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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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.

nancy pearl action figure 3

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.
OAV Martha's Launch
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.

OAV mice retreat group 2
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.

 

OAV cc Dori Beijing talk
OAVer Dori Jones Yang gives a book talk in Beijing.

 

OAV cc janet Japan trip
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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Around the Web with OAV Authors: July 2017

Our latest roundup of OAVer cyber sightings is best described as a virtual Cool Covers Show-and-Tell, featuring images from our talented members’ publication histories that make you want to dive into all the books!

This striking cover is from Trudi Trueit’s extensive nonfiction list.

ADHD

 

Here’s the adorable cover of a chapter book from author-illustrator Patrick Jennings.

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How about this beauty covering a novel by Dori Jones Yang. (It’s brand-spanking NEW, by the way — the book comes out next month.)

Forbidden Temptation cover

 

This covers the German edition of Martha Brockenbrough’s The Game of Love and Death.

German GOLAD

 

The cover of this picture book by Deb Lund is a monstrous delight.

monsters

 

Lisa L. Owens counts this piece of cover art from her retold-classics series as a fave.

sherlock copy

 

Video alert! Watch author-illustrator Erik Brooks preview his picture book Polar Opposites. (Naturally, he starts with the cover!)

 

Here’s the spooky-cute cover of a picture book by OAV’s founder, Suzanne Williams.

witch

 

An evocative entry from a reprint edition of a David Patneaude novel.

ThinWoodWalls

 

What an engaging image on Clare Hodgson Meeker’s retelling of a classic Buddhist folktale.

A Tale of Two Rice Birds

 

This stunner is from one of Dia Calhoun’s novels.

avielle

 

Dana Sullivan created a darling illustration for the cover of Digger and Daisy Go to the Zoo, shown here on the book’s French edition.

DiggerZoo

 

Audio alert! A YouTube reading of Janet Lee Carey’s Wenny Has Wings features a sweetly spare cover image. (Note: To listen to the reading, you’ll need to head on over to YouTube, an option you’ll see and be able to click on in the lower right when you view the file embedded below.)

 

The photo on this Dori Hillestad Butler novel really sets the scene for the story to come.

truth

 

This early reader by Joan Holub sports a fun depiction of the Woodstock setting.

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And, finally, here’s another perfect representation of the story within, this time on a sweet picture book by Laurie Ann Thompson.

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

 

That covers all of us here at Online Author Visits!

Reminder: The back-to-school season is right around the corner — so be sure to check out our Author Profiles page to learn more about hosting an illustrious OAVer for a future Skype visit in your classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the Web with OAV Authors: May 2017

How about another themed edition of our “Around the Web” feature, this time with a Throwback Thursday flavor. Our Online Author Visits members are always busy creating new works, but their earlier ones are just as fun to discover (or rediscover, as the case may be). The following roundup offers a clickable gem from each OAVer’s storied past!

Erik Brooks wrote and illustrated The Practically Perfect Pajamas, an adorable picture book about being true to yourself. It came out in 2000, and one teacher reviewer noted that it’s a perfect read-aloud for Pajama Day at school!PerfectPajamas

Kirkus called Dia Calhoun’s 1999 YA novel Firegold (her first!), “A heartfelt, emotionally trenchant coming-of-age adventure with a lightly mystical bent.”

Speaking of first novels, Patrick Jennings published Faith and the Electric Dogs in 1996, and Publishers Weekly said he took “a soaring flight into magic realism in this captivating tale narrated with brio by a Mexican street dog.”

For the October 2011 issue of Odyssey magazine, Laurie Thompson wrote the super-fun science article “Wanted for Breaking the Law (of Viscosity).” (It’s about non-Newtonian fluids. Activity included!)

Visit Dori Jones Yang’s website to learn the story of her collaboration with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on their popular 1997 business book, Pour Your Heart Into It.

Did you know that Martha Brockenbrough wrote a humorous book chronicling her pregnancy (and more) in 2002? It’s called It Could Happen to You: Diary of a Pregnancy and Beyond.

Here’s where you can find Suzanne Williams’s first-ever book, Mommy Doesn’t Know My Name. It launched in 1996, and according to School Library Journal, “It’s a fun, crazy book that works extremely well.”

Clare Hodgson Meeker’s lovely picture book Who Wakes Rooster? was a 1997 Bank Street College Book of the Year selection.

Talon, published in 2007, was the first novel in Janet Lee Carey’s Wilde Island Chronicles series.

Dori Hillestad Butler is known for her mystery series. Check out her 2003 nonfiction title Whodunit: How the Police Solve Crimes for a glimpse at a real-world process that informs her work.

In 1995, Booklist said, “Readers too young for Stephen King will find satisfaction” in David Patneaude’s eerie book Dark Starry Morning: Stories of This World and Beyond.

Former weather forecaster Trudi Trueit wrote Storm Chasers — one of her many, MANY informational titles — back in 2002.

Deb Lund published the sweet Tell Me My Story, Mama in 2004. Visit her author site for help tracking down a copy for a young one you know who’s about to become a sibling for the first time.

This looks like lots of fun: a 2004 picture book by Joan Holub called Geogra-Fleas! Riddles All Over the Map.

Click over to Lisa L. Owens’s website, then scroll down to see Booklist’s turn-of-the-21st-century comments on American Justice: Seven Famous Trials of the 20th Century.

And here you’ll find info on 2013’s BOB Books: Rhyming Words boxed set featuring Dana Sullivan’s always fetching illustration work.

That covers our whole crew. If you’d like to learn more about our members and consider booking one of us for a virtual or in-person visit, be sure to check out our Author Profiles page.

Happy #TBT, everyone — hope to see you again soon!

 

 

 

Around the Web with OAV Authors: March 2017

This edition of “Around the Web” is focused on online sightings of our member authors doing one of the things they love best: talking with young readers about books and writing.

Check out this Rogues Gallery of OAVers in action! And if you’re interested in booking one of us for your next virtual or in-person event, head on over to our Author Profiles page to learn more and see which author might be a good fit for your group.

Translations

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.

someone-and-niemand

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.