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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writing on Wednesday: Why Writing in Bed is Not So Weird After All, or the Odd Writing Habits of a Few Famous Authors

Whether you are standing up, lying down, naked, eating apples, or out in your garden shed as you write, you are apparently in great company.  Many authors have unique writing rituals or habits, or wish we didn't procrastinate so much and actually had writing rituals or habits.  Whatever it takes to get the job done; the proverbial "butt in chair" method that is oft quoted seems to help but a few of us.  Others require some very specific conditions.

Carl Hiaasen likes to face a blank wall, and wears noise-cancelling earmuffs. 
Dan Brown occasionally dons a pair of gravity boots and hangs upside-down from a special frame.
Ruth Krauss kept her manuscripts in the refrigerator.
Agatha Christie ate apples.
Flannery O'Connor preferred vanilla wafers.
Victor Hugo wrote in the nude so he would not be able to leave the house and instructed his valet to hide his clothes.
Roald Dahl composed in the privacy of his garden shed.
James Joyce wrote lying on his stomach in bed with a large blue pencil and wearing a white coat.
Truman Capote also liked to write lying down.
Stephen King is quoted as saying he had a goal of 2000 "adverb-less" words a day.
Lewis Carroll preferred using purple ink.
Joseph Heller arrived at some of his greatest ideas while riding the bus.
Woody Allen was inspired during crowded subway rides.

Some of my fellow writers claim they must be at the local library or sitting in a Starbucks since there are too many distractions at home.  Others keep to a strict daily two or three hour time frame or their required 1000 or 2000 words.  Still others have warm up activities - such as write about the last thing that made you laugh/cry, or do 30 jumping jacks.  Another must wear red flannel pajamas.

So what weird thing do you do?  And does it help?
Maybe we don't have writer's block after all.  Perhaps we are like Harold and all we need is  a purple crayon.

Andrea Perry, November 19, 20114

Monday, November 10, 2014

First Friday Five Favorite Things - Crazy


by Linda Phillips

This past Friday, November 7, Marcy and I posted our answers to Linda’s debut novel in verse, Crazy. Today, you get to read Linda’s favorite's. 

Great picks, Linda! We learned even more about your characters through your answers.

We hope our readers enjoy the story as much as we did.

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

As for the main character’s growth and development, it would have to be the very end of the book, in the last piece called “Figurines and Forgiveness.”  Laura has just asked forgiveness in her own way: 

“I’m not sure if she gets it at all,
what I am trying to say,
but the important thing is
I get it
and I did what
I needed to do,
and it feels as good
as anything I have ever done.”

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Probably the most emotional and high-tension poem of the book is “The Sound of Breaking China.” It’s a cliffhanger in the sense that the reader doesn’t know how Laura will react, but can expect that it will be bigger than the reaction she had to the first breakdown.

“The ambulance and the police get there as we pull up.
Someone makes me stay in the car,
makes me drink something, holds my hand,
tells me it’s going to be all right,
tries to turn my head when

they take her away.”

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Of course that would have to be Beth, Laura’s cocky, irreverent best friend, who knew her well even though Laura never shared any part of her mother’s illness.  Beth was Laura’s voice of reason, always with a dry sense of humor. 

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

I love the description of Laura’s parents and a brief glimpse of their relationship in “Puzzling Music.”

“I stop playing after I hear them leave, and I
watch the old Studebaker chug down the hill
in the bright moonlight
with the frozen snow glistening all around
like precious jewels.
I catch the silhouette of the two of them
in the front seat.

It occurs to me
that the love they share
is both mysterious and haunting

like the song of the reed flute.”

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

And speaking of Beth, this is my favorite dialogue sequence in the poem called, “The Call.”

“He called.  HE CALLED!”

“What? Stop shrieking.  I can’t understand you.
Speak clearly into the microphone, madam.
Did you say some is bald?  Who is this, anyway?

“Beth, stop playing with me, you dimwit.  You know
who this is and what I said.”

“So darling Dennis finally called.  So?”
Beth is unable to hide her biased opinion.

Congratulations to Linda and her debut novel Crazy. Kudos to Linda for this book being selected as a Junior Library Guild selection. Way to go!
To read more about Linda Phillips debut YA novel Crazy please go to:

Friday, November 7, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and 
Marcy Collier


Welcome to November’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, Linda Phillips and her novel, Crazy, a novel in verse. Laura, the main character, is worried she’s destined to suffer from the same mental illness as her mother. You’ll love reading to find out if, and how she copes with the problem.

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

Dave – This particular section comes from later in the book, and even though I don’t think I’m giving the story away, I will label it as a “spoiler alert” -  just in case. Laura has gone to see the family doctor to determine if in fact her mother’s mental illness is hereditary.

I thank him,
even give him a hug,
and walk slowly out to the car.
The image of a shot put
comes to mind again,
and I realize the weight
is out of my hands.
I have no control over it now,
and the farther away it lands
the better.

Marcy – This passage comes a little later in the book when Laura’s dad shares with her poems that her mother sent to him long ago. Laura begins to realize that her mother wasn’t always the way she is now.

Now I’m confused, because I always 
thought he was the one who 
originally sent the poems to her, 
but maybe it was the other way 
around. Anyway, I get 
embarrassed when he starts 
showing them to me 
because some of them are downright mushy, 
even racy and passionate, 
I’m thinking he’s probably 
made some mistake and gotten 
an old girlfriend’s stuff 
mixed up with my mother’s stuff 
because this certainly isn’t the mother 
I know. 
If this is my “old” mother, 
I want to know more about her, 
I already know more than I want to know 
about this “new” mother.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - This particular section comes about three quarters of the way through the story. Laura’s mother is in the midst of a breakdown. She’s broken china and has blood all over herself. Laura has had to telephone the police.

The ambulance and the police get there as we pull up.
Someone makes me stay in the car,
makes me drink something, holds my hand,
tells me it’s going to be all right,
tries to turn my head when
they take her away.

Marcy – I won’t go into details so as not to spoil it, but everyone has that one particular friend who has an opinion about everything and is not afraid to share it. In Laura’s life, Beth is that friend. Laura tells Beth about the date she had with Dennis.

Stunned silence. 
For once, 
Beth has nothing 
to say.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – My favorite secondary character is Dennis. I love the lingo he uses - ripped straight from the 1960s. Following is an example:

“So Laura, babe, you look like glum with a capital G.”

Plus, with lines like the one that follows, it’s easy to see Dennis genuinely cares.

“Laura,” he says, almost shouting. “For God’s
sake, you look like death warmed over, you’re angry
at the world, you’ve all but abandoned
the one thing that makes you happiest,
and you really ought to give up lying,
because you don’t do it very well.”

Marcy –  Mrs. Boucher is my favorite secondary character. Laura visits an art gallery to shop for a present for her mother. When she realizes she can’t afford anything, Mrs. Boucher takes her back to check out the sale items in the back of the store. When Laura admits she doesn’t have enough money, Mrs. Boucher tells Laura she can pay her back when she gets the rest of the money. The two end up becoming friends and Laura finds refuge in the back of Mrs. Boucher’s shop while they both create art.

Mrs. Boucher leans back, 
sighs deeply, 
takes both my hands in hers 
and says, “Well, Laura, 
it looks like we are in this 
together. Do you know why?”

“No…no, I really don’t,” I say, 
giving her a completely honest answer 
and a very blank stare.

“Well it sounds like 
we both have work to do, 
and we can do it right here in 
my shop, together.”

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

Dave – There were quite a few for me to choose from, but I think this particular section describes particularly well what it is that Laura has to endure on a day-to-day basis while living at home with her mother.

she sits and stares,
rocks and rocks the devil
out of the green rocker,
smokes and stares
stares and paces
paces and mutters
and stares and stares
out those blank eyes through that thick cloud of smoke,
eyes that shut you out of her secret world,
and sometimes
when you do break through,
you know,
you just know,
that she left part of herself on the other side of sanity
and she’s trying to remember
where she was when she got lost.

Marcy – I love the way Dennis is ever so subtly trying to get through to Laura. In this instance, he has broken through the guard she puts up around everyone.

Dennis passes me a note: 
“So sorry you didn’t win, 
but guess you can’t win 
if you don’t try. Have you 
given up?”

Instead of writing back 
I turn fully around and hiss, 
“Not on your life, Dennis Martin,
 not on your life.”

He flashes his gorgeous smile, and I smile right back through a deep blush.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave – This particular line is taken from early in the novel. I chose this section to again give you a glimpse into what Laura has to deal with living with her mother. Her mother is in a manic state, up all hours of the night, painting, painting constantly.    

“Oh, there’s much more where that
came from, Laura, especially since
you suggested I start painting again.
You just wait and see.
No go on back to bed
and don’t you worry. Everything is just fine, honey.
Just fine.”

Marcy –  This line said by Laura’s best friend Beth made me laugh out loud.

“Well,” Beth says dryly, “I’d be throwing up 
too, if I had to spend an evening with 88 Fingers
and his cheerleading pals. 
Seriously, I can’t believe 
your father will let you go, 
and even if he does, 
you wouldn’t consider it, would you?’

To read more about Linda Phillip’s debut YA novel Crazy please go to:

Friday, October 31, 2014

You can count on the Count for a little Halloween Humor

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of the season, pun intended, I'd like to share two vampire poems:  One by Kenn Nesbitt, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate, and one by Andrea Perry, resident Route 19 Writers rhymer.  You can count on both of them to produce a toothy grin:)
I think my dad is Dracula.
I know that sounds insane,
but listen for a moment and
allow me to explain.

We don't live in a castle,
and we never sleep in caves.
But, still, there's something weird
about the way my dad behaves.

I never see him go out
in the daytime when it's light.
He sleeps all day till evening,
then he leaves the house at night.

He comes home in the morning
saying, "Man, I'm really dead!"
He kisses us goodnight, and then
by sunrise he's in bed.

My mom heard my suspicion
and she said, "You're not too swift.
Your father's not a vampire.
He just works the graveyard shift."
--Kenn Nesbitt

Count Dracula is getting old

And less bloodthirsty, we are told.

As far from youth as you can be

And so long in the tooth is he,

That we have heard his bark, at night,

Is worse for victims than his bite.
--Andrea Perry                                  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Fall Favorites on Friday from Frankenstein to Falling Leaves by Andrea Perry

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
by Adam Rex

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade ..." or in this case, if the villagers chase you with torches and pelt you with rotten produce, make a sandwich!  Adam Rex delights us with a number of stories about monsters, and even some about monsters AND food.  Some of the hilarious offbeat monster subjects include The Creature from the Black Lagoon, who went swimming too soon after eating, The Lunchsack of Notre Dame, a lament about why one hump lumps this poor lad with all the other monsters, and Count Dracula Doesn't Know He's Been Walking Around All Night With Spinach in His Teeth, since of course his castle has no mirrors.  Who should tell him so he's not embarrassed any further?? Halloween Hilarity Abounds.

My Monster Mama Loves Me So
by Laura Leuck and Mark Buehner

A light breezy monster verse about how baby monster knows how much its mother loves it.  Who else but a loving parent would take their child to the swamp to swim, bake cookies filled with bugs, comb cobwebs out of their bangs, or breathe fire to start a cozy blaze in the fireplace? If your monster mama also tucks you into bed at night with a bat, that's how much you are loved.

Leaf Man
by Lois Ehlert

Have you seen him?  Leaf Man, a life-sized leaf collage (with body parts identified on a separate ending page) traveling across pages of die-cut panoramas, is simply beautiful.  And after you enjoy his wondrous autumn adventure, you too will go looking for your own "leaf man" (or woman!)  as the rainbow of October leaves gently drift and glide all around us.

Monday's Troll
by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis

Mother Ogre's Lullaby, just one of the seventeen poems in this monstrous collection, has always been one of my favorites:
     "Hush baby ogre, stop raving and rest,
     Slumber, sweet savage impossible pest.
     Stifle your tantrum, no kicking, don't bite.
     Close your red eye...baby ogre, good-night."

We also visit with witches, trolls, Bigfoot, wizards and goblins, not to mention a solitary yeti feasting on dinosaur bones. From stale witch birthday cakes with snakes instead of candles, to an invisible wizard unable to reverse its spell, to a troll full of sour applesauce, you will enjoy all of their garish gruesomeness.

The Monsterator
by Keith Graves

 Who could resist a Halloween book with a cover such as this, advertising "625 Monsters Inside...Can You Find Them All?"
Meet Edgar, a poor bored boy who can't find a Halloween costume scary enough to scarify him.  He wanders past costume shops until he happens upon one he'd not noticed before.  Dark and understaffed, he finds an odd machine there, puts in a dime and steps inside.  So goes the rhymed verse tale of the Monsterator Machine, and what happens to Edgar once inside, complete with the fun final pages of a partitioned flipbook to monsterate on your own.

If you like to be scared silly, I am sure that one of these books is likely to delight!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fall = Comforting Food and Comforting Books

Books Cecelia loves to EAT!
by Danika Lagorio

Ceclia--book lover

From pumpkin spice lattes to eggplant soup to apple everything else I am afraid that fall is becoming a dangerously fat time for me.  And reading to Cecelia at bedtime might be the most perilous of all.  There are some delicious fall books out there that fill our dreams with scrumptious delights.   So please join us on our big comfy bed (Ce-Ce and I will try and move our big butts over) for:
an evening of adventure with food and books

First Course

Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert
Like many of Ehrlich’s books, Growing Vegetable Soup is simple in text and image, but deep in understanding of small children.  Using her classic bold colored art prints Ehrlich illustrates the tools and care needed to grow vegetable soup.   Cecelia just now really understands that seeds will transform with time and care into yummy vegetables.  For a girl who loves lyricism in her books, I think the appeal of this one is its ability to turn a complex idea into its most simple terms.

Main Course

Strega Nona, by Tomie de Paola
Strega Nona has been a favorite of Cecelia’s long before this fall, but on these cool evenings I find myself dreaming of eating mounds of Grandma Witch’s hot and wonderful pasta.  Long ago in a little town in Calabria there lives a witch called Strega Nona, which means “grandma witch”.  She has a magic pot that makes pasta on command.  The magic pot will keep making pasta until it is told to stop.  Unfortunately for Strega Nona’s assistant, Big Anthony (who never pays attention) misses how to stop the pot.  Craziness ensues when Strega Nona goes out for the day and Big Anthony decides to show off for the town by making everyone pasta.  Is it the bad Italian accents that my husband Jon and I use while reading this book? Maybe it is sweet and silly illustrations of Tomie de Paola’s?  Or it could be the idea of a whole town covered in pasta.  One thing is for sure- Ce-ce always has two or three helping to this charming book.


How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
by Marjorie Priceman
Save room for this one!  Cecelia usually skips the main courses and just demands this one.  Told in second person, Ms. Priceman takes “you” on an adventure around the world from Italy to Sri Lanka in pursuit of the finest ingredients for a perfect apple pie. The illustrations are the sugar and spice of this wonderful adventure.  We spend a lot of time studying each picture.  Ce-Ce loves looking for the cats who show up in places where cats usually are not like boats and train stations.  I love the banana boat headed for Jamaica.  I always pause a little longer on that page so that I can imagine collecting salt water at night on such a romantic boat.  It is a perfect book to finish off the night (with or without ice-cream).


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Are We So OVER YA Dystopian?


by Kitty Griffin

First of all, just what is a Dytopian Book?
It’s the opposite of a Utopian Book.

According to Dictionary.com it’s

“a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.”

Hmmm. Not sure I’m in complete agreement when we talk about YA Dystopia because I consider Robert O’Brien’s novel (soon coming out as a major motion picture with hunky hunk Chris Pine and gorgeous Margot Robbie—who is way too old for the part. Sigh. Why???) Z for Zachariah a dystopian, but when it opens we don’t know what’s become of the outside world, but things at the farm seem normal. It’s just that mushroom shaped cloud in the far distance…

And Lois Lowry’s book, The Giver (again where Hollywood put someone 25 in a role meant for someone much younger. Grump. Grump.) society is very calm, quiet, and no one is in squalor. They don’t even realize they’re oppressed.

So I’m going to tweak this definition and make it for YA Dystopian Book,
A story that takes place in an unfamiliar future where people might be oppressed but they won’t know it until the main character discovers it for them. Then the main character will be igniting the spark that starts the revolution so society becomes free until it becomes oppressed and the people don’t know until the main character discovers it for them.

Let’s see…that fits for a number of books, albeit with a touch of snark.

Maybe I’ve read too many YA Dystopian Books. Not all of them stellar.

Because of the “Hunger Games” series this type of book has become hugely popular. Just type in Dystopian YA into Amazon search  and see how many hits you get.

Why would kids want to read about kids surviving in a difficult future?

Well, with Hunger Games the stakes couldn’t be much higher, right? Life or Death. Same with the new book Red Rising.
When it’s Life or Death the main character is in peril very quickly.

So then the reader must ask, why does the main character want to live? Why did Katniss? Because she wanted to protect her mother and sister. It was LOVE. It was FAMILY.

While there were a fantastic number of Dystopian YA books right after Hunger Games, things may slow down, but my guess is, not for long.
I think this is a genre that will continue to interest teens.

Here is a small selection, no special order. 

Z for Zachariah by Robert O’Brien

A bit dated, but holds up. What if you lived with your family in a remote valley, farming the land, living simply? What if one day you stayed behind while they went into town to get supplies? What if they never came back? What if the radio went out, the TV went out, and what’s that weird mushroom cloud in the distance? What if you thought you were the last person alive on Earth until…is that someone on the ridge far away?

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

In this future world there is a country called Opium, a land of that produces the wonderful drug that makes pain go away. In this land is a boy named Matt. Why is he so despised? Why do others treat him so abysmally?
Because Matt isn’t quite human. He is, but he came out of the belly of a cow. He was harvested, just like the opium from the poppy. He was grown to help prevent pain. Because his parts are useful to the old man who needs those parts, the drug lord, Matt’s original body.

Feed by MT Anderson
What if you were bored? What if you could go to the moon to party? Right. Like, let's go!
This is set in the future where every kid wants to be attached to the FEED, to have the chip put right in the head to see the world electronically…but what if your girlfriend doesn’t want the chip any more? What's a boy to do? 
The opening to this book is brilliant.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeves
What if your city was hungry and needed to eat? What if your city was London and it was up on tractors and had to be on the move to find smaller cities to survive?
Yeah. Social Darwinism taken all the way to this.
The fabric of the imagination stretched. The characters are memorable and the joy of imagining London as this living moving thing is fabulous. 

Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson
Reviews were very mixed for this book. I loved it. Couldn’t put it down. (Some people were confused by the heavy physics, oh well.)

This book is another imagination stretcher. For what if you lived in a world where twisters raged through the land, but these were time twisters that brought things from other times and left them as well as taking others away from their own time?

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
(Listened to this one via Audible)

Talk about imagination stretched! The Earth is dead. Long live Mars!
Darrow is a Red. In a color coded society, being Red is, well, almost dead. He’s a miner, giving his life so that Mars can be mined and tamed and turned into a livable planet for dying Earthlings.
Only that’s all a lie.
And to prove it, Darrow will become Gold, take away the "L" and you have god, for he will be close to being god-like. That’s the ruling class.
Warning: extremely violent. This one is not for sissies. These kids are at war to survive and it isn't pretty.
But, you'll just panic wondering what is going to happen to Darrow?
I can’t wait for book two. And that doesn't happen very often.

Now here is one that is quite popular, but I had a serious problem with it. (Maybe the problem arose because, again, I listened to it. Maybe it just wasn't a listening story)

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
I liked the characters well enough.
But I couldn’t get past the stretch.

Here it is—that in the future the Anti-Choice and Pro-Choice factions go to war. The result? That parents can return a child between the age of 13-18 and that said child would be unwound. All their parts, their organs, every bit of their being, will be donated to those who need them. 

I know teens can be miserable creatures to live with, but it’s also when they can amaze you. I can’t conceive of a world where this would happen. Therefore, I couldn’t accept the premise.

But the book is hugely popular. I’m in the minority for this one.

Looking toward the future...

So, what do you think? Do you agree that teens will still want to read about an imagined future where a teenager figures out that grown ups are really stupid and they're crushing humanity and it will take a teen or a group of teens to save them all?

Yeah. Like, duh, of course dude.