it be in our school library?” And I had to tell them I didn’t know. I had to tell them I was trying hard to make it happen, but much of the decision-making process was out of my hands.

Now I’m thrilled to be able to tell them I’ve got a book coming out in six months or less, and even to a kid that doesn’t seem like forever. I can tell them it’s got time travel in it, and war, and atomic bombs, and prejudice, and empathy, and two smart and brave and generous kids who take it on themselves to try to save the world.

I’m looking forward to working through the rest of the editing back-and-forth, and seeing the cover, and launching the book out into the world. And getting questions—fresh ones—from young readers.

—David Patneaude

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Around the Web with OAV Authors: November 2017

This month, our Online Author Visits crew is reflecting on the books we’ve launched this year and feeling thankful for our young readers, our blog followers, and the gracious hosts who invite us to visit their classrooms, libraries, and other venues.

Thank you all for your support!

November 2017 Around the Web
A sampling of our 2017 books and speaking engagements.

Erik Brooks, Author of the Month: Visual Literacy Visits

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Visual Literacy: The ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image, extending the meaning of literacy, which commonly signifies interpretation of a written or printed text.

Once upon a time, as a newly certified K–12 art teacher (c. 1995) who in three years of job searching and subbing only ever found a single full-time art teaching application opportunity, I ultimately turned my artistic interests to picture books. I haven’t really looked back, except to say that I always look forward to my teaching opportunities.

I get invited to literacy nights (and days) at schools, and as a picture book writer, I really do relish the opportunity to explore reading and writing with kids in the classroom. As an illustrator and wannabe art teacher however, I’m always even more excited to draw! And to me, visual literacy goes hand in hand with a more traditional idea of reading/writing literacy — and perhaps it sometimes even leads the way.

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Kids “read” pictures, and words emerge to match.

Beyond books even, we are surrounded by visual media — and this media generally doesn’t ask you to do a lot of work. It’s passive consumption. Becoming visually literate demands that you analyze these images and try to figure out what you are being asked to learn or read in the process.  And kids should know that they can be active participants — both as consumers and creators. It’s powerful stuff disguised as drawing 🙂

Kids post, they text, they create video etc. And the tools of visual literacy — the choices that one makes about even the simplest things like line or color or composition — all work in tandem to inform the viewer/reader of what you are asking them to see — or what words you want them to conjure to accompany the pictures. And even these most basic tenants of image making help you tell a story. And they also help you read it. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s not, but visual literacy is integral to better communication, and making a picture or a picture book is such a great place to introduce this topic to a student audience.

Character, setting, plot, emotion, cliffhangers, hooks, foreshadowing … ALL of these things can be visual or given emphasis by visual cues. Literate art makes for literate readers.

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Just a few of the ideas that I’ll demonstrate as tools for visual literacy. So kids are watching this happen while I talk them through it, and then they get to try in on their own.

And so, all of that being said, for the last few years I’ve been doing a LOT of drawing workshops where kids create characters and scenes with an intentional visual impact. Using lines and details to draw attention to certain things in their artwork; using angles or compositions to help a reader follow their picture in a certain logical order; deciding on just the right expression or gesture to represent an emotion; these are fundamental things to communicating an idea or telling a story — and it’s also drawing, and it’s work — but it’s so much fun!

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Everyone starts with some guided drawing for a foundation…
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…and it’s incredible how many different things will happen when the kids take over and start to add lines, details, emotions, expressions, and setting of their own!
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Are we having fun yet? Do expressions help to tell a story?

And of course it’s always incredible when you hear from a school about visual projects  inspired by your books – even when you haven’t had a chance to visit! Great teaching starts with digging just beneath the surface and giving kids an idea of the process that they can put to work in their own fantastic artwork and storytelling 🙂

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AMAZING expressions and gestures add to the humor and energy in these speedy tortillas inspired by Eric Kimmel’s THE RUNAWAY TORTILLA.
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Inspired by the watercolors in POLAR OPPOSITES, students also emphasized the differences between two main characters using different colored backgrounds.

And finally, for an appropriately visual teaser to keep you on your toes for my next book, here is a sketch from Shelley Gil’s IF I WERE A BEAR (Sasquatch, Little Bigfoot, Spring 2018) to be released simultaneously with IF I WERE A BIRD.

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Cover sketches for the next book. LOTS of little thumbnails like this and sometimes I get even a little more detailed then I should for such a small space!

These are both board books in the wake of our February 2017 collaboration on IF I WERE A WHALE.

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A favorite spread from IF I WERE A WHALE.

And it’s one day too late for this, but “HAPPY HALLOWEEN!”

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Erik Brooks is the author/illustrator of 24+ books for children and their most excellent parents and teachers. Look for his newest picture book, IF I WERE A BEAR!, in Spring 2018.

Erik writes, draws, coaches, and visits schools and libraries from his home in Winthrop, WA. It’s a little off the beaten path, so online visits are the perfect thing — and screen sharing means drawing lesson work as well! To learn more about booking visits with Erik, head to the school visits page of his website at www.erikbrooks.com.

Janet Lee Carey, Author of the Month: Creative Camaraderie

The myth goes something like this. Writers work alone. They are solitary beings who eschew human company to toil day after day on their craft. Invite them out to lunch, and they decline. Disturb them at their work, and they are fierce!

Admittedly, I Do have this sign on my study door:Dragon at Work sign
I love spending hour upon hour blissfully alone working on my novels. And while my husband says, “My wife sits at home all day plotting and scheming.” The truth is, I do leave my work cave occasionally. You may be shocked to learn many authors and illustrators can be social creatures. You just have to know what (aside from chocolate) lures us away from our desks.

Critique Groups

Peggy's two moon journey party 1 Most of us meet weekly or monthly to share our work, give and receive critique, and help each other reach our writing dreams. We work hard in these groups, reading and marking up our manuscripts. But we go wild when one of us sells to a publisher. Recently, my critique group, the Diviners, celebrated Peggy King Anderson’s sale of her middle-grade novel Two Moon Journey with cheers and pom-poms.

And here’s the coveted Diviner Award we’ve been passing around for years — the Nancy Pearl shushing librarian action figure.

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Writer Organizations
We join important organizations like PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). This means we attend monthly meetings, crowd to conferences and meet up at retreats.

Book Parties
We go wild for book launch parties.

Janet in polka-dot boots for Kevan Atteberry’s PUDDLES!
The Diviners in costume at Janet’s book party for IN THE TIME OF DRAGON MOON.
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Celebrating at Martha Brockenbrough’s latest launch.

 

Office to Office
Sometimes we stop our work to contact each other and talk about . . . well . . . our work. Here’s my recent Creative Conversation with Wendy Wahman.

Creative Groups
We gather together to talk shop, celebrate our successes, ponder our failures, and tinker with the mystery of creativity. (Tinker we must, but it will remain a mystery.)

Sometimes we work in large groups at all-day writing retreats.

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Some Mouse House members. How many OAVers can you see in this photo? (I count 4.)

Many mice were present at our recent Mouse House retreat at Dia Calhoun’s house by the river. OAVers Laurie Ann Thompson, Dori Jones Yang, Dana Sullivan, Suzanne Williams, Moi, and more worked silently in the house and outside, breaking for lunch, and later for Happy Hour.

OAV post cc Kit, Laurie and Dori at workOAV cc dana working at desk

OAV post CC Suzanne workingOAV post CC Janet writing


Meeting Readers
Hands down, we all love meeting readers — at book signings, and at schools, libraries, and bookstores here in the US and abroad.

Janet and OAVer Trudi Trueit sign books at Borders.

 

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OAV’s Dave Patneaude talks with students during a school visit.

 

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Author Lois Brandt visits a classroom.

 

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OAVer Dori Jones Yang gives a book talk in Beijing.

 

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Janet visits a school in Japan.

 

Online Author Visits
And if you contact us here at Online Author Visits, I pinkie swear we will answer your call. The best part is, we don’t have to leave the office. You can get past that sign on my door and see where I work. More dragons await within the inner sanctum, but they gobble stories, not readers.

All of us here at OAV would love to meet you in your book group, library, or class. We might even say yes to lunch!

Around the Web with OAV Authors: September 2017

Note: Please enjoy this rerun of last year’s Back to School post.

You already know that you can find our team’s individual profiles right here on the OAV site. You can also find links to their websites in the right-hand sidebar of every OnlineAuthorVisits.com page. We try to make it easy for schools, libraries, and other groups to get to know us so you can select the right publishing pro(s) for your important virtual events.

So, for this Back to School edition of “Around the Web,” we thought we’d make it even easier to connect with our authors and author-illustrators by rounding up direct links to each OAVer’s primary public social media pages. Think: Facebook author pages, Twitter profiles, and writing blogs. You’re on your own for Instagram, Google+ Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, YouTube, and others — but do let your fingers do the typing in those platforms’ search fields. You will get OAV-member results!

Ready? Let’s go!

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Row 1, L to R: Patrick Jennings, Janet Lee Carey, Joan Holub, Dia Calhoun. Row 2: Dori Hillestad Butler, Lisa L. Owens, Trudi Trueit, Suzanne Williams, Deb Lund. Row 3: Erik Brooks, Clare Hodgson Meeker, Laurie Ann Thompson, Dana Sullivan, David Patneaude. (Missing: Dori Jones Yang.)

 

Dori Jones Yang (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Dori Jones Yang

Suzanne Williams (author): Goddess Girls series Facebook page

Trudi Trueit (author): Facebook page, Twitter

Laurie Ann Thompson (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Dana Sullivan (author-illustrator): Twitter, blog

David Patneaude (author): Twitter, blog

Lisa L. Owens (author): Twitter, blog

Clare Hodgson Meeker (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Deb Lund (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blogs

Patrick Jennings (author): Twitter, blog

Joan Holub (author-illustrator): Facebook page, Goddess Girls series Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Janet Lee Carey (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog 1, blog 2

Dia Calhoun (author): Twitter, blog

Dori Hillestad Butler (author): Twitter, blog

Erik Brooks (author-illustrator): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Martha Brockenbrough (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

That covers the whole crew!

And, while you’re out and about taking a peek at our wonderful team’s various profiles, don’t forget to connect with OAV’s official Facebook page. We’d love to see — and hear from you — there!

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Dori Jones Yang, Author of the Month: The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball

September is a great time for me to be “Author of the Month” because I have a new book out and I’m planning lots of classroom visits – both in-person and online via skype. I love talking to kids about my books.

My new book, The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball, is about a boy who arrives in the United States and has to learn to speak English and make friends with American kids. At first he doesn’t understand very much and everything feels strange to him. Most immigrant kids can relate to that! Many American-born kids have at least one classmate who was born in another country and struggles to learn English. A book like this can help them to empathize with what these classmates might be going through.

The boy in this book is Woo Ka-Leong. He didn’t pick an English name, but people started calling him Leon, and that was okay with him.

Leon keeps getting into trouble. When he is told to stay put, he runs off because he is curious to see a train engine. When a kid teases him, he swings his fists. Once he gets mad and pushes a boy so he falls through the ice. How is Leon supposed to know about ice? Where he grew up, in southern China, it never snows.

Baseball saves him. He never played it before, but once he starts fooling around with a baseball and bat, he really likes the game. Some boys in town practice in a field, and one invites him to join in. At first, baseball is really hard, too, but Leon learns quickly. He wishes he could play it all the time, but he has to study for hours every day.

Maybe you guessed from the pictures, but Leon lived a long time ago—in the 1870s. In those days, all Chinese boys and men had to wear their hair in one long braid. Some Americans teased him about that and pulled his braid. But he didn’t have a choice. If he cut it off, he would be considered a traitor to China and would be sent home in shame. Not a good option.

Maybe you noticed from my author picture, but I am not a Chinese boy. I’m not even Chinese! And I wasn’t even alive in the 1870s. So why did I decide to write about a Chinese boy in the 1870s?

Actually, I’ve written a lot of books about people from China. My husband was born there, and our daughter grew up Chinese-American in Washington State. I spend many years learning to speak Mandarin and speak it with friends and relatives. But I also spent many years living abroad—two years in Singapore and eight years in Hong Kong.

Above is a picture of me with my daughter when she was little. Below is one of me in my twenties, speaking Mandarin at a contest shortly after I started studying it in Singapore.

I know what it feels like to struggle to express myself in a foreign language. When I first studied Chinese, in my early twenties, I often had a complicated thought in my head, but the only sentences that came out of my mouth were simple. One day it hit me: back home in America, I used to think that if people spoke poor English, they weren’t smart. Now I knew better. They were just as smart as I was, but it was hard for them to find the right English words to express the complicated thoughts in their heads.

At that moment, I made a decision. Once I returned home to the United States, I would do everything I could to help people who were trying to adapt to my country and language. Now, years later, I do that a lot. Recently, I helped an 11-year-old boy and his mom sign up for sixth grade at an American middle school, a month after they arrived from China.

But more important, I write books about kids trying to adapt to America. My first children’s book, The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang, tells of a girl from China who starts fifth grade in Seattle and discovers she can’t speak in class. The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball tells of Leon, the boy who arrives in the U.S. in 1875 and makes friends playing baseball. Both are middle grade novels for readers age ten and up.

I’m planning a book tour of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York October 14-31 and am arranging many school visits there. I’m also scheduling school visits in the Seattle area before and afterwards. I welcome teachers and librarians to contact me about skype visits.

If you live in the Seattle area, please come to my book launch at Island Books in Mercer Island on Sunday, September 10th, at 4 p.m. I plan to show some pictures of the real Chinese boy scholars who came in the 1870s.

In the meantime, enjoy this one-minute book trailer video. It was created and produced by a talented college student I know, David Graham. To see the video, click on this link.

Happy viewing – and happy reading!

Patrick Jennings, Author of the Month: Correspondence Is Bliss!

I get letters.

Handwritten letters, mostly, written by readers, teachers, and parents. I get emails now, too, of course, which come to me through my website. I’ve always answered all of the mail I’ve gotten regarding my books. I read once that Maurice Sendak answered all his and figured if he could do it, so could I. The letters I get are blissful to read. I currently have a few bulging pouches and some loose letters on my desk, waiting for replies.

Some of the letters come after online visits. They really help anchor those virtual experiences for me. I’ve been doing school visits for over twenty years, online visits for a few. During the latter, I don’t get the pleasure of meeting readers in person, wandering their halls, dropping into their classrooms or cafeterias, or popping outside to the playground, nor can I sign books for them. The letters help make up for all this. (I do offer to sign and send books, though, through my local bookshop—the glorious Imprint Books, in Port Townsend.)

I “visited” a school in Seattle in April,  and later received a manila envelope bursting with letters from second graders. As I read through them, I found exquisite bon mots in each, and thought a post consisting of them might delight others as much as they do me. I’ve added remarks from letters from a reading group composed of fourth and fifth graders in El Cerrito, California, to boot.

Note: These are all as-is. I did spruce up some spelling and punctuation. Otherwise they’re completely sic.

“I really liked reading and meeting you, especially asking you questions.”

“Can you please send me a picture of Guinea Dog 2 and 3?”

“My favorite part was everything. It was very cool.”

“I was one of the people who talked.”

“I love your whole book.”

“How old are you?”

“My author question is do you have a dog or a guinea pig?”

“Have you ever cleaned up guinea pig pee and poo?”

“Why did you want your book to be funny?”

“I loved your book. It inspired me to make a book, too.”

“I have a lot of favorite books, and this is my third place favorite book.”

“I really like Guinea Dog because that book is the first book I have ever read that made me laugh out loud.”

“I would like to ask you if you would like to do stuff in Guinea Dog.”

I would also like to ask, ‘Is one of your brothers an author, too, and did he make Actual Size’?”

“How much have you read this book yourself?”

“I liked you book since it was so funny! Oh and did I tell you that I’m the funniest person in my family?”

“I want an author when I grow up. I want a guinea pig now.”

“I love to write and read. What’s your favorite thing to do?”

“P.S. We had you as a spelling word.”

“I think you did a really good job on basically all your books even though I haven’t read all of them.”

“Can you make There’s a GIRL in the BOY’s Bathroom?”

“Did your parents inspire you or did the sounds or looks of nature?”

“My teacher is so funny, silly, and cool. Do you remember how your teacher was?”

“My little cousin likes your book. She laughed so hard I had to stop for her to stop laughing.”

“I’m Mexican, but I don’t speak Spanish that much. My mom says I have to learn Spanish but I don’t want to because I want to learn Japanese.”

“Do you want to be an only child?”

“What college did you go to and which colleges do you recommend?”

“Do you like art? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Are most artists neat? Do you get a lot of time for vacation?”

“Can I call you Mr. J? I hope so because I like that name.”

“P. S. My oldest friend moved to Conneticut. It’s very sad. P. S. How do you spell Conneticut?”

“You are the best writer that I know.”

Okay. Time to get to answering the letters.
Bliss.