Friday, July 25, 2014

Friend Friday

I've known Stephanie Bodeen so long, I can't recall when we first met. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her better when we were both on the faculty for what is now the Northwest Institute of the Literary Arts. She's got a flair for the heartwarming (Elizabeti's Doll) and the heartpounding (The Compound). Her brand-new middle grade series is called Shipwreck Island; the first book is a thrilling and lively read-- don't miss it!

S.A. Bodeen

I’ve been a reader ever since I can remember. My childhood was spent on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, about as far from an ocean as one can get. In fact, I didn’t even visit an ocean until the age of fourteen. Yet, the books I gravitated toward as a child had oceans. In particular, islands. I must have read Two on an Island by Bianca Bradbury, about a boy and his sister trapped for several days with no food or water, upwards of thirty times. Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink, about two sisters stuck caring for four babies and toddlers,was another I read over and over.

Did I want to be marooned on an island? No, thank you. (I’m afraid of deep water and don’t even like to swim.) Did I want to read about someone else being marooned on an island? Yes, please.

Fate has a sense of humor, because in 2002, I moved with my husband and two young children from the Midwest to Midway Island. Yes, that Midway of World War II fame. Though it now holds the official title of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, the paltry Pacific patch is still a mere one by three miles in area and a sketchy 1500 mile swim from civilization. We traveled there in an aging 18 passenger turbo-prop, a white-knuckle flight that was fictionalized with some creative license (Spoiler Alert: they crash)  in my YA novel The Raft. After nearly three years on Midway, I perhaps qualify— in some circles, anyway— as an expert on remote island living. Well, at least enough to try my hand at writing my own island story.

Shipwreck Island, my first middle grade series, was inspired by those authors who brought island adventures to life for me, as a child, shivering under the covers in my ancient farmhouse bedroom. But writing in a new genre scared me. I’d been successful at both picture books and YA. Could I meet somewhere in the middle and still tell a good story?

I turned in the first book and waited, terrified, convinced that it was terrible. My editor told me it was my best work yet. (Insert huge sigh of relief here.) I’m currently on editorial revisions for the third book of four in this series billed as Swiss Family Robinson meets Lost. I won’t reveal much, except that the danger, the suspense, and the unknown? All there. Did I mention surprises and cliffhangers? Oh yeah. There are some of those too…

S.A.Bodeen is the author of many award-winning picture books including Elizabeti’s Doll , as well as several acclaimed YA novels, including The Compound and The Raft. She grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and has lived in eight states, two African countries, and one insulary possession. She holds an MFA from Spalding University and lives with her family in the Midwest. Follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered."

G.K. Chesterton

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friend Friday

Usually I host a writing friend here, to share about their new book, on Friend Friday. Today, I merely want to share a book that's been a dear friend:

We checked this book out of the library a kajillion times when the kids were small. We loved it so much, I spent an exorbitant amount to buy a hardcover copy years ago (the original book was $4.95!) but it brings a smile every time I see the cover. 

Is there a book friend like this in your family's life? If so, won't you please share below?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

"Experience is a good teacher. But her fees are very high."

William Ralph Inge

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Funday!

I just got a box of these in the mail:

the paperback version of the Lucky Dog anthology that came out in January. Yay!!! My story, Like An Old Sweater, features a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel (no surprise to those of you who know how crazy I am about our Winston).

At IRA, the sublime Becky Anderson, of Anderson's Bookshops (Chicago area) told me she was hand selling the heck out of this collection of dog tales, which made me want to wag all over because the proceeds from this book go to benefit Red Rover (learn more about that organization here).

Because Mondays generally need a little brightening, I've decided to give away 3 copies! Here's all you have to do: share the title of your favorite ever dog book. 

First three commenters win a copy of the book!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friend Friday

Today's guest is Michelle Houts with whom I shared an editor (who is, sadly, no longer at Delacorte). Michelle and I got to meet in person a few years back, when I took that great trip out to Ohio and visited schools in Dublin and Botkins. I adored her first novel, The Beef Princess of Practical County, and am delighted to see her career taking off. She is a hard worker with a huge heart, as you will see below.

Michelle Houts

Before “Bully” was a Verb …

Writers are storytellers. It’s what we do. Sometimes we make them up. And we call it fiction.

Sometimes we take moments and people and events and put words to them so that others can read about those moments and people and events. We call that nonfiction.

I have story to tell. The words are mine. But the story belongs to Mark Boney.

When Mark was born, he was no different than any other baby. His parents were overjoyed to have him in their lives. He cooed and cried and smiled and burped. He was like everyone else.

By the time I met Mark, he was an elementary school student. And it was very clear that his classmates viewed him as someone different from themselves. And they were mean.

They picked on Mark for being the smartest one in the class.
They rolled their eyes and groaned when he raised his hand to ask the teacher another question.

They picked on him for wearing pants that were sometimes too short.

And for buttoning his shirt up all the way to the top button.
They teased him because his voice could be loud.

And they mocked the slight Southern twang in his vowels.
Mark’s classmates were relentless. He was target of endless teasing and taunting in second grade. In fourth grade.  In middle school.  And in high school.

I know this not because Mark was one of my students. I know this because Mark was one of my classmates.

So, I now you’re wondering. Was she mean?  Did she torment Mark Boney until he cried, “Please, stop. Just stop?”
Although many years have passed since Mark and I sat in the same classroom, I’ve often asked myself that question. Did I? Was I mean?

And, to the very best of my ability to recall, I believe the answer is no. I didn’t fling the insults. I wasn’t one who taunted and teased. I never pointed out Mark’s differences. I never tried to see if I could make him cry.

But I did something far worse.

I stood there. I just stood there when a girl made fun of his clothing. I watched and did nothing when the  boys made him cry.

Now, this story might just be my recollection a boy from school was picked on by his classmates, but the story doesn’t end here.

Not so long ago, I was digging through a box of old pictures and found this. My second grade class. You already know which boy is Mark. Which girl is me? Why, I’m the awkward one, third from the right, bottom row.

It was a Thursday,  so I posted the picture on my Facebook page as my “Throwback Thursday” post. The comments started coming in. Some from classmates I’ve been in touch with recently and some from folks I haven’t heard from in years. We reminisced. We tried to remember all the names.
And then, someone asked.

“Hey, whatever happened to Mark Boney?”
For quite a while, no one answered. And then, a post.
“Mark married, became a pastor of a church, and had a daughter. Then he died of cancer. Just a year or so ago.”
Silence. No one posted.

And, then everyone seemed to be posting at once.
I had a moment of guilt when I was reading that post. A lot of us teased him...... #feeling awful!”
“We were closer when we were younger, but as a teenager I was a mean jerk to him.”
“He never knew that we both had become pastors. He was a great man.”
“I teased Mark a bunch growing up too.”
“Wish I could have been nicer.”

One by one, 48-year-old teachers, pastors, businessmen, and writers took a long look at their 8-year-old selves, and expressed sorrow over words they now know they can never take back. Actions they can never apologize for.

It is too late.

For our Mark Boney, it is too late. But, there are Mark Boneys in every school today.

So, with the help of Mark’s only sister, Tammy Boney Martin, in March 2014 I launched The Mark Boney Promise. Every author visit I make now includes Mark’s story. And my new website has a place where students can go and hear Mark’s story.  And most importantly, they can make a promise. The Mark Boney Promise to Always treat others with respect, and to Speak up when others do not.
Because you don’t have to wait until it’s too late to do the right thing.

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle grade readers. The Beef Princess of Practical County, The Practical County Drama Queen, Winterfrost, and her first non-fiction book, Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek.  Visit Michelle’s website here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

"There is very little success where there is little laughter."

Andrew Carnegie