Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shining the Light on Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins and a Spontaneous ARC Road Trip

Many of you know Mitali Perkins for her wonderful books or her wise advice on how to utilize social media to develop community and promote books. Perhaps you're one of the authors Mitali cheers on with her successful Twitter Book Parties, a virtual "celebration of new books for kids, tweens and teens." Or maybe you've seen Mitali act as an incredible advocate for many who feel voiceless, making us more aware of the need for children's/YA books showing race/ethnicity and sharing her knowledge of multi-cultural books.

Charlesbridge Publishing gave me an ARC of BAMBOO PEOPLE, Mitali's new book, due to be released in July 2010. As with all her books, Mitali writes with heart. BAMBOO PEOPLE is a special book, one I'd like to see children read to learn about other cultures, to understand the devastation of power and conflict, to believe in courage and friendship. Because Mitali does so much to help children's writers, I wanted to do something to help her spread the word about BAMBOO PEOPLE. Inspired by Mary E. Pearson's The Miles Between Road Trip, I give you the BAMBOO PEOPLE ARC Road Trip. You'll find details about the Road Trip at the end of this post.

Interested in learning more about BAMBOO PEOPLE? Please welcome Mitali Perkins!

MITALI: Good novels serve as windows into other worlds as well as mirrors for our own lives. While I wrote BAMBOO PEOPLE to depict the lives of Karenni and Burmese young people, I also want readers to see themselves mirrored in the story by connecting deeply with the characters.

How can the book be a window?

For three years my husband, children, and I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand and visited the Karenni refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. I was astounded at how the Karenni kept their hopes up despite incredible loss, still dreaming and talking of the day when they would once again become a free people. I was impressed, too, by how creatively they used bamboo. Homes, bridges, transportation, weapons, food, storage, irrigation—all these and more depended on the resilient, lavish, and ecologically efficient bamboo plant. I began to think about that plant as an excellent symbol for the peoples of that region.

During that time I also began to understand how tough life is for Burmese teenagers. Only about a third are enrolled in school, and most can’t find jobs. According to international human rights organizations, Burma has the largest number of child soldiers in the world, and that number is growing. These young soldiers are taught that the Karenni and other ethnic groups are the cause of the problems in their country and are rewarded with money and food if they burn, destroy, torture, and kill ethnic minorities.

I wrote the book for readers to glimpse—and through the power of imagination, experience—what life is like for young people growing up in modern-day Burma.

How can the book be a mirror?

What would you do if your mother were hungry and your only option to feed her was to fight in the army? What about if you saw soldiers burning your home and farm while you ran for your life? Wouldn’t you be terrified, like Chiko? Wouldn’t you be angry, like Tu Reh?

In my travels far and wide, I’ve learned two things: all people feel powerful negative emotions, but we all face choices when it comes to acting on them. BAMBOO PEOPLE, I hope, illuminates the importance of those universal choices.

I hope you connect with Tu Reh and Chiko as you read BAMBOO PEOPLE. If you want to promote peace and democracy in Burma or help refugees fleeing from that country, please browse http://bamboopeople.org where I provide resources, an educator’s guide, and suggestions for involvement. Thanks, Vivian, for launching this exciting ARC tour. I can't wait to see where the book travels!
BAMBOO PEOPLE ARC Road Trip!! If you'd like a chance to read BAMBOO PEOPLE and help celebrate Mitali's new book, here are the details:
  • COMMENT below and let me know what U.S. state you live in--NO addresses please, just your state, ie: Massachusetts
  • FIVE (5) people will be selected to participate in the BAMBOO PEOPLE ARC Road Trip. I'll map out the route and e-mail each person one address for mailing purposes.
  • READ the ARC and POST a review on your blog.
  • WRITE a message for Mitali in the ARC and MAIL it to the next person within 2 weeks. I haven't had a chance to get the book weighed at the post office, but it should cost less than $5.00 at book rate.
  • THE final reader will send the ARC directly to Mitali!
  • DEADLINE for commenting is Monday, April 5th at 11pm EST.
Isn't it easy? Let's help Mitali spread the word about BAMBOO PEOPLE! Comment Away!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shining the Light on THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE by Beth Kephart and a Donation Challenge

I've been swamped with revisions and thought I'd ask my talented friend, Beth Kephart, to host today's post. Beth kindly agreed and it made me all sorts of happy. I mean, have you visited Beth's blog? Her blog is beautiful prose and color.

And she's here!

Please welcome Beth...
Dear HipWriterMama (who is indeed a very hip, very fine writer, not to mention a very great mother and dear soul) invited me here for a guest post, and I said yes, of course. It’s really great, for one thing, to hang out in her well-decorated, thoroughly well-organized space. (I’m already feeling calmer.) But it’s also really wonderful to have a chance to talk here about my new book, THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE.

HEART was a long time coming. Written shortly after I journeyed to Juarez with my husband, son, and about two dozen others, it stayed put for awhile—bought by HarperTeen but put onto a back shelf while work on NOTHING BUT GHOSTS proceeded. Sometimes books need to stew, and HEART certainly did, for while I had the landscape down, and while I had captured my love for the gorgeous children that we’d met in a squatters’ village known as Anapra, I did not yet have a sufficiently firm grip on my two protagonists, Georgia and Riley. I knew Georgia, my protagonist, to be a middle child, as I am a middle child. I knew her to be sturdy, responsible, strong-seeming. I knew that she was wrestling with something deep within, but I had not named it yet. Georgia sees a flier, in the story, announcing a goodwill trip to Juarez. She decides that she must go. Something is drawing her to the raw and the unknown, but in my first drafts of the book, it wasn’t entirely clear to me what that was.

Riley, Georgia’s best friend, is a character I discovered one night at a restaurant as I watched a beautiful slip of a girl tell stories to a friend. She was familiar to me; I sensed I knew her inner story. She was Riley; I have no idea where that name came from. I put her down on paper and then I waited to move more knowingly within her world.

I need time away from books to make them right, and I took about a year away from HEART. When I returned to it, I was aching for it. I wanted to be with it, and with nothing else. Jill Santopolo, then at HarperTeen, was asking some interesting and on-point questions. I wanted to answer her, but more than anything: I wanted answers for myself.

HEART matters to me because it is about a real place suffering very real turmoil. It is about that question: What can we really do to make a difference in the world? I have always sought to write books that somehow make a difference, and if I can, with HEART, bring attention to Juarez, if I can help girls who are battling with the secrets with which Georgia and Riley do battle, then I will feel as if the journey that I took with HEART was ultimately the right one.
Guest post by Beth Kephart

Thank you so much, Beth!

If you want to know more about Beth, check out her WBBT interview, her writing tip on bringing emotion to the page, and her interview podcast with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. Beth's kindness, her talent, her spirit simply shines.

THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE received a starred VOYA review and was named to the Indiebound list for spring. Please join Beth at Barnes and Noble, Devon, PA on Educator's Day, April 13th at 3:30pm or for the book's launch party at Children's Book World, Haverford, PA,
April 20, 7pm.

EDITED TO ADD: In the spirit of Jennifer Hubbard's Library Challenge, I've decided to tweak things and take up Beth's call to action and make a difference for the children in Juarez. I'm currently researching a couple organizations--Missions Ministries and the Juarez Children's Education Program--they help build homes and educate the children in Juarez. Hopefully, I'll be able to nail down the right non-profit fund in the next day or so and will update the information on this post.

In the meantime, every unique comment on a favorite way to give back will earn 25 cents for one of these groups. If you help spread the word about Beth's book, THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE, please let me know in the comments and I'll put in 50 cents toward the fund. I'm sure I'll cap my contribution but let's see how many comments I can get first. Feel free to share your info if you're participating in raising money for a cause.

Thank you for commenting!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shining the Light on POISON IVY by Amy Goldman Koss and a Book Giveaway

I've decided to start a new feature on my blog called SHINING THE LIGHT ON..., where authors shed insight into their books. It's my hope you'll find new books to read, authors to admire and much needed writing inspiration. I'd love your feedback, so please feel free to comment!

Since today is the first day of SHINING THE LIGHT ON..., I've decided to host a book giveaway based on the theme of today's featured book and author. But you'll have to wait a bit...

If you follow me on twitter or facebook, you've probably noticed my observations on elementary school cliques. As a mother, I find cliques bothersome, particularly since I hate how it affects my children. I'm selfish that way.

Cliques creep in early, at the tender age of 6 (at least in our public school). By the time children reach 10 or 11, they've got this clique thing down pat. Even though many cliques are harmless, formed mostly of kids with common interests, it's still hard for an "outsider" to get a foot in the door. If a clique happens to be controlled by a mother or two, the chance of getting invited in is wiped out. And what if one of the cliques ends up a little power hungry, dabbling in a little bullying here are there? And what if the adults, who are supposed to protect the young, look the other way or don't see the signs? It's no wonder our kids have difficulty navigating the social scene, whether they're in a clique or not, one of the bullied, a bully, or a bystander.

A couple years ago, I discovered the book POISON IVY by Amy Goldman Koss. Here's a little bit about POISON IVY:
When three popular girls go on trial in Government class for their ruthless bullying of a girl named Ivy, it seems the misfit will finally get her revenge. Eight first-person narrators give different versions of the event: Ivy-this victim doesn't want revenge, she just wants to be left alone; Ann-she's the beautiful, but infamously cruel, leader of the bullies; Marco-he may be the only person involved who has any morals, but he's also the target of Ann's persuasive affections; Daria-Ivy's painfully shy lawyer doesn't stand a chance; Bryce-the goofy court reporter knows all the real dirt, even if he doesn't care; Cameron-he sleeps through the proceedings but wake up just in time to make a difference; Wayne-a true devotee of the legal process, too bad he's on the sidelines; and Faith-as the only witness for the prosecution, it all comes down to her. But where do her loyalties lie?
Amy was kind enough to share some insight into writing about the tween/teen relationships in POISON IVY. She's an expert on her observations on the tween/teen relationships--check out her many books! Without further ado, please welcome Amy!

Amy Goldman Koss: Friendships can be dicey at any age. My ancient aunt Jenny detested her batty roommate in the rest home. Part of that was probably her paranoid dementia, but the rest…?

What percentage of college roommates end up enemies? And how about all those till-death-do-us-part marriages ending in bitter animosity? Workplace conflicts, court cases, family feuds… racial hatreds, Gang wars, and war/wars.

That’s one of the things we humans do best: fight.

And when we’re forced to be together, day after week after month, in stultifying boredom with zero freedom… like in prison, or, say middle school, the nightmarish possibilities for interpersonal torment are limitless.

There’s no escape, no scaling the slippery sides of the cauldron. Prisoners and students are left to seethe and bubble in a crowded stew of hormones, frustration, anger, powerlessness, and human nature. The only difference between the prisoners and the students is that, theoretically the prisoners, brought this fate upon themselves and are being punished.

I’ve been a lot of ages now, and seen all kinds of gore and misery but I do truly believe the hardest and weirdest time of life are those beastly years between fifth and tenth grade. So, those are the people I write to, for and about… people simmering in the stew. I want to help them pass the time as they simmer. I want to make them laugh. I want to remind them that they are not alone.

Some people object to my novel Poison Ivy because it doesn’t have a hopeful, redemptive, optimistic, ending. I even had to change publishers mid-contract because the first one wanted it to end happily. Actually, I would have like to twist the world in such a way that life was fair and justice prevailed, but I’m sure it would have read as a lie.

That story, with those characters had to play out the way it did. No other conclusion would have made sense.

It is not my job to lie to my readers. They get enough of that elsewhere in their lives. And I hope the humor in my books balances the grim parts, just like laughter gets us through the rough patches in real life.
Amy's next book, THE NOT-SO-GREAT DEPRESSION, will be released in May 2010.

Thank you, Amy, for your wise insight and for creating books that help teens.

If you know anyone who is being bullied, please check out BullyBust, a website dedicated to help students stand up to bullying. Also, here's a link to an old post on books for Cliques, Friendships and Self-Esteem. I hope these resources will be helpful.

On a brighter note, to celebrate the start of SHINING THE LIGHT ON... and to honor Amy for being my first guest, I'm giving away a special book gift pack that I hope will help someone. This book gift pack will include:
If you'd like to be considered for this book gift pack, leave a comment about a childhood experience with cliques or bullies. Deadline will be next Wednesday, March 31st. And I'm really sorry about this...since I'm paying for shipping myself, only U.S. entries will be considered. Thanks for your understanding. I'll announce the winner on April 1st--no joke!

The floor is yours.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

readergirlz Chat with Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan) Tomorrow, March 17th, 6pm PST/9pm EST

Just a reminder to set your calendars for tomorrow, March 17th. The amazing Scott Westerfeld will be joining us at the readergirlz blog at 6pm PST/9pm EST for an hour rgz Chat!! If you want to know more about steampunk, about Scott's writing process, and talk about Scott's books, this is a great opportunity to ask him questions and chat!

See you there!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 32: Mapping Out Writing Time: Create a Great Setting and Sunday Winners

A few people participated in yesterday's spontaneous It's a Sunday, Daylight Savings Time, Rainy Day Organizing and Writing Challenge Kind of Day. Thanks for being my challenge buddies! I used the opportunity to create a nice study area for the kids.

We live in a modest-sized home, built in the 1950's, before family rooms became the norm. I must admit, there are times I've complained to my husband about how we need to move--the house is too small for us--and he laughs. He likes to remind me how I fell in love with our neighborhood the first time I saw it, even insisting we put an offer on our house, sight unseen.

It's true.

I didn't care to see the inside of our home. My husband knew the family who owned the house. He'd been in the house plenty of times, so he knew what the house looked like. It needed a lot of work anyway, and if you knew what my old house looked like before we bought it, you'd know miracles can be rendered with hard work.

The thing is, we've lived in the house five years, and I've yet to make our house into a comfortable home. The bathrooms are original to the house (with colors I can't figure out how to match); the kitchen is still stuck in the 1980's with a 1970's formica wall (remember The Brady Bunch kitchen wall?). Add to this equation a living room that functions as a romper room/tv room, a dining room that functions as an eating area/office/paper catch-all and it's easy to see I'm no Martha Stewart.

Martha would know exactly how to organize and design the inner workings of my house so we could be efficient, neat and elegant. Me...well...not so much.

But, 2010 is a new year and back in January, I decided to stop whining about how the house didn't work for us and focus on creating spaces my family could enjoy. There's not much I can do to change the bathrooms and kitchen until we save more money, but as far as the ambiance, the comfort and utility of our home, that's something I can control.

My house is a work-in-progress. I've been decluttering, organizing, and cursing under my breath these past couple months, but it's definitely worth it. And the homework area! My kids were in shock yesterday and Spy Girl smiled. Not bad for my reluctant learner.

This all reinforced to me how important the setting is to the story. Most of us concentrate on our characters and plot, and think of the setting in an offhand manner. But remember, the setting helps make your story believable. It brings detail so your characters and plot come to life. Create a great setting and your story will thrive.

And now to announce the winners from the It's a Sunday, Daylight Savings Time, Rainy Day Organizing and Writing Challenge Kind of Day. Drumroll...

Jeannine and Mike--you won! Send me your snail mail address to me at hipwritermama at comcast dot net and let me know your 1st and 2nd choices. I'll do my best to get you what you'd like.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Work on your setting for a scene in your manuscript. What will help bring it to life? Is the weather unusual? The town? The environment? The smells? The geography? Put your setting under a microscope and watch for the little details. If you're writing fantasy, your setting is absolutely critical to your world-building. Be sure to pay extra attention.

How was your weekend?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's A Sunday, Daylight Savings Time, Rainy Day Organizing and Writing Challenge Kind of Day

Because it's a dreary day and I really have to force myself for good cheer this morning, I'm throwing the gauntlet for a challenge of sorts. And I'll even dangle a few carrots so you'll feel inspired.

The Sunday Challenge can be accomplished in one of two ways:

1. Do something to bring your story forward.
2. Do something to organize your work area.

I know it's a Sunday and perhaps there will be zero readers today. Maybe you planned on reading a book or watching movies or relaxing today. But, if you do stop by and choose to make this a productive Sunday...

1. Leave a comment on your intended project and
2. Get to work. Spend 15 minutes, 1 hour, or even the whole day tackling your manuscript or work area. It's your choice. Just do something to jump start your day.
3. Return TONIGHT by 11pm EST to let me know the results. Your sense of accomplishment will be proof enough.

Here's a chance to win 3 different prizes (click on item to learn more):
3. La Sirene De Mer (Mermaid Shaped Soap) Gianna Rose Atelier (courtesy of me)

Ready? Set! GO!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 31: Mapping Out Writing Time: Finding Inspiration When You Least Expect It

I recently went to my doctor's office for a routine exam. Even though I love knowing about all things medical, I hate feeling vulnerable, embarrassed and stressed in one fell swoop. There's nothing like being displayed for all the world to see to give one a jolt of adrenalin. Then to top it off, the check-out counter is right outside the examination rooms, to ensure no one skips payment or leaves without making any needed appointments.

As an administrator processed my payment, I noticed a fishbowl on the counter, with a little sign taped on the side: FISH FOR SOME INSPIRATION. A handmade fishing pole decorated the edge of the bowl, and little slips of paper, folded in half, waited at the bottom. You know how I'm a sucker for inspiration, especially when some guy is next to me, practically jumping over the counter to whisper to a customer service person the nature of his appointment. In my quest to tune him out and offer some privacy, I visualized INSPIRATION and reached into the fishbowl.

My catch of the day:
Keep steadily before you the fact that all true success
depends at last upon yourself.
-Theodore T. Hunger

How true. Inspired, I searched for the administrator helping me so I could leave. In the meantime, she decided to multi-task and help someone else. The agitated man still stood at the counter and rather than look at him, I decided to fish again.

A strong imagination begetteth opportunity.
-Michael de Montaigne

Writers need a lot of imagination to create stories, and this quote was perfect for me. I was ready to write and managed to capture the administrator's attention. The stressed-out man edged closer to me. I was still trying to offer the man some privacy by avoiding him, but finally realized the kindness he might need more was INSPIRATION. I looked the elderly man in the eye, smiled, and stepped aside.

I must admit, I reached in the bowl one last time and found this...

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
-Vincent Van Gogh

Yup. My writing is speaking to me.

Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: There are times we all find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places--in the doctor's office, at the bus stop, from a stranger, the loser boyfriend, during a math test, while riding a bike, maybe even watching a bug on a flower.

Let your MC do the same. Think of the setting, the seemingly insignificant steps, and then, let the AHA! moment work its magic. Is your MC alone? Or with friends? With family? Perhaps an enemy? What type of conflict is involved? Emotion?

Where was the unlikeliest place you found inspiration?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Writing the Day Away

I've got my coffee, a new WIP in the works, and a semi-quiet afternoon. Even better, I just found out Cuppa Jolie's cracking the whip, so we can cheer each other on!

Here's to a productive writing day! I need to work on character analysis and plan to write at least 1,000 words.

What are your writing goals? Good luck!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Self-Discovery Month at readergirlz: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

We are thrilled to welcome Scott Westerfeld to readergirlz. His latest novel, LEVIATHAN, is our March pick! Check out our interview with Scott, book party ideas themed around both books, and our Reach Out project idea--as well as the awesome soundtrack Scott has chosen for the book--on readergirlz.com.

Here's a little about LEVIATHAN:
Prince Aleksander is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman, serving aboard a living airship. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With the Great War brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way... taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.
And the buzz...
"Leviathan is steampunk at its best: an imaginative historical and technological adventure filled with characters of heart and courage. Any one who dreams of following her dreams and discovering her destiny will soar through this book." - Dia Calhoun, readergirlz diva

"This steampunk adventure is sure to become a classic." - School Library Journal

"The request line for the sequel can start forming now." - The Bulletin

Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and The Bulletin.

"When a book pursues you into your dreams, you can't ignore it." - Sunday Telegraph

Westerfeld was named one of eight YA writers who shaped the decade by Amazon's book blog.

We are excited to have the amazing Scott with us this month! Join us all month at the readergirlz blog for discussions. Also, mark your calendars for a LIVE chat with Scott on Wednesday, March 17th at 6pm PST/9pm EST.

Happy March, readergirlz!