Sunday, March 27, 2011

Library-loving Blog Challenge 2011!

This is a library-loving blog challenge!

We all know how beset libraries are right now, and I love my new hometown library in Bozeman, Montana. Please help me show the love.

For every commenter on this post between now and April 4 at midnight, I will donate $1.00 to the Bozeman Public Library, up to an amount of $100.00 total.

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

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, mention it on Facebook, etc.  You can raise money for additional local libraries by visiting the blogs of others participating in this blog challenge. Go to this link:  (And, by the way, Jennifer Hubbard, author of The Secret Year, is the lovely brain behind this endeavor.)

If you’re inspired to start your own challenge or donate a flat amount to your local library also, please leave the amount of your pledge and the name of your library system in the comments.

There is also a Twitter component to this challenge. For every new follower I get at my Twitter account @janetsfox between now and April 4 at midnight, I will donate an additional $1.00.

And last but not least...I have a library-bound edition of FAITHFUL to give away! If you are a librarian or know a librarian, please indicate and include your email and I'll enter you in a drawing for this edition.

On behalf of libraries everywhere - thanks!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kidlit4Japan Auction Live!

The Kidlit4Japan auction to benefit children in Japan in the wake of the terrible tragedy there is live, and I want to invite you to bid on any of the wonderful items being offered.

This is a terrific way for the American children's writing community to come together and show our generosity and support.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Devastation in Japan

With all of you, I share a horror at the tragedy unfolding in Japan. My husband is a geophysicist, and I’ve completed a masters’ degree in geology; nevertheless, the power of nature to inflict havoc and human misery is shocking.

Kula, in my second novel FORGIVEN, experiences the terrible devastation of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. While I was researching the novel I came across many, many first-hand accounts, photographs, and videos, and I felt the same kind of shock at what I observed to be the terrible devastation there.

A friend of mine alerted me to a Huffington Post article that described a recently discovered collection of photographs by the photographer Frederick Eugene Ives. Here are a couple of the photographs taken in San Francisco shortly after the earthquake, and a quote from the article:
The six never-published images were snapped by photography innovator Frederick Eugene Ives several months after the April 1906 "Great Quake," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Most were taken from the roof of the hotel where Ives stayed during an October 1906 visit.
They were stowed amid other items donated by Ives' son, Herbert, and discovered in 2009 by National Museum of American History volunteer Anthony Brooks while he was cataloguing the collection.

All photos courtesy of the Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

If you want to help Japan, Greg Fishbone has organized an online auction featuring the kidlit community at , the auction to begin Monday, March 21 at this address. You can donate items to the auction, or you can bid on items there. The proceeds will benefit UNICEF in the hopes of reaching children in Japan in particular.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Debut Authors of the Class of 2k11: Bettina Restrepo

I first met Bettina Restrepo just after I began writing for children, when she was the volunteer coordinator for an SCBWI Houston conference. She was warm and funny and gracious, and I'm so pleased to host her here, talking about her debut novel, ILLEGAL.

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

14 yr old Nora waits for her father to come back to Mexico so that her life can begin again.  He’s working a construction job in Texas and occasionally calls and sends money back to their withering village in Cedula, Mexico. When the phone call and the money stop, Nora creates a plan to cross the border to find him.  It’s a coming of age story crossed with illegal immigration.  It’s also a spiritual exploration many issues including right vs wrong, God, prejudice, and the forgotten people of society. 

My main character, Nora, was inspired by a girl I saw on the side of the road and by my work with Fiesta Mart  I traveled to the stores and saw so many things!

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

I’ve been writing at some sort of professional level since 2002.  I’ve been published in Highlights for Children, Boy’s Life, Nature Friend, and more.  My first picture book came out in 2009, Moose and Magpie (Sylvan Dell Publishing.) 

Can you describe your path to the publication of ILLEGAL?

It was my first novel I ever wrote, and I didn’t sell it until 2009.  It was the novel I re-wrote a million times to teach myself to write better, stronger, deeper.  I gave up many times, but I always got back onto the publishing horse.  It’s a story that wouldn’t leave me alone.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?  

Read everything.  Read what you love more than 3 times.  Be patient and then be patient some more - with yourself, with the story, with life.

Also, for all writers, not everything you write will be destined for professional publication.  Sometimes a story is best loved with its intended audience.  Write because it is art, not to get famous.   

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

I’m a mom to a very special little boy.  He has an articulation disorder that makes his speech not understandable – but that doesn’t mean he is broken.  My personal goal is to equip him with all the tool he needs to become who he is supposed to be.  It’s definitely my hardest job, and one I can’t fail at.

But, I want to continue to write novels.  I just finished my next YA, which is about Mercedes, a Colombian exchange student in a Texas high school, who is not exactly what she seems.  It’s a soap opera within a book and very funny.  I had a ball writing it. 

What’s next – perhaps I’ll tackle another serious character.  I love my characters.

For life – I want to travel more, spend time with friends and family, and do good for others. 

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?  

I always have 2-3 projects underway. :)

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about ILLEGAL?  and on Facebook @BettinaRestrepo

Monday, March 7, 2011

A FAITHFUL Moment: Dances With Wolves

I've been planning for a while to run a series of posts about Montana and the Yellowstone region, in homage to Maggie, the protagonist of Faithful. But I thought I'd start with a personal experience just happened!

We do have wolves here in the mountains around our cabin. I've known this for a while, and we've seen them - usually from the car while driving through the open prairie lands on the way to town - but once I watched them running across the slope across the river from our front porch, and once we saw a wolf while out walking with a group.

Today I crossed paths with a lone wolf, while I was walking alone and was (most likely) the only human in a five mile radius. While he wanted nothing to do with me, I certainly wanted nothing to do with him. But his path took him to a stand of aspen that lies between where I was on the hillside and our cabin.

So my little heart was beating hard for a time, as I skirted the woods and made noise and generally got a move on - without looking like I was moving too fast. I had my eye fixed on the direction in which he went. At one point as I crossed his path (literally) I caught a whiff of him, and boy, did he smell. As an FYI to lovers of novels featuring cute boys who can morph into wolves: don't try this at home.

Not long ago a wolf pack killed a rancher neighbors' dog right outside their house. And I know the ranchers aren't happy with the wolves in general as they can and do predate on sickly calves. I am a big fan of the wolves for many reasons, not the least of which is we need balance in nature and generally speaking wolves want to stay out of our way. But respect is important here. Respect of his space, and my hope that he'll respect mine.

Would Maggie have seen wolves in Yellowstone in 1904? Not likely. Wolves were nearly extinct in this part of the world at that time, having been hunted to the brink. I read nothing about wolves in the journals of the Park Superintendent that year while doing research. I'm glad they're back. But I'm also glad that I'm back in our cabin with no closer encounter than I had.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Women’s History Month: Who Wears the Pants?

When Faithful was recognized by the ALA as an “Amelia Bloomer List” pick for 2011, I knew I had to write a little something about Amelia. (Of course, I’m truly proud, as this is something that is important to me: the list contains the committee’s pick of books that honor “strong, powerful girls and the books that inspire them”. I love that my Maggie inspired this choice!)

Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894) was an early feminist, a proponent of women’s issues, and the founder of a newspaper, The Lily, devoted to issues like suffrage, temperance, and education. But Amelia is best known for her namesake “bloomers” – the first attempt at getting women out of long cumbersome skirts and into pants.

Bloomers were ugly enough that women didn’t take to them widely, and even feminists eventually abandoned them because they looked ridiculous. (You'll notice that women couldn't entirely abandon their skirts, and that the bloomers couldn't exactly hug the figure...maybe the only advantage was that you could run away more easily from some obnoxious male.)

Amelia was happily married, so much so that she gave up her beloved paper in order to follow when her husband wished to move west. She stated that giving up The Lily was an act of love, not of obedience. Her difficult choice resonates; we all must, from time to time, make choices between head and heart.

Amelia and her followers set in motion the dialogue that continues today regarding the rights and roles of women in society. What do you think - how far have we come?

Here's more about Amelia: 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Reading Like a Writer: Character in Maggie Stiefvater's LINGER

Fangirl moment: I attended KidlitCon in Minneapolis this past October, and to my great delight Maggie Stiefvater was the keynote speaker. I’d read Shiver and loved it; I bought Linger at the conference. Maggie is unpretentious and supremely smart, and her keynote was inspiring. I knew she was a good writer. After reading Linger, I’m convinced she’s an exceptional writer.
Linger (aside from being a rollicking good story, with a plot that grabs and won’t let go) is a study in character. The story is told in alternating points of view, each from the first person. Stiefvater labels each change of POV; but her characters are so richly conceived that I really didn’t need labels, I knew just who was speaking. How does she do it? By understanding what makes each character tick. By giving them such unique personalities that their voices resonate through language, recollection, and action.
The story (and I’m not giving anything away here) is the love story of Grace and Sam, and their relationship is central to the action. Grace is gentle and giving. Sam is gentle and lost. Sam is a poet:
Without Grace, I was a nocturnal animal. I stalked ants in the kitchen, waiting by the insufficient light of the recessed bulbs with a glass and a piece of paper so that I could transport them outside.
Grace is the “good” girl captured by love:
Could you outgrow your parents?
But it is Stiefvater’s secondary characters who steal the show. With Isabel, Stiefvater has created a character both sure of herself and vulnerable, yet unwilling to let her vulnerability show. She’s the ultimate cool teen:
I sighed. I didn’t know if I wanted to know. It seemed to me that knowing would be more work than not knowing. But it wasn’t like we could really put the genie back in the lamp now that it was out, could we?
Snide, snarky, quick, Isabel falls for her perfect alter ego Cole, who has been there and done it all:
I looked down at him, and suddenly anger bubbled up through me. It shouldn’t have affected him this badly. It was just a damned bathroom. It was he who was making me this cruel – I hadn’t done anything to him except shown him a damned tub. I wasn’t that person he thought I was.
Oh, but Cole is the way Sam thinks he is - damaged, yes, but not truly cruel, and this is what he must learn - with Isabel's help. And Isabel must learn to trust, and what better teacher than Cole?
Isabel: It seemed like he always sprang honesty on me when I least expected it.
Cole: I felt like I had been a balloon getting larger and larger, waiting to pop, and she had come in and burst herself first.
The story may be Grace’s and Sam’s, a Romeo and Juliet thwarted love story - and, by the way, ever so much more than a werewolf story – but the interplay of these two damaged souls, Isabel and Cole, is what kept me reading. I can’t wait for Stiefvater’s third book, Forever.