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, September 26, 2014

Durham Reads Together 2014 -- MARCH: BOOK ONE

By Susan Chapek

Every two years, the Durham (North Carolina) County Library sponsors Durham Reads Together. Its slogan: One Month, One Book, One Community.

This October, Durham will read and celebrate the graphic novel MARCH: BOOK ONE.

In 1958, a comic book ("Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story") inspired John Lewis, an Alabama sharecropper's son, to make his own commitment to civil rights through nonviolent activism. 

Now Congressman John Lewis tells his own remarkable story through the same dramatic medium, collaborating with writer Andrew Aydin and popular graphic novelist/artist Nate Powell. Read more about the book here.

During the month of October, Durham Reads Together will stage a remarkable series of discussions, films and art showings related to the American evolution story told in MARCH.

From the Durham County Library web site: Durham Reads Together strengthens the community through a biennial celebration of reading. Reading the same book, and attending programs around its theme, inspires the Durham community to discuss important issues, including race, family, identity, faith, education, culture, music and visual art.

(In previous DRT programs, the community has read memoirs by James McBride and Dr. Paul Austin, narrative nonfiction by Darcy Frey, and fiction by popular North Carolina novelist Margaret Maron.)

MARCH: BOOK ONE is the first volume of a graphic trilogy. BOOK TWO is on pre-order and will be available early in 2015.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Joy of Writing Rhymed Verse OR Did T. Rex have elbows? By Andrea Perry

All I needed was a little information to write a poem about dinosaur table manners.  How hard could it be? Did T. Rex have elbows? Could his arms reach his mouth?  Who did this carnivore chew on? Are there any words that rhyme with etiquette? With Tyrannosaurus? With carnivore?
What I ended up with was a treasure trove of hilarious information that distracted me from the task at hand and made me almost want to be an archeologist.
Yes, T. Tex had elbows, but they could not bend beyond 90 degrees. His arms could not reach his mouth, nor each other.  Though not used for feeding, those tiny two-fingered armlets could be used to hold down prey to chomp with his powerful jaws and blade-like teeth.  His meals of choice were smaller dinosaurs such as Triceratops, Edmontosaurus, Anatosaurus, and even other Tyrannosauri as it appears these tyrant lizards were cannibilistic as well. 
If he fell down (though not likely with such muscular thighs and that huge tail), the arms could not help get him back up.  But he could curl up to 430 pounds with each little arm, thank you, scientificamerican.com.  It is conjectured the arms might also have helped Mr. Rex hold on to Mrs. Rex for certain connubial activities.  And all this was gleaned from dusting off dinosaur bones?  Was there a copy of 50 Million B.C. Shades of Grey there as well?
Now, on to rhymezone.com to find out what rhymes with etiquette.  Only Connecticut.  Nevertheless, rhymezone.com's menu not only offers us rhymes and near-rhymes, but synonyms, related words, and even a section called "Find Poetry Verses."  If you seek something to rhyme with "Tyrannosaurus," you will find Horace, Taurus and Morris.  A rhyme for carnivore? Bargainer.  Seriously? In fairness, 'bargainer ' is listed as a near-rhyme.  However,  if you are curious about what poetic fare you might find using the word carnivore, they offer  "Dead in Ditches" by Hollywood Undead.
Who else provides poetry verses for various and sundry rhyming words at rhymezone.com?  Shakespeare, Eminem , Billy Joel, LL Cool J, Turk, Mother Goose, Bob Dylan, Joyce Kilmer, Atomic Kitten, and Luke Bryan. What, no Dr. Seuss?
I am still not done writing my little poem about T. Rex at the dinner table, but what I can tell you is  before each meal, they prey.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Images to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

by Cynthia Light Brown

Try these images to get your creative juices flowing, for a poem, a short story, even a novel. If you're a teacher, try them on your students to get them thinking. Want more high-res, interesting pictures that are free to use? Go to Unsplash.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Books that are remembered. Any on your list?

by Kitty Griffin

Facebook recently conducted a survey on “Books that have stayed with us.” They received over 130,000 responses.

Here are the top 20 books. Please note how many of them are children’s books. Note how many were required reading in high school.

     Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
The Holy Bible
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
1984 by George Orwell
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Stand by Stephen King
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

So what surprises you? I was surprised at number one being Harry Potter. I was also surprised to see Hunger Games, a book that's fairly recent, on the list.

If you were to go into space and you could only take ten books, would any of these be on  your list?

How many have you read?

Monday, September 8, 2014

First Friday Debut Novel Day - Sekret

by Lindsay Smith

Sekret-723x1024Lindsay Smith

This past Friday, September 5, Marcy and I posted our answers to Linsday’s debut novel, Sekret. Today, you get to read Lindsay’s favorite's. 

Great picks, Lindsay! You’ve given us even more insight into the thoughts and motivations of your characters.

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?

Yulia spends the early part of Sekret fighting against her psychic ability and resisting the KGB officers who force her to use it against her will, but after some early missteps, she gets smarter about her dissent and learns to take ownership of her ability. So I love the line when she realizes this:

Someday, I promise myself, I will be strong enough that Rostov can’t pull my strings. I can no longer despise myself for this power. I must make it my own.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

The KGB team of psychics are stalked throughout the book by a rival American psychic, who can alter and control their thoughts. Yulia thinks she’s figured out the trick to evading him, but then, as she finds herself drawn toward the ferris wheel in Gorky Park . . .

--and as I jolt out of my reverie, the scrubber climbs into the car with me, and the metal door slams shut.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

I love Larissa, another psychic on Yulia’s team who can see possible futures branching out. Her foresight has made her pretty zen about life, which can be frustrating for Yulia at times, but she usually means well by it.

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

I think this line early on in Sekret really sets the tone for daily life in 1960s Soviet Russia:

Khruschev understands the stale-cracker taste of envy in every worker’s mouth when a well-dressed, well-lived Communist Party official, more equal than all the rest, strolls to the front of the ration line.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

When Yulia is first brought in by the KGB, she faces an officer who switches creepily between being matronly and threatening, which complements Yulia’s need to understand her own powers but also her desire to rebel. I think this dialogue encapsulates the KGB officer’s personality:

“You have a skill. Others, like me, have similar skills—but none quite like yours. So you will work for me, and I will help you refine it.” This time when she smiles, the patient motherly look is completely gone, and all that’s left are her cold, animal teeth bared at me in dominance. “Otherwise, as you know—we have ways of dealing with people who commit crimes against the State.”

Congratulations to Lindsay and her debut novel Sekret. Kudos to Lindsay for this book being selected as a Junior Library Guild selection, a Publisher’s Weekly starred review, an Indies Introduce New Voices pick, and an Indie Next List selection. We can’t wait for Sekret Book 2 to be released in April 2015. To read more about Lindsay Smith’s debut YA novel Sekret please go to:

Friday, September 5, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier


School is back in session. For those in the Route 19 group who took time off over the summer holiday, the beginning of a new school year means getting back to a normal writing routine. For our readers, Marcy and I have another book to add to your fall reading list.

Welcome to September’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, Lindsay Smith and her novel, Sekret.

Set in 1960's Communist Russia, the main character, Yulia, must disguise her thoughts and keep her emotions and special abilities in check in order to survive. The KGB wants her to use her power for covert operations, but since she’s against using her abilities to harm others she has to play the game in order to keep her mother and brother alive.

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

Dave – At this point in the novel, Yulia, the main character, has accepted her ability to read other’s thoughts. Here, she decides she will now become more powerful than, Rostov, the KGB agent in charge of the program she has been forced to participate in.
Someday, I promised myself that I will be strong enough that Rostov can’t pull my strings. I can no longer despise myself for this power. I must make it my own.

Marcy –  At this point in the story, Yulia discovers a truth that shocks her after touching a document as she watches memories unfold. She doesn’t want to believe what she sees in these memories.

But I can’t control it. The memories are a hand reaching from the water, pulling me down. I’m screaming, I’m pulling away, but their dead eyes are locked onto mine and I won’t let go until I’m drowning with them.

I won’t reveal what Yulia sees, but she won’t report to Major Kruzenko the truth she discovers. When Kruzenko presses her for information, Yulia lies.

“It’s – it’s nothing. A secretary preparing documents.” 

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - There were a lot of cliffhangers I liked, and two I particularly loved, one of which I couldn’t use without giving away the story. So I chose this one. For information purposes, a “scrubber” is an individual who has the power to change and to erase your thoughts, (or as in the scene below, multiple people) and to make you believe and do the things he or she wishes.

I charge up the hill. Valentin doesn’t even stare. I glimpse Rostov in the trees, but he, too, is lost in a daydream. The crowd shifts around me; no one complains when I push to the front of the line for the Ferris wheel. I press some kopecks into the operator’s palm. He opens the door to help me in - - and as I jolt out of my reverie, the scrubber climbs into the car with me, and the metal door slams shut.

Marcy –  I turned the page so fast reading this cliffhanger at the end of chapter two, I would have ripped the page if I were reading a paper book instead of an electronic one.

They yank me from the doorway. If I were stronger, perhaps I could break free, but I’m weak from too few rations and too many years of unfocused fear. They press a rag against my mouth, and the last thing I see is our old family photo with Mama and Papa smiling right at me before I’m lost in endless black.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – My favorite secondary character is Valentin. He, like Yulia, has a burning desire to be free from the iron hand of the KGB and does not feel comfortable using his powers to harm or manipulate others. Following, or a few examples:
“They have more than just the scrubbers,” Valentin says, to his plate of Chicken Kiev. “They know what we’re doing, and their blocking us. It’s another useless game, another useless race. Space, weapons, psychics. Arms races, all of them, going nowhere.”
This quote follows a brief conversation between he and Yulia about music from the west, Elvis Presley and the Beatles, that he has been allowed to listen to because of his cooperation with the KGB.
“Not all of it.” He props one hand on his forehead, and his fingertips touch my hair. “But this is music, music when restraints have been lifted. It’s the difference between plants growing in a fenced-and garden, in the same plants left to conquer an entire field.”

Marcy –  It is hard to choose, but I suppose that I would pick Valentin with his intensity and concern for Yulia. In this paragraph, the two are communicating through thoughts. Typically they block their thoughts with music.
Valentin’s fidgeting brings his knee to rest against mine. I start to pull away – but his frantic jazz music ebbs and two words slip off of him onto me, like a drop of sweat.
Let’s talk.
Our eyes meet. His are a burned shade of brown, smoldering like the last winter log. I’m thankful he wears glasses because I feel like I need shielding from his intense stare. I drop my gaze and slowly peel the thrumming bass of Shostakovich away from my thoughts. What do you want to talk about? We aren’t making physical contact now, but if he’s capable of what Kruzenko claims…
I know you’re scared – hurting, perhaps. You have good reason for it. I can’t blame you for wanting to run.
Great. Does everyone know about my plan? I bury my head between my knees.
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave – I picked two. I had to, one from early in the novel and one from later. Both are so visual and both give you an idea of the world in which Yulia lives.
The covered truck bed smells like rotted cabbage and wilted lettuce. The soldier on the bench across from me holds an AK-47 across his lap, casually, like it is no more threatening than a walking cane; but his eyes are unlit matches, and his arms, his steady fingers, are full of energy waiting to be unleashed. He is potential; he is a threat. But when our knees bang together, I get a whiff of his thoughts - the kielbassi sandwich awaiting him for lunch and the nightclub dancer awaiting him for dinner. He isn’t plotting my execution just yet, and I mean to keep it that way.

East Berlin is a concrete crypt. Everywhere I look, stark, flat buildings rise out of the shell-shocked rubble and watch us with broken windows for eyes. The streets hold no cars. The old buildings - from before Stalin seized this land for his own - look safe from one side, but when we pass them, the rest is crumpled by artillery fire, the wreckage blocked off by barbed-wire fences. The few people we pass fix their stares on their feet and hurry past us. Coal smoke and sulfur linger around every corner as we wade through half-melted black slush.

Marcy –These two sentences were powerful and foreshadowed the story nicely.
That girl dared to ask me what I am? I am the weed growing through the sidewalk’s cracks, resilient, but knowing I’ll someday be ripped out by the root.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue? This particular line comes from earlier in the novel. Yulia is reliving the scene (by handling a stuffed animal) of a former team member, Anastasia, who committed suicide. She asks her commander how Anastasia got to be this way. If knowing this information from Kruzenko doesn’t get Yulia to conform, what will?
Dave –  “She thought she could cultivate her powers on her own, without our assistance. She hungered for more and more, when she wasn’t ready. This is the fate of all of those who do not learn control. She did not listen to our rules.” Kruzenko holds her hand out to usher me out the door. “She fought against our teachings, and it drove her mad.”

Marcy –  Larissa’s gift is to see the future. Although most of us do not know our futures, I thought Larrisa’s comment about her ability was both wise and insightful and showed me a lot about her character.
“I don’t see everything,” she says. “I see all the possible everythings.”

To read more about Lindsay Smith’s debut YA novel Sekret please go to: