Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Do you think the librarians will win? Will they divide us into groups?

A look at the book, "Divergent" by Veronica Roth
by Kitty Griffin

         di·ver·gent[ di vúrjənt ]
.    moving apart: following paths or courses that become increasingly
different or separate
.    differing: showing or having differences
not matching something: deviating from something such as a typical pattern or an expressed wish

So why didn’t the book “Divergent” by Veronica Roth, (now made into a movie) thrill me?

It was my daughter who put her finger on it. “Mom, you know what I realized? That Beatrice’s future world is one where the librarians have won. Do you really think that's going to happen?"


Think about it. In what future could you see people being divided into these groups—
Abnegation—the Selfless
Erudite—the Intelligent
Dauntless—the Brave
Amity—the Peaceful
Candor—the Honest

So I wonder, why couldn’t she have just used Selfless, Intelligent, Brave, Peaceful, and Honest? 
Do you see why I laughed when my daughter said, “In her world the librarians won.”
Because  n our world right now, libraries are desperate to stay alive.
Words are getting shorter, (LOL), not longer.
Okay, so maybe that’s nitpicking, it’s the nit that I picked that led me to this next question.

Why these five factions?

That was the question that bothered me most of all. Why had this future society chosen these five groups?

The world in Hunger Games was clearly a dystopia. It was clear why the games were held, to remind society of the terrible breaking of the world.

Tris’s world is Chicago, we know that. But what broke the world and what else is going on?
I like my dystopian novels to give me a world that makes me say, “I can totally see this happening.” Even Hunger Games, given the popularity of reality shows, seriously, I could see us devolving into this type of entertainment.

Another of my favorite dystopian books, “Shade” by Garth Nix, now let me tell you, there’s a world to be absolutely terrified of. 

Or the world created by Lois Lowery in, “The Giver.”  Who wouldn't fear that?

I still get chills when I think of the book, “Feed” by M.T. Anderson. Now there’s a world to be terrified of.

I wanted to be more afraid. The potential was there. Roth was so very close. 
I wanted to know more about what it meant to be DIVERGENT.

I wanted more things to believe in. Right now, I’m working with a personal trainer. Let me tell you, bodybuilding doesn’t happen in a week or two. Am I the only one who thinks that Tris’s development into a fighter wasn’t realistic?

Because if that wasn’t realistic…how could anything else be? Oh, I know these are just grumbles. But they're grumbles that kept diverting my attention.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate the book. I just wanted to like it more. Because as a lover of sci/fi with a strong female protagonist—well, I’m all for it.

The book has made millions for the author.  

So my concerns aren’t going to bother her.

But I won’t bother to read books two or three.

I might see the movie if Netflix picks it up. Then again, I might not.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Rule for Writers: Butt OUT of Chair!

"Butt in chair. There is no other 
single thing that will help you more 
to become a writer."  Jane Yolen

Contradict Jane Yolen? Wouldn't dream of it!

But I would amend her.

Recent medical studies have found that prolonged sitting is a serious health risk factor--even if you also get regular exercise. The Mayo Clinic summarizes it here.  

As you age, the risks increase. Researchers found that after 60, "every additional hour a day you spend sitting is linked to doubling the risk of being disabled--regardless of how much moderate exercise you get...."

The boildown for writers? Get used to working with your butt out of that chair!

We have some famous exemplars:

Sir Walter Scott composed Marmion while galloping the braes on horseback. (That's one expensive office chair.)

And Edith Sitwell reclined to write . . . in a cushioned coffin. (The only possible objection to that might be the awkwardness of balancing a laptop on your midsection.)

Source: OSHA

More realistically, we can emulate Hemingway and Nabokov. They wrote at standing desks. (And don't worry about "losing your voice." Standing may have contributed to Hemingway's famous concision, but it had no such effect on the word-loving Russian.) 

The illustration at right shows recommended monitor and typing angles for standing work. Desk measurements will differ according to individual height and proportions, so--  

--for more precise ergonomics (and shopping and construction suggestions) consult sources like Bob Vila (6 DIY Standing Desk Projects) or lifehacker

Or seek inspiration here or here

CAVEAT: As any waitress can tell you, working on your feet all day carries its own risks. It can contribute to the development of varicose veins or hardening of the arteries.

A preliminary study among younger, healthy males showed the benefit of consciously varying one's work posture at specific intervals. It's not clear yet whether these benefits extend to workers of all ages, or to those with pre-existing health conditions. But Dear Boy was already inspired to devise this dual-position desk. It requires two monitors and two keyboards, but only one computer: 

My own solution is still a WIP. I'll report in a future post. 

Meanwhile, what's your . . . um, position . . . on this issue?

Susan Chapek

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fairy Tales and Fables

by Judy Press

Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a fable? I didn't, until I looked up the definition. A fable is, " a short narrative making an edifying or cautionary point and often employing as characters animals that speak and act like human beings, or a story about legendary persons or exploits." A fairy tale is, "a fanciful tale of legendary deeds and creatures, or a fictious, highly fanciful story or explanation." Following are examples of popular fairy tales and fables:
Fairy tales : Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, The Gingerbread Man, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Ugly Duckling, The Sleeping Beauty, Snow White.
Fables: The Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Tortoise and the Hare, Alice In Wonderland, The Lion and the Mouse, Peter Pan, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.
Thanks to Walt Disney, these stories have taken on a life of their own and provided children and adults with a "Disney-fied" version. My local library has a whole section dedicated to fairy tales and fables and in re-reading several of these classic stories I realized how timeless they are.
On a recent visit to my granddaughter's preschool I read her class the story of the Three Little Pigs. My initial concern was that it might be too frightening for them to handle, but the version I read glossed over the fact that the wolf ended up in a pot of boiling water. However unfortunate it may be,  kids nowadays are exposed to a great deal of violence which unfortunately doesn't always have a happy ending like they do in fairy tales.
Below is a craft I did with the children in Hudson's class that the children really enjoyed!

Three Little Pigs Puppets

Here's What You Need:
3 Paper lunch bags (white or brown)
3 White paper plates
Construction paper  (including pink and red)
Crumpled strips of brown paper or Easter grass (for straw)
Popsicle sticks or toothpicks (for wood)
Child safety scissors
Glue stick
Wiggly eyes (optional)

Here's What You Do:
1. Cut out the center of the white paper plates. Glue one onto each bag's flap for the pig's face.
2.. Cut out a small circle from pink paper for pig's nose. Cut out pig's ears from pink paper. Glue ears and nose onto face.
3. Cut strips of construction paper and accordion fold. Glue onto bag for pig's arms.
4. Glue sticks onto one pig, straw on the other. Draw brick pattern on red paper and glue onto third pig.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Interview with Amy Tipton, Signature Literary Agency

I couldn't be more thrilled to say I'm represented by Amy Tipton, Signature Literary Agency http://signaturelit.com/. To read about my excitement over signing follow this link http://daveamaditz.com/announcement-of-representation-amy-tipton-signature-literary-agency/

Some say representation is a must in today's marketplace. It's also a must, if you are looking for representation, to target your queries wisely so that you minimize your rejections and increase your chances of receiving offers. It involves a lot of research, hours upon hours in some cases. 

Reading agent interviews is a great place to find out what agents are thinking, so I've provided a link http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.com/ where you can read Amy's latest interview (completed only a few days ago) to get an idea of her working style - - and of course - - what material she’s presently looking to represent.

 Good luck!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Writing Wednesday: There are eight million stories in the naked....newspaper.

Not long ago I was reading the weather page in my Pittsburgh Post Gazette. After I checked the five day forecast for western Pennsylvania, I also looked at the daily listing of highs and lows across the United States.  On this particular day, the high temperature for the previous day was recorded in Wink, Texas while the low was recorded in Embarrass, Minnesota.  Wink and Embarrass, I thought? Really?
A poem about the citizens of Wink, who just have to be known as Winkers, was born.

Coincidentally, the names of of some of those town's newspapers are fascinating as well.  In Massachusetts, the town of Sandwich publishes the Sandwich Broadsider.

Imagine a weather report turning on that light bulb over your head.  Newspapers are full of ideas for stories.  Where else besides the weather are these nuggets hidden?

The classified section is a treasure trove:
     "Grand Piano for sale. Child won't play..."
     "Warehouse Worker Wanted.  Must be forklift certified..."
     "Player Piano. Asking for $200 and TLC."
     "Furnished Room for Rent: Couple has empty nest syndrome, cable and wifi..."
I confess my ignorance about pets, but who is in the market for a morkie, maltepoo, chiweener, or pygmy Nigerian Cross goat??? Without a picture I am not sure what kind of a creature is for sale.

Science articles also inspire- how about some "de-extinction" drama?
     "...a novel approach to ecological conservation is gaining wider public attention; the resurrection of extinct species, like the woolly mammoth...aided by new genomic technologies developed by the Harvard molecular biologist George Church."
     Or the fact that Mammoth Cave, Kentucky (which once rivaled Niagara Falls as a top U.S. tourist destination) has 400 miles of explored passageways and may possibly have up to 600 more miles yet to be discovered? It is the longest known cave system in the world.

I hesitate to mention my next category- I mean no disrespect, but the obituaries are a great source for names:  Garth Bigbee, Norman Bornhorst, Clete Kaup, Royal Losh, Dewey Newhart, Providenza Vullo.  The marriage license and divorces granted listings are full of characters as well.

What about sports?  Did you know that the Pittsburgh Pirates once held spring training in Havana, Cuba? Do you know who Lester Biederman or Branch Rickey are?

The Police Blotter in small town papers is worth the comic relief alone.  I particularly recommend Southern Florida newspapers, as I am certain they are the source for most of Carl Hiaasen's books.  Floridians have called the police about: people serenading them in the middle of the night off key, shoplifters stuffing 20 pairs of sunglasses in their sweat pants, restaurant patrons ordering 6 orders of onion rings and leaving without paying, underwear found in mailboxes, homeowners finding burglars asleep in their closets, the alligator in the toilet tank, and many, many more.

The next time you are reading a newspaper, watch out for that light bulb. 

Submitted by Andrea Perry

Monday, April 7, 2014

Faking Normal

by Courtney Stevens

We would like to congratulate Courtney Stevens on her debut young adult novel, Faking Normal, an absolutely riveting book about a girl who must learn to cope with a secret she’s been hiding since summer, one she’s literally destroying herself over.

This past Friday, April 4, Marcy and I posted our answers to Courtney’s debut novel, Faking Normal. Today, you get to read Courtney’s favorite's. 

She's obviously given a lot of thought to her answers, which isn't surprising since the novel addresses so many sensitive and thought-provoking issues.

We hope our readers enjoy the story as much as we did… But first her bio:

Courtney C. Stevens grew up in Kentucky and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an adjunct professor and a former youth minister. Her other skills include playing hide-and-seek, climbing trees, and being an Olympic torch bearer. Faking Normal is her first novel.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

There are many, many turning points for Alexi, but this is the moment that seals the deal; the moment she decides to channel her brave and seize long-lasting healing in her life.

I decided to keep my secret, and now, I decide to let it go.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

I don’t want to give too much away, so I will just say that this line comes at the end of my favorite scene in the entire book.

 And the dueling lions are silent.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Assuming Bodee isn’t a secondary character, I love Alexi’s mom. She’s present, but not all-knowing. She’s loving, but perhaps flawing in the way she has differentiated between grace and justice. She’s the type of woman who will provide healthy perspective on this terrible experience. I don’t read very many young adult books with present parents, and I’m glad Alexi’s are great. That this happened to Alexi in spite of her amazing and protective parents, because it often does. Sexual abuse isn’t something that happens to a certain demographic; its reach can go anywhere, which is a terrible tragedy.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

I’m not sure this is my favorite, but it’s one of my favorites. I was a youth minister for a long time, and the realization that people can be Love as a noun was rather fantastic. I want to be a Bodee to people who are hurting. I think I like this paragraph, not because I want to be a savior, but because … I hope people can see the good in me around all the failure.

I’ve lived all but two weeks of my life without Bodee. But now, sitting with him in my fort, I know these two weeks have been God walking right into my life like he has flesh and Kool-Aid-colored hair. The gospel according to Bodee Lennox. His safety. His protection. And love.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

My choice is going to sound odd at first. I chose this line of dialogue because I believe it’s the first glimpse we get that Bodee is someone who has seen beyond the veil Alexi’s wearing. If he’d never said these words, and challenged her ability to hide in shame, this would have been a very different story.

“Neck’s still red,” he says.

We would like to congratulate Courtney Stevens on her debut young adult novel, Faking Normal. We can't wait to read Courtney's next book! 

To read more about Courtney Stevens debut YA novel Faking Normal please go to:

Friday, April 4, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day


by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

Spring is finally in the air! Say goodbye to the winter blahs and hello to some great debut novels for your Spring reading. Marcy and I are super excited to share our picks with you! Thank you to all of the fabulous debut authors who have agreed to participate. Marcy and I are looking for many more reviews to follow.

Welcome to April’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Courtney Stevens and her novel, Faking Normal,an absolutely riveting book about a girl who must learn to cope with a secret she’s been hiding since summer, one she’s literally destroying herself over.

Marcy first learned about Courtney’s book journey from our good friend Kate Dopirak through an article she submitted to Marcy for the SCBWI newsletter. You can read that article here.

When we learned that Courtney’s book was out, Marcy and I couldn’t wait to read it. We were not disappointed. We hope you enjoy our answers and encourage you to buy the book.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – The section I chose comes from near the end of the book when Lexi, the main character, has emotionally come to grips with what has happened to her. She’s in the woods behind her house watching a bird and wondering why it hadn’t flown south for the winter. I believe this section contrasts well with what Marcy picked (see below), which comes from earlier in the novel.

This morning, for one second between my pain and the fear that Bodee would tell, I imagined what it would be like to be free.

That’s what Bodee is imagining for me, I think. What he wants for me.


The choice is mine, I realize. I can be the bird clinging to a windowsill in Tennessee when all my friends are in Florida, or I can be the bird who flies away.

I can be free.

I decided to keep my secret, and now, I decide to let it go.

Marcy – This paragraph captured the mental and physical pain of the main character Lexi. This part of the book really stood out for me as Lexi tries to cope with what has happened to her. One way she copes is by clawing the back of her neck with her nails.

Blood smears into the collar of my shirt. It’ll never go into the hamper for Mom to wash. “You let him. You let him.” God, I wish I could bleed him out of my life. If only I could make the outside hurt more than the inside.

To keep myself from scratching deeper, I push open the door a sliver and stare at my bedroom ceiling. My breath leaves me, and the numbers start automatically. The compulsion is overwhelming. I have to count.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine.

Don’t Blink. My eyes start to burn.

Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. I can’t blink. I’m almost there.

Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen.



No matter. I’ll start over and try again to reach twenty-three.

Sometimes I stand on my bed and run my hand over the metal air-vent slits as if they’re a weird form of Braille. Those openings breathe cold air on me. Twenty-two holes of darkness. Twenty-three spaces of light. It’s hard to count them at night after they blur into a flat black hole.

Now I understand all the girls in my school who cut. I used to think of them as idiots who didn’t know how to cope. Now, I realize they are coping. Just not as well as I do.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - My favorite cliffhanger once again came from late in the book when Lexi has made the decision to confront her attacker. She writes her feelings which is the step that comes before her being able to express them verbally. (And I believe I have avoided giving away any of the mistery.)

I won’t be sorry for this. You are not my BEST BUDDY, you are a selfish asshole, and I hate what you did to me!

Marcy – Bodee is an outcast in school. Now his mom was murdered by his dad and he’s living with Lexi’s family. Bodee can’t go into his house where his mom died and asks Lexi if she could go in for him. 

“I found the earring. And I got you these from the kitchen.” I hold out the five little boxes of Kool-Aid.

And Bodee smiles.

Really smiles. Teeth and all. (They’re straight.)

And even though I have thrown up, walked through a crime scene, and rooted through the remainder of Mrs. Lennox’s life, I smile too.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – All along, I was ready to say that Bodee was my favorite secondary character, for all the reasons Marcy mentions below. I even had a quote she listed as one of my favorite quotes. But the more I began reading, the more I began to think that Kayla, Lexi sister, is also quite a complex character, so I chose her as my favorite secondary character and have listed below a quote which made me change my mind. This one came about halfway through the book, and up until this point, the only side we’ve seen of Kayla is that she is a nasty, spoiled sister. They are talking about a rumor around the school that someone has been raped and Kayla is trying to convince Lexi to tell her friends that they should report the incident.

“I mean, to imagine this guy forcing himself on a girl. Like, what if that was you? That boy, any boy, lays one finger on you without you wanting it and I swear I’ll tear him apart. And after that, I’ll let Craig finish him off.”


“You think I’m a self-centered bitch right now, but you’re still my little sister. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”

Marcy –  Of course it has to be Bodee. He is such a complex character. From his Kool-Aid colored hair to the way he knows how to find exactly the right words to help Lexi and make her feel safe. He has lived a tough life and is extremely wise. These two incidents show Bodee’s true character. The first is when Lexi brings him to her fort. The second is at night when Lexi is trying to fall asleep and looks to her vent to count.

We reach the fort’s ladder in what feels like three steps. A spider has made a home in the space between the two bottom rungs. Bodee doesn’t disturb it, but instead takes a high step above the eight legs. I want to squash it, but I climb over the spider too, since he worked so hard to avoid it.

“Lex” – he looks over his shoulder at me as we climb through the opening to the highest level – “your secrets are showing.”

I am neither surprised nor horrified at the way he cuts right to the core. Maybe, in fact, I’m a little relieved. “I know. Weird day.”

And the second

The vent is gone.

A cover from Hatchet conceals the vent’s twenty-two lines and twenty-three spaces.

And I am smiling and wiping at sudden tears. Because he has stuck his one precious possession, using four pieces of tape, over the place I want to avoid.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave – There’s more than a few sections I had picked out for my favorite, but the ones that stood out to me most always focused on her counting the slats in the air vents in her room, because it’s details such as this that makes this story so real and so gripping… And so sad.

But he never looked at my face. I know because I never blinked. I can’t count the slits in the vent without blinking, but that night it was if my eyelids were wired open. I saw everything. Everything. His eyes were closed when it started, when he reached for me for comfort, and I froze. When he kissed me and I stayed silent. And his eyes were closed while he worked. Because he didn’t want to remember I wasn’t his girlfriend. He didn’t want to realize he was doing to me the things he wanted to do with her.

Marcy – This paragraph is so powerful, no other comment is necessary.

“You can’t buy him some new wardrobe or cut his hair and make it all happy. His mom’s dead. His dad killed her. No matter how badly you want it, there’s no magical cure that makes it go away. Sometimes life just sucks.”

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave –  It’s the same line I listed above under my favorite secondary character. Kayla won me over when she showed her true feelings.

“I mean, to imagine this guy forcing himself on a girl. Like, what if that was you? That boy, any boy, lays one finger on you without you wanting it and I swear I’ll tear him apart. And after that, I’ll let Craig finish him off.”


“You think I’m a self-centered bitch right now, but you’re still my little sister. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”

Marcy –  Lexi’s friend Heather has come to terms in her own way that she will accept Bodee into their inner circle – under one condition:

“Okay, be friends with Bodee if you want. Just don’t go drinkin’ the Kool-Aid. If you know what I mean.”

To read more about Courtney Stevens debut YA novel Faking Normal please go to: