Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Teacher Tuesday

What a delight to welcome Michigan teacher and fellow fudge-lover Heather Jensen to my blog. Heather has a passion for literacy and life and if you ever have to give a speech, she's the person you want in the front row. Her warm smile will tame any butterflies you might have!


Heather, please fill in the blank: 

You should never read and blank at the same time. 

Tube down a river. Turns out books get a bit thicker and wrinkly once the pages get wet.

If you were invited to be on Oprah, what book would you bring for her to read?

I would have to share Wonder by RJ Palacio with Oprah! I feel like everyone needs to read Wonder and learn from Auggie!

What is the funniest book you’ve read?

Funniest book I've read is Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Sciezska. 

What is the saddest?

The saddest book I've read is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Something about a dog, gets me everytime. (Once a parent was observing my classroom to see which of her triplets should be in my room and I was reading this aloud, oh my I cried and my kids cried. No shame, still recommended me for her son)

Favorite reading snack/beverage?

My favorite snack while reading is anything salty: chips, popcorn and a Faygo Red Pop!

For those of us who don't know what Faygo Red Pop looks like!


What’s next on your TBR list?


My TBR list is always long and filled with great titles: The Unwanteds: Island of Silence by Lisa McMann is at the top. Then Paperboy by Vince Vawter. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. The pile keeps growing longer and longer :)

Teachers, librarians, reading coaches, principals, custodians, lunch ladies, anyone with school connections: Please play along! Email me here and I'll get you the questions so you, too, can be featured on Teacher Tuesday. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friend Friday

I met Lindsey Lane when I presented at the SCBWI conference in Austin. Aside from having a great time with those Texas folks -- barbecue, Book People, bird watching --, I learned that Lindsey was completing her MFA at the Vermont College program. Then, ten minutes later (well, it seemed like ten minutes to me; it no doubt felt longer than that to Lindsey), I learned her first book was coming out. When I asked her to write a guest post, she admitted to being stymied. So I suggested a few possible ideas, including the one that launched her into the thoughtful post below. 

Lindsey Lane: photo credit Sam Bond


from Kirby: Write about a dead end that turned you in a different direction? 

In a way, the beginning and ending of every book must be discovered.



Let me explain. For Evidence of Things Not Seen, there were a few beginnings. There was the beginning when I woke up from a dream where I saw a boy standing in a pull out by the side of the road. I wondered what that boy was doing there, so I began writing into the dream, into the place by the side of the road, into that landscape and its people.

But there was also the beginning several years before when I wrote a play called The Miracle of Washing Dishes, which was a play about the epiphanies characters had while washing dishes. The epiphanies and the dishes held the play together. I think the play was a success because people like to witness epiphanies. They like to feel their world can be shifted even if they are too afraid to do it themselves.

There was also the beginning when Alexander Calder’s mobiles touched my work and I realized that I could fracture a storyline and that all the fragments would still hold together and tell a complete story with spaces for the reader to enter in and make it their own.

These few beginnings above informed me as a writer. They brought me to the place of telling this particular story. The boy led me into the world of the pullout where everyone who came there had some sort of epiphany. The characters each had their own gossamer thread and, because the center of the story was missing (Tommy), the threads wobbled (like pieces of a mobile) as they do when some thing has gone missing from our lives. Each time we come to the pages of our manuscripts, we bring our history as well our intention to tell a true and honest story. We quarry for the best nuggets and we line them up one by one leading the reader deeper into the world we have created.

But where do we take our readers once we have them traveling the bloodlines of our stories? Where do we want them to land? What feeling do we want them to have as they step away our stories? Comfort? Despair? Promise?

My original ending had a bow on it. Luckily enough, an agent was reading my manuscript and she was quite enthused about it. She kept emailing me all the way along, saying how much she liked each chapter and how deep and finely woven each character was. When she got to the ending, she wrote, “With the tenor of this book, I don’t believe you can wrap things up so neatly. “

I took another look.

If each story line shakes the characters to their core and brings them to a revelation, could I really wrap the whole kit and caboodle in a bow?

I knew that I didn’t want to land in a place of despair. That wasn’t the essential truth in each character. Each epiphany, each revelation was meant to be positive. You see, essentially, I believe that people treat people like they want to be treated and that given a choice, we fall on the side of good. But at the same time, there is a natural anxiety in being alive. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We don’t know what will happen when we wake up in the morning. We can feel afraid. Or we can live with the mystery and find the promise that something good might happen. That’s where I landed the book: there is promise in the mystery.


Lindsey Lane is the author of the award-winning picture book (Clarion) and iTunes app (PicPocket) SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN, which was named Best Children’s Book of 2004 by Bank Street College of Education. Her debut young 
adult novel EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers) has just been released. Lindsey lives in Austin, Texas with her family. 





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

"Sometimes the more you stir it, the more it stinks."

from How to Steal a Dog, by Barbara O'Connor

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Teacher Tuesday

Please join me here each Tuesday as I ask darling educator friends to be good sports and answer some light-hearted questions about reading. I'll ask them to fill in the blanks, fess up to titles that make them cry, and give us a glimpse into what's on their TBR pile.

First up is my nearly-neighbor, Adam Shaffer. Adam teaches 4th grade at a school in northwest Washington (state).

Adam, please fill in the blank: 

You should never read and blank at the same time. 
Drive! Not safe! Carpool or take the bus if you want to read! Or, audiobook?

If you were invited to be on Oprah, what book would you bring for her to read? 

I'd want her to give some exposure to a book I love, but that I don't feel like gets enough attention. So, I'd probably bring Cold Cereal, by Adam Rex.

What is the funniest book you’ve read? 
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban. The best thing about it is that it is funny with out "making fun of."


What is the saddest? 
There are a lot of books that have made me cry, sometimes from sadness and sometimes from joy. I think the saddest books I've read are Love, Aubrey, by Suzanne LaFleur, or Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson.


Favorite reading snack/beverage? 
I prefer to read lying on the couch or hammock, flopped in a comfy chair, or laying in bed, so snacks and drinks don't work particularly well while I'm reading. Still, I'd never say no to a chocolate chip cookie.

What’s next on your TBR list? 

On my stack at home, I have The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, by Jessica Lawson, and Death by Toilet Paper, by Donna Gephart. I also have a few more of the Washington State Sasquatch nominees to finish up.

Teachers, librarians, reading coaches, principals, custodians, lunch ladies, anyone with school connections: Please play along! Email me here and I'll get you the questions so you, too, can be featured on Teacher Tuesday. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Teacher Tuesday

I. Love. Teachers and Librarians. 

I've spent the last two years on this blog attempting to shine a well-deserved spotlight on those who work far too hard to create lifelong readers and learners for far too little pay. This year, I'm showing my love for educators in a slightly different way.

Tune in Tuesday to find out what we're up to! (Hint: it has to do with books.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Friend Friday Reminder

Don't forget to add your comments to yesterday's guest post by Michaela MacColl -- you just might be the lucky winner of a signed copy of Rory's Promise!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friend Friday

What a delight it is to be the first stop on the blog tour for Michaela MacColl for her newest book, Rory's Promise; please see the remainder of her tour stops below. Not only do you get some insights into the story behind the story of Rory's Promise, one lucky reader of this blog will win an autographed copy of the book! Every commenter's name goes into the hat for a drawing to be held on Monday! Tell your friends!


Michaela MacColl

Kirby, thank you so much for hosting the first stop of the blog tour for Rory’s Promise! Your comments on the manuscript made Rory a stronger book – so I think you for that too.



I’ve always been drawn to historical fiction because I’ve found that the strange and wonderful stories in real life have an extra “oomph” because they are true. Maybe you could make this stuff up – but you don’t have to! Rory’s Promise is the first book in a series for Calkins Creeks called Hidden Histories. Each book illuminates some baffling event in America’s past from a kid’s point of view.  But in the breadth of big stories –you need a place to start. Some little detail that intrigues you and leads by the hand into the story you’re going to tell. Rory’s Promise was no exception – there was a nugget! 

Rory’s Promise is about the orphan trains that relocated a quarter million children from the East Coast to rural areas in the west 1853 – 1929. Most of the kids were Irish, victims of the great Irish migration to flee the famines. 

My fictional heroine, Rory, is a 12 year old orphan who lives with the Sisters of Charity at the New York Foundling Hospital. 






She should have aged out of their orphanage by now, but she uses every wile she’s got to stay with her little sister Violet. When Violet is sent to the far off Arizona Territory, Rory must risk everything to go with her. 

In real life the Sisters sent 40 young children to an inhospitable mining town in Clifton Arizona in 1904. 



 They had never ventured so far west, or to such a remote location, but the local priest assured them that he had wonderful homes for them.  When their train arrived, they discovered the kids were assigned to Mexican families – devout Catholics -- but not the Sisters’ idea of appropriate parents.  To make matters worse, the Anglos in town assumed the kids were available for them to adopt. When they found out that the kids were destined to go to Mexican homes, the white families caused a riot, ran the priest out of town and kidnapped half the children. The Sisters sued to get the kids back, but every judge decided that the children had been rescued by the white families, because "everyone" knows that Mexicans aren’t suitable parents for white children. Amazing, right? 

It’s a great story, but I needed a hook.  I found it in an article about the event that appeared in the local paper a century after the event.  The kidnapped children were given new names and assimilated into the community – there’s no trace of them today. But the reporter mentioned one rumor of a Mexican family that came back to town a decade later, with a red-haired daughter in tow.  That was my “in”.   What if not all the children were kidnapped?  It also turned out that there was a discrepancy in the lists of children. A “Violet” appears on one list – but not the final one. And that was the seed of Rory’s Promise.  

Today we’re unveiling the trailer for Rory too – I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to visit my website and you can follow my blog tour this coming week:

Mon 9/22             Middle Grade Mafioso 
Tue 9/23               Mother/Daughter Book Club 
Wed 9/24             Middle Grade Minded 
Thu 9/25              KidLit Frenzy 

Fri 9/26                Unleashing Readers 



Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Rory’s Promise (Calkins Creek,  2014) is her fifth book and the first entry of the Hidden Histories Series.  She lives in Westport CT with her husband, two teenaged daughters and three extremely large cats.