Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Update on Library-Loving Blog Challenge

First, I want to thank Jenn Hubbard, who was the lead and inspiration for the library-loving blog challenge - what a great idea, and so timely and needed.

Second, I want to thank everyone who commented on my posts during the challenge. Your effort is the reason I gave a check today to the College Station Public Library (aka - the Larry J. Ringer Public Library.)

Here's a photo I took on this glorious spring afternoon, just after I walked in and gave a very surprised and pleased librarian my check. She was all smiles. (I couldn't take her picture, because cell phones aren't allowed inside the library. Shhh.) I noticed that the only receipt she had was a form that tallied overdue notices, and lost and damaged books, and she had to add in the blank at the bottom "donation." That observation gave me pause.

Public libraries are open to everyone. You don't have to pay to get a library card. You don't have to wear fancy clothes to enter a library. You don't have to give them money. You just have to want to read.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Jacqueline Houtman

Update on the Library-loving Blog Challenge: as of this writing, I have 60 comments! And it's still not too late to join in and help me help my library. The challenge doesn't end until midnight Saturday, March 27th. And I'll include the comments made on this post as well!

Today I welcome Jacqueline Houtman, author of the charming debut middle grade novel THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS. Eddy is truly a wonderful character, and this book is a must-read for kids and parents alike.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS. I know that your young protagonist has special issues. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Eddy is great at science and invention, but he stinks at friendship. He takes it upon himself to invent a device that will solve a traffic safety issue, but can’t seem to solve his bully problem.

I got the idea to write the book after I read THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon (Doubleday 2003). I was intrigued by the idea of a protagonist on the autism spectrum. I thought I would try it with a younger, middle grade audience. Middle school is tough for everyone. You’re trying to figure out who you are, where you fit. It’s bound to be even tougher for kids on the spectrum.

Please tell readers a bit about Eddy's unique way of handling information.

Eddy has a very analytical mind with an uncanny memory for details (although he sometimes misses the big picture). He’s always making associations between what he is experiencing and what he knows, much of which has to do with science. For example, when he sees a plant or animal, he thinks about its scientific, Latin name. When somebody talks about heavy metal music, he thinks about the heavy metals (cobalt, copper, mercury, lead...). This is also the source of the so-called “random facts” sprinkled throughout the book. To some people, they might seem unrelated, but to Eddy, they are a natural association. And take a good look at those fact numbers, readers.

A hidden challenge! How long have you been writing for children/teens?

I was trained as a scientist, but I’ve been a freelance science writer for about ten years. I had my first (paid) opportunity to write for children through an educational publisher about six years ago. Most of what I wrote was nonfiction, but some of it conveyed science content through fiction. I was hooked. Humor! Dialogue! Characters whose actions were under my control! Bwah Hah Hah!

Hah, hah, indeed! You had me in the palm of your hand in EDDY. Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

EDDY is my first attempt at novel-length fiction.

Can you describe your path to the publication of THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS?

I wrote EDDY over the course of a couple of years, in between freelance gigs. I started sending it around and got a bunch of rejections. Then I went to an SCBWI retreat where Joy Neaves was speaking. Her talk inspired some major revisions in the manuscript, which I then submitted to her. She asked for the complete manuscript and I got “the call” two days later. Things got a little bumpy with the big upheaval in the publishing industry in the fall of 2008, but Joy and I worked together on revisions, which I enjoyed immensely. Now I’m learning a whole bunch of new skills, like marketing and social networking and self-promotion. Ack. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out how to do online chats. And tweeting looks pretty daunting.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Network. Join SCBWI if you are interested in writing for children. Join a critique group. The kidlit community is so supportive, very warm and fuzzy.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

Like Eddy, I get a lot of my inspiration from science and the natural world. My academic training was all in the sciences, and so I come to fiction writing from that direction, instead of from the humanities. I don’t have a lot of training in creative writing or literature, so I sometimes feel a bit left out, or ignorant, compared to other authors. But my training in science and experience in science writing has certainly influenced my fiction. I tend to be concise and try to keep a strong narrative line. Science writing and middle grade fiction are quite similar, I think. It’s all about keeping the reader engaged and getting to the point.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I am working on another middle grade novel. It is also very sciency.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS?

You can try www.edisonthomas.com, or you may find me blogging at http://jjhoutman.livejournal.com/.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Take The Challenge - The Library-Loving Blog Challenge

This is a library-loving blog challenge! Help me send my own hard-earned cash to my local library...and I'll tell you a story to get you going.

My grandmother was deaf from when she contracted scarlet fever at the age of 12 . As a result she read like a fiend. When she came to visit us my mom had to make a trip to the library every 3 days or so and pull another 10 books off the shelves for Grandma to read.

After a while, and after my mother had brought home books my Grandma had already read, my mom realized she needed a system. So there are books out there in my hometown public library, with a little pencil mark made by my mom in the inside back cover, a tiny K for Katherine, showing my Grandma had already read that book, so my mom wouldn't check it out again.

Libraries were a big part of my childhood, since I went almost every time my mom went and carried home my own big stack.

For every commenter on this post between now and midnight, March 27, I will donate $1.00 to my local library: College Station, Texas Public Library, up to an amount of $200.

How easy could it be? You comment, I cough up the money, the library gets a gift! If you don’t know what to say in your comment, “I love libraries” will do.

Note that my pledge is “per commenter”—so if a single person leaves 50 comments, that still only counts once! But you can do more by spreading the word ... please link to this post, tweet about it, and send your friends here so they can comment and raise more money. And you can comment on as many other blogs as you like that are also part of the challenge (find the list here.)

If you’re moved to make a flat-fee donation to your library, or to start your own challenge, you are quite welcome, and please leave that information in the comments.

For a complete list of participating bloggers (and to visit other sites where you can help libraries just by leaving a comment!) visit the writerjenn blog at http://writerjenn.livejournal.com/

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Swati Avasthi

March is a huge launch month! Huge in every sense - many new books, and also many books for which I see great acclaim. I feel immensely proud that so many of these great books are from fellow 2k10 authors, which includes my newest interviewee, Swati Avasthi discussing her debut SPLIT.

After you read the interview here you could check out Swati's Write on Radio interview, archived at www.kfai.org

Congratulations, Swati, on the publication of your novel, SPLIT. I know it's already getting terrific reviews. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Thanks, Janet. I coordinated a domestic violence legal clinic for three years. Women and men would come in seeking orders of protection. Once, I was interviewing a woman while her two kids were in the room. As the incident became increasingly brutal, I asked her if she'd like someone to look after her kids. She told me they had seen the whole thing anyway. It was a hard moment for me, sitting across from these two kids and thinking about how their world was being shaped by what they had seen, that they were absorbing these horrible lessons without really being aware of it. As kids, we accept the world as it is shown to us. It haunted me, and my concern turned into a story eventually.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

This is my first effort for teens. I've loved reading YA for so many years now and I think that influenced my decision to write for teens. I have one other novel, a fantasy novel, that will live inside a drawer all its life. It's the novel I learned on.

Can you describe your path to the publication of SPLIT?

Oh, it was heavenly really. I cold queried a few agents and my agent, Rosemary Stimola (aka my fairy godmother) requested the full manuscript in less than 24 hours. In a week, she asked for a few revisions. I had completed six drafts of SPLIT at that point, with 2 professional writers giving me feedback on the ms. And Rosemary still found a few things to make it better, so once I was finished with the revisions, (about a month), I became quite interested in working with her. I had around 3 or 4 full manuscripts under consideration when she offered. When I interviewed her, she impressed me as personable, ethical, and savvy. So I happily signed with her. A month later, SPLIT was sold at auction as the first book of two-book contract with Knopf. I was looking down from Cloud Nine for quite a while.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Read craft books including On Writing by Stephen King. Write a lot. Write some more. And revise, revise, revise.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

Right now, I am loving my life. I have a wonderful husband, two kids, two dogs and the job of my dreams. I'm living in a city I love. What more could I ask for? So, I'm just hoping to write more, to keep teaching (maybe even get a tenure-track job), and try to give back.

I love that sentiment. Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

My second YA novel, BIDDEN (Knopf, 2011) is about what happens to two friends in the wake of a shooting. Corey, Holly, and Savitri are looking forward to graduation and then a summer of comic book reading and free running. But a shooting changes everything. Told in alternating points of view and with a graphic component, BIDDEN is about how far we will stretch to save our friends.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about SPLIT?

Please visit me at www.swatiavasthi.com. Or follow me at www.swatiavasthi.blogspot.com
You can also watch the trailer! : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htjU0LccQ6E

Thanks, Swati!

photo credit: Ann Marsden

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Mara Purnhagen

I have the pleasure of hosting an interview with Mara Purnhagen, author of TAGGED. Here's a bit of the book's synopsis: "Kate Morgan is just as confused as the rest of her classmates when she arrives at Cleary High to find six life-size gorillas spray painted on the side of a building. Could the culprit be one of her friends or classmates? And is the kind-of-amazing creation really vandalism, or a work of art?"
I love this concept - gorillas! What an enchanting mind. You'll see what I mean...

Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, TAGGED! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Thanks, Janet! Two main elements of the story-- a mysterious graffiti artist who paints gorillas and a huge, televised birthday bash-- came to me while I was washing dishes. I could hear the TV in the living room, which was advertising a reality show about huge (and expensive) sweet sixteen parties. I was listening to the commercial and thinking about Banksy, a British graffiti artist whose work I love, and I wondered how I could connect those two things. I had just bought my husband a work bench for the garage which had a gorilla sticker on it and he was joking about how serious the gorilla looked. Those three things collided, and I had a first chapter before the end of the night (and a pile of dishes that didn’t get done).

I love that story. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

I wrote short stories for a long time, and had a few published in literary magazines. I won the Hardegree Prize for Short Fiction (a regional contest sponsored by the Hub City Writers Project) in 2003. I began writing YA in 2003 and completed my first novel in 2004. TAGGED is my third book.

Which just shows how experience is the best teacher. Can you describe your path to the publication of TAGGED?

I wrote TAGGED in nine months and began sending out query letters in May of 2007. I sent 17 queries (not all at the same time, of course, but two a week). Of those seventeen, I received three rejections immediately (“Sorry, not right for us.”) and 14 requests for a partial manuscript. Of those fourteen, ten requested fulls. Of those ten, three offered representation (in the same week). The query process took less than three months.

That seems like a lesson in persistence, and in knowing your market. Do you have any other advice for beginning writers?

Know your genre. Read as much as you can. Take rejection as proof that you’re doing something so many people don’t: you’re putting yourself out there.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I find inspiration in music. I’m a big fan of satellite radio because it allows me to discover new bands. While I was writing TAGGED, I listened to The National, an indie band I absolutely love.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I’m working on the third book in my Past Midnight series. Book One will be released in September 2010, followed by the next two in 2011.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about TAGGED?


Thanks, Mara!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's Spring Break!

Some of us from the Class of 2k10 are going on Spring Break over at The Daily Dose...please come and say hello! Surfboards optional.

Here's the line-up:
3/13/2010 Spring Break and Hometown Sweethearts by Shari Maurer
3/14/2010 Let the Spring Shine In by Michele Corriel
3/15/2010 Florida Vacations and Spring Break by Jennifer R. Hubbard
3/16/2010 Vacation Books & Why We Love Them by Leah Cypress
3/17/2010 Spring Break: When I was a Teen by Janet Fox
3/18/2010 Kenzie Ryan on Spring Break by Bonnie Doerr
3/19/2010 I am Your Wet Blanket (or Sandy Towel) by Shannon Delany
3/20/2010 Spring Break in the Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
3/21/2010 Spring Break = Breaking out the Books? by Swati Avasthi
3/22/2010 Spring Break ... Sprung Broken by Kristina McBride
3/23/2010 Of All the Spring Break Stories by Alexandra Diaz

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lovely Blog Award!

I was delighted and honored to receive the One Lovely Blog award today from fellow YA writer and blogger (and incoming VCFA student – yay!) Beverley BevenFlorez
This is such a nice way to “grow” the blogging community, so I’m returning the favor by nominating 15 other blogs for the same honor.

For you guys on the list, if you would like to pass this on:
1. Mention this award in your blog - as a new post or on your sidebar.
2. Give the award to 15 other lovely bloggers.
3. Send them a message or comment to let them know.

Hugs to everyone! You all have enriched my life with great blogs.

Here are my honorees:

1. 13 To Life
2. Irene Latham
3. Swati Avasthi
4. book-a-brac
5. Jame Richards
6. Sciency Fiction
7. Bonnie Blogs Green
8. Joy's Novel Idea
9. Playing With Words
10. Beberly's Babblings
11. YA Edge
12. Jeri Smith-Ready
13. Kristi Valiant
14. Roots in Myth
15. Michelle Knudsen

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Jan Godown Annino

Today I want to welcome Jan Godown Annino, who has written a fascinating picture book biography, illustrated by Lisa Desimini, about Seminole tribal leader Betty Mae Jumper.

Congratulations on the publication of your book, SHE SANG PROMISE: THE STORY OF BETTY MAE JUMPER. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

A pleasure Janet, & hello to Through the Wardrobe visitors!
Betty Mae Jumper is an amazing elder in the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Yet despite her memoir for adults, A SEMINOLE LEGEND, written with Patsy West, (2001 University Press of Florida) few people know of Mrs. Jumper's story. It includes: escaping attempts on her life as a child, the discrimination she faced as a mixed-race child; an unrelenting desire as a child to become fluent in English after she saw a comic book that a pal read, but she couldn't; her unwillingness to give in to adversity, such as her being willing to wrestle alligators when her World War II Veteran husband was sick & couldn't handle his tourist job; & her willingness to face down an elder who didn't want her delivering modern medicine to remote South Florida camps. There's more, but that's a synopsis.

What an interesting person. How did you meet your book subject?

I met Mrs. Jumper nearly 28 years ago when I complimented her on her newspaper. I recognized her only because of a newspaper clipping my Mother had saved for me, when Mrs. Jumper was elected her Tribe's first chairman, in 1967. We met at a festival where she sat at a table of beautiful craft work. But she also had a pile of the newspapers she edited, at one end of that table. That's what we mainly talked about that day. We stayed in touch.

I was enjoying my work, writing on nature topics. During travel for an ecotourism guide my car broke down in the parking lot of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Through serendipity, that evening I ended up traveling with women, including Mrs. Jumper, to a storytelling presentation at the Sanford Ziff L. Jewish Museum in Miami Beach. Betty Mae Tiger Jumper presented the story of Seminole elder Annie Jumper Tommie. As she presented the life of this Elder, I thought, "Who is going to present Betty Mae Jumper's life?" Later on, things fell into place & she authorized me to bring her story to children.

How long have you been writing for children? Have you written other books for children or is this your first effort?

My second. The first is FLORIDA's FAMOUS ANIMALS from The Globe Pequot Press, in 2008. It's a peek behind the headlines at stories of real animals that became famous in Florida. I'm especially proud of the chapter about a Florida panther, who became known as Big Guy.

I saved some books from childhood & began buying others that I remembered enjoying. I've long loved illustrated children's books, including the nonfiction ones I had as a child, such as an autographed copy by Gladys Emerson Cook of The Big Book of Cats & The Golden Encyclopedia by Dorothy A. Bennett which is a large-format colorful book with pictures I pored over. Taking that love and turning it into writing for children didn't happen until 1991 when our child was born. I began writing for our regional family publication. Serendipity again, as my editor then, Suzanne Schaeffer, is a gifted storyteller, The Story Hat Lady. At the same time, I created a memoir- writing workshop at a local college & one of our most prolific members was a fascinating retired librarian, Mary Fears, who just insisted, I have to emphasize that, that I had to come to a storytelling meeting. That was a catalyst. It brought me to a strong interest in writing for children. From there, I found out about SCBWI. I went to SCBWI events in West Palm Beach, Orlando & eventually in Los Angeles. I was hooked.

Can you describe your path to publication of SHE SANG PROMISE: THE STORY OF BETTY MAE JUMPER?

At a creative nonfiction workshop at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, we were each asked by group leader Michael Dirda, who is now a retired book editor of The Washington Post, what our writing projects were. I was working toward a collection of nature essays, but I told him I wanted to write Mrs. Jumper's biography for children. He said I should contact an editor at the National Geographic. I did. By postal mail. Didn't hear anything back. After some time I screwed up my courage to call. I discovered the editor I wrote to had moved on (I had violated that rule about always verify editor names & info before contacting them!) but the new editor, Nancy Feresten, had kept the material I had sent in. That began the process of my writing in picture book form - an area of writing new to me. I brought it to my critique group over & over & over. I tried to put everything in - there is so much depth to Mrs. Jumper's family & her own story. Finally I accepted that everything couldn't be in there.

It's an honor to have Mrs. Jumper's son write a letter to children in the book as an afterword. It was important to me & our publication team that the book also be vetted by staff at Ah-Tah-Thi-ki, the Seminole Tribe of Florida museum.

The colorful part of the publication process - sorry for this long answer Janet - involves the only part of it that ever makes a story a picture book. And that's the skill & passion of the artist. Lisa Desimini, who has won awards for her books, created oil paintings that make me shiver when I see Mrs. Jumper sitting around the campfire on a cold night. Lisa's work is stunning. I am grateful over and over to David M. Seager, of National Geographic, for bringing us together. I think Lisa's work deserves to be in a museum gallery. I think children especially, will enjoy the scene where young Betty Mae is looking at a comic book for the first time. It's what galvanizes her to learn to read English. And this is at about age 13.

Wow! And she went on to become a newspaper editor! Do you have advice for beginning writers?

Not only a newspaper editor- but a crusading one. Her paper won awards & helped bring world attention to the massacre in Florida known as Rosewood.

For beginning writers, join a community, online or in person. Places to begin include JacketFlap or SCBWI. You don't need publishing credits to begin with either of these fine support systems. Then take a big step & start an in-person critique group if there isn't one in your area. SCBWI has guidelines on how to conduct one.

Take classes. Many community centers or adult enrichment programs offer them. The Institute of Children's Literature in Connecticut has helped beginning writers for a long time. One of my critique partners subscribes to their newsletter & it is jammed with editor contacts & how-to tips, every issue. I know a faculty member who enjoyed her experience with ICL & also a student who is glad she signed up, but there are other excellent places such as the Highlights long-weekend workshops. I know a talented writer, Verna Safran, who was in my critique group before she moved away, who studied at the summer Chatauqua program of Highlights & she found it inspiring. My critique group hopes to get there some day.

There are fabulous sounding cozy settings all over - in Canada, in the Pacific Northwest. Save $2 every day & your frequent flier miles & get to some place special for an intensive day or a few days that cherishes the process of writing for young readers.

Can you tell us something about your life - inspirations, plans, goals, etc.?

I was fortunate to grow up hearing stories from both of my parents. They each loved reading history. My father was born on a tenant farm in 1903 and left school after the 8th grade to do the work of a man on the farm. My mother was born to an Irish/Danish family - she was the 6th child, the last one, & the first one to be born in a hospital. And she was a suburban NYC newspaper reporter in the 1940s. Their stories were peppered with references to the Ice Man, oxen, life without indoor plumbing, having the first radio in the neighborhood, the Rockettes, Abbot & Costello, Rockefeller Center under construction, Princess Julianna of The Netherlands - quite a colorful mix. My father built a marionnette stage, my mother ordered those stringed puppets - which I still have - & we put on plays.

My husband is a dedicated public servant, as a law clinic instructor at Florida State University, whose students advocate for children. Our girl is the best teen in the universe. Our cat is orange, our reptile is a red rat snake who I like from a distance but can't bring myself to pick up & our fish are the longest lived aquarium-dwellers ever to inhabit the same house with a cat.

In middle age I went back to college. When I walked into Han Nolan's class that first day, it was my first course in creative writing ever. I've been able to learn about writing for children and the history of children's literature in a thoughtful way from caring faculty. I hope to nail that thesis by 2011.

When I was younger I hiked two mountains - Katahdin in Maine & LeConte on the Tenn/NC border & I would like to return to taking long walks, but I'm not sure I'm so interested in scaling mountains. Perhaps I'll do something like Shirley McClaine's Spanish walking trek or talk my husband into walking from castle to castle in England, while a van takes our gear on to the next castle.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I'd like to make sure that several I've written are brought into the world as well as National Geographic has done with SHE SANG PROMISE. I've written a picture storybook involving a Ford Tin Lizzie inspired by an incident in my father's life. And I've created two picture book fantasies one set in a market & the other in a rooftop garden. I'm revising my historical fiction chapter book set in the 1960s and Ive just completed a chapbook of poetry - all for children. Right now I'm having fun in verse with a character that came out of a bird I watched on one of my daily walks.

These are the ones that I think have a chance of being published down the road. I've also written a few baskets full of items still ah, marinating. Plus, there will always be my embarrassing very first fiction story for children written the same year our daughter was born - about a little wood button that ah, lived in a button box.

In research, I'm looking into a few topics that no one else has shared with young readers. I like bringing little-known people or subjects to attention. But I also have two incomplete picture books about well-known figures, but from angles that haven't been told.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about SHE SANG PROMISE: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper?

My website, which has my contact info at the Hullo page (I tend to spell words oddly when I can get away with it & to substitute the ampersand for and...) a photo-heavy occasional blog, & pages relating to my books, tips, etc. It's www.bookseedstudio.wordpress.com

Thanks for coming, Jan!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Interview With Ron Koertge

Ron Koertge is one of our finest writers for young people, winning the P.E.N. prize for his moving novel STONER & SPAZ. This month Candlewick releases a sequel to his 2003 novel in verse SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP - SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS. I'm delighted to have been able to ask Ron a few questions about the novel and his work.

Your new novel in verse, SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS (Candlewick, March 9, 2010), is a sequel to your acclaimed SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP (Candlewick, 2003.) Did you anticipate writing a sequel from the start?

I never thought I'd write a sequel and I remember telling people I wasn't interested in sequels. That's how much I know, huh?I'm the kind of writer who feels his way along and I try and keep my head relatively empty ( my wife might say I don't have to work hard at that) so if ideas want a place to build a little nest, there I am. The weird thing for me is the Shakespeare sequel and then a sequel to STONER & SPAZ (Candlewick, 2002). Right from I'll-never-do-that to Holy-Cow, I-did-it-twice. The sequel to STONER & SPAZ (scheduled for 2011) was a complete surprise. I'm one of those writers who goes to work every day, a blue-collar ethic from my parents, probably. When SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS was done, I worked on poems for awhile. Pretty good ones, too. And then one morning I wrote the first page to a story and the narrator was Ben. I remember looking down at my hand like it was the culprit! But by that time I wanted to know what was on Ben's mind, so I just kept going.

You mesh a strong male teen voice with poetry, young love, grief, and baseball - and with all that, you manage a successful balancing act. Do you start with character or with story? How do you choose to write in prose versus poetry?

I certainly started the two Shakespeare books with character. I'm as interested in Kevin as any reader. Maybe more interested. Characters tend to nag me in a way that story (or Story) never does. I wonder sometimes if Kevin just didn't want to move on with his life and finish what he started. And how can he do that without niggling at me? E. M. Forster talks about flat characters vs. round ones. The former tend to be stereotypes (usually a bad label but not always), like extras in the movies: Grocer, Hoodlum #1, Hat Check Girl. Round characters are richer; they have more facets and quirks; there's no one-word label that fits. Maybe Kevin just wanted to be rounder.

I laughed out loud while reading "Transylvanian Limericks." I'm rusty on my poetry forms, and was grateful for your guideposts, but it appears that you choose the form to mirror your character's emotional state. Could you discuss that a bit?

I've written and read and taught poetry for years, and one of the things I tell my students is to try and match the sense of what's going on in, say, a line with the way the line moves. The classic example is this line of pretty near perfect iambic pentameter:

"The wounded soldier staggered past the barn."

Looks good, doesn't it. But a sentence about a staggering man shouldn't be so regular! The line itself should stagger a little. Easy to say, hard to do. The same kind of thing applies to whole poems. A really angry person probably isn't going to use a lot ofsmooth-sounded s's. K's or p's are more likely. And haiku, for example, are traditionally fluid and even sonorous. (I'd like to read a churlish haiku, but I'll bet they're few and far between. And if they exist I'll bet they mirror the poet's emotional state. )

Please talk a bit more about Kevin (my son's name, by the way!) I found him engaging and real.

Kevin is a better baseball player than I ever was, but we have a lot of emotions in common. My mother passed away at ninety- nine! But I felt the loss of her as I grew up and turned into a boy with friends and then a boy with a car. That small loss registered, and sometimes it still tolls down there inside me somewhere; it sure did while I was writing about Kevin's mom. I also know what it's like to prefer one girl over another or to have a girl prefer someone else over me. I know what it's like to sort things out by writing and then to try to write well rather than just "getting it out," as if feelings were impacted teeth.

Do you anticipate writing another story about Kevin? Are you working on something else that you can share with us?

Never say never, I guess. In a way it's up to Kevin. I do have a book of revisited fairy tales at Candlewick just waiting for an illustrator. Here's the first stanza to the one about Goldilocks, but it's narrated by the wee, small bear:

"The great, huge bear is not my father. The middle-sized
bear is not my mother. Because we walk on two legs
and talk, we naturally found each other."

Isn't that just wonderfully weird? So keep your eyes peeled in 2011.

Where's the best place for readers to learn more about you and your books?

There's always Candlewick, my publisher's, site for the book. And please join my new Facebook fan page for SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS!

Thank you for your time!

My pleasure!