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.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday Wisdom

"A good book is the best of friends, the same today 
and for ever."

Martin E. Tupper

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friend Friday

Not sure there's a sweeter person around than Laurie Thompson. We met eons ago through SCBWI-Washington, an organization that has benefitted greatly from her efforts. She is a hard-working volunteer AND a hard-working writer: in addition to Be A Change-Maker, Laurie will launch two books in early 2015! Go, Laurie!


Laurie Ann Thompson




You Gotta Have Friends

My upcoming book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, is for teens who want to make a difference in their communities or around the world. There are three reasons why I find it so wonderfully appropriate that Kirby asked me to write about it for her Friend Friday series, and I’m deeply honored to be able to share those reasons here today.


1. Friendship is a key part of changemaking. First, what drives a person to want to effect social change is empathy, and empathy is also what allows one to be a good friend. Second, if you’re going to try to change the world (or even a tiny piece of it), it sure helps if you can get some good friends to join you! Third, when you venture out on such an ambitious mission—guided by your passion and revealing your most authentic self—you’re practically guaranteed to make a bunch of like-minded new friends along the way. I hope teens who read Be a Changemaker will have a blast making a real difference for others alongside their truest friends, old and new.

2. Writing often feels like a solitary endeavor, but friendship is a key part of writing, too. Publishing a book is a long haul. Be a Changemaker, which releases next week, was a ten-year journey from idea to publication. You can bet that road had many unexpected ups and downs, twists and turns. If it weren’t for my friends, writers and others, I literally couldn’t have done it. Their encouragement kept me going through the hard times, and their support cheered me on during the good times. Thank you, friends, for making me a better writer… and a better person!

3. Some of my most treasured friends are my mentors, and Kirby herself is one of the best. I wrote about one example in chapter 6 of Be a Changemaker, so I’ll share a different one here. Many years ago Kirby and I were at a conference in Portland with several other writing buddies. After the day’s sessions ended, everyone started making plans for some social time, but I blubbered something about needing to go back to my room. Everyone was concerned I wasn’t feeling well, but I couldn’t even explain it—I just had to get out of there! Kirby recognized my condition immediately: “Oh, honey,” she said, putting her hand gently on my arm, “now you just go take an introvert moment, and then come join us when you’re ready.” Genius! I now schedule “introvert moments” ahead of time, so I can avoid getting to that point of complete social overwhelm.

Are you a changemaker? You might not think so, but I bet you are someone’s friend. That’s where changemaking starts. And you never know where it’ll go from there.


Laurie Ann Thompson grew up in rural northern Wisconsin. A former software engineer, she now writes for children and young adults to help her readers--and herself--make better sense of the world we live in, so they can contribute to making it a better place for all of us. She strives to write nonfiction that gives wings to active imaginations and fiction that taps into our universal human truths. Her books include BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS (Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, September 2014), a teen how-to guide filled with practical advice and plenty of inspiration for beginning social entrepreneurs; EMMANUEL'S DREAM (Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House, January 2015), a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who changed Ghana's perception of people with disabilities; and MY DOG IS THE BEST (FSG/Macmillan, June 2015), an adorable picture book about the unconditional love that exists between a child and a family pet. Read more about her here

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

There is a terrific hardware store near our beach house. Not only does the store come with dogs -- ginormous ones like Lucy and Josie, Great Dane mixes, and teeny-tiny ones like Chihuaua mix Marley -- it comes with great advice. And it's a totally family run endeavor.

As un-DIY as I am, I adore hardware stores. What are all those bolts and nuts and geegaws for? Standing in the aisle, I can imagine myself someone who could actually build a bookcase, repair a toilet (okay; that I can do) or install a new light fixture. 

Yesterday I was at the store hunting for some eyes and S hooks to hang a pair of pink (!) oars I purchased eight years ago. 

(clearly I am not speedy when it comes to home improvements) It was early afternoon and a high chair was set up near the front register. One of the littlest family members was trying to climb up for his pb&j after-preschool snack. I could hear the encouragement of several adults; one said something that really hit home. "You did it yesterday," she said. "You can do it again today."

As someone on the verge of a revision, I really needed to hear that wisdom. It's been a couple of months since I sent off the manuscript, one that has a unique voice, something I've never tried before. I was beginning to fret that I wouldn't be able to recapture that voice. That I wouldn't be able to tackle the revision.

But now, I am feeling a bit more optimistic about it. I did it yesterday. I can do it again today.