All posts by Linda Sue Park

I HEART SCBWI and WNDB!

Last weekend I was in Naperville IL for the SCBWI Wild Wild Midwest conference. It was a terrific gathering, 500 writers and illustrators sharing and learning from one another.

On Saturday morning, I got to address the whole group with agent Marietta Zacker and author Miranda Paul, on the We Need Diverse Books initiatives. We each took a few moments to update the conference attendees on various WNDB efforts, like the internship program, the Walter Grants and Award, and the mentorships. We took questions and explored some of the difficulties and rewards of the kind of societal change WNDB is striving for.

Then attendee Karmen Kooyers, from Holland, Michigan, raised her hand and took the mike. “Why don’t we all donate now?” she said. “If each of us gave $5, that would be $2,500 total!”

Such a simple idea….

The conference organizers rallied the troops. WNDB secured $1,000 worth of matching grants.

And in 24 hours, more than $3,900 was raised.

It’s not the first time an SCBWI regional conference has contributed to a cause near and dear to my heart: SCBWI Midsouth did a similarly amazing thing back in 2011. Nor is it the first time SCBWI has supported WNDB.

SCBWI. WNDB. Two organizations I love and support. It’s like two of my best friends met and fell in love and are now spreading that love far and wide. THANK YOU, WildWildMidwest conference. I’m verklempt.

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And it’s NEVER too late to join the fun. Here’s what I told the conference participants they can do–how to make supporting diversity part of your everyday life.

BUY books by diverse authors.

and/or

REQUEST them at your local library/bookstore.

Then…

TALK about diverse titles that you love. Talk, blog, post, pin, tweet!

We need you–every single one of you!–to be part of the conversation!

 


Not for you or me?

I read with great interest Caroline Starr Rose’s blog post here, responding to Colby Sharp’s post here. Nutshell: the difference in the responses of adult readers and young readers to middle-grade books. Because adults have read so much more than young readers, can something that feels ‘tired’ to us still be new and wondrous to the child reader?

With the usual (and vital) caveat that *not every book is for every reader*, I’d like to continue the conversation. I believe that there are truly only a handful of story modules in existence. We humans tell the same stories over and over. It’s a great strength of humanity and a tribute to the enduring power of stories: How they tie us together across time and space.

You don’t have to be an adult to have read many examples of the kinds of stories that people tell. An enthusiastic 10-year-old reader has probably already come across most of them. The writer’s task is to make those same old stories new again.

There is a danger in the line of thinking that ‘middle-grade is for kids, to whom All Is New.’ It’s a slippery slope to lazy writing: I can use this tired plot line, these stock characters, this trite language…because it will be new to them. I don’t know any writers who think this way consciously, but alas, I frequently read books in which these kinds of thoughts would appear to be in play subconsciously. (Editors and publishers must shoulder their share of the blame here.)

When I am writing middle-grade novels or stories, my first responsibility is to the story itself. I’m not thinking of the age of the reader. I’m focused on choosing the right words and putting them in the right order to best serve the story. In the very late stages of revision, I might have a thought like, Hmmm, maybe kids won’t know what that is, won’t be able to picture it. I’ll add an image for reinforcement.

I’m glad Mr. Sharp was helped by the thoughts of Linda Urban, and glad too for Caroline’s thoughtful post. But Mr. Sharp, if you’re reading this, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss your concerns about staleness. There are times when you’re right. All readers, and especially young readers discovering the power of story, deserve nothing less than the best effort of the storyteller.

If I do my job well, the young reader might indeed experience something new. And the ‘old’ reader will hopefully experience the same-old same-old in a way that makes her or him see it in a new light.

Which means that a good middle-grade book is indeed for you and me. And them. For anyone who wants a good story.

 

 


And then this happened

The last several weeks have been so busy for me that I’m still dizzy. While I was away on tour, two lovely reviews of my two new books came in. First, in case you missed it, the NYTimes review of FOREST OF WONDERS:

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Second, a *starred review* from Shelf Awareness for YAKS YAK!

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“Yaks yak over tea, bats bat baseballs and steers steer bumper cars in the thoroughly delightful picture book Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard). . . .”

http://www.shelf-awareness.com/readers-issue.html?issue=488#m8533

And don’t miss this terrific blog post by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, on illustrating YAKS YAK. So fun!

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Tour stats

Recap: the WING & CLAW tour for Book One, FOREST OF WONDERS

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Days away from home: 17

Air + road miles: approx 6,500

States: 7 . California, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee

Schools visited: 16

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Interviews: 14

…including this one, with Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville

Presentations: 22

Books read: 6 (see below)

Books signed: hundreds

Readers met: thousands!

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Bat rings distributed: 300

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Sides ordered at Monell’s Cafe in Nashville: 7

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(Mashed potatoes, turnip greens, corn pudding, cornbread dressing, green beans, mac & cheese, broccoli salad)

Festival appearances: 2

The Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival, Redlands CA

The Southeastern Young Adult Bookfest, Murfreesboro TN

Special thanks to the organizers of these two TERRIFIC festivals. Can’t recommend them enough!

 

Bookstore sponsors: 6

Mrs. Nelson’s, Pomona CA

Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee WI

Kids’ Ink, Indianapolis IN

Book Stall, Winnetka IL

Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville IL

Parnassus Books, Nashville TN

MTSU Bookstore, Murfreesboro TN

 

Librarians / teachers thanked: dozens

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…including Sam Bloom, Cincinnati Public Library, and Randy Lynn, DaVinci Academy, Elgin IL.

 

My tour guru was Lindsey Karl, publicist at HarperCollins Children’s Books. Lindsey straightened out dozens of little details on the fly, everything from flight glitches to hotel snafus. THANKS, LINDSEY!

The books I read on the road:

PAX, by Sara Pennypacker –Middle-grade realistic fiction, alternating viewpoints, boy and fox.

DUMPLIN’, by Julie Murphy –YA contemporary. All hail the fat girl!

AT THE CROSSING PLACES and THE JANUS STONE, by Elly Griffiths  –Adult. The first two books in the Ruth Galloway series, mysteries starring a forensic archaeologist.

NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT, by Derek B. Miller  –Adult. Thriller with an octagenarian protagonist.

ONE MAN’S FLAG, by David Downing  –Adult, spy novel. WWI and the Irish Easter Rising.

ALL highly recommended: I’m so grateful for books that dissolve the long hours of airport and airplane time! Special thanks to Betsy Groban for the Griffiths and Miller titles.

FOREST OF WONDERS has now been launched into the world. I can’t wait to hear about how it’s received by readers!

Favorite moment: Meeting one of the first young readers to have finished FOREST OF WONDERS. He eagerly asked when the second book of the series would be out. I told him March 2017, and his expression…”crestfallen” is putting it mildly! So glad there’s already someone waiting for the next WING & CLAW book!

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TOUR!

Upcoming: a trip to California for a terrific literature festival, followed by a tour for FOREST OF WONDERS, Book 1 of the Wing & Claw trilogy! Events in RED are open to the public. Hope to see you there!

Friday-Saturday, February 26-27, Redlands, CA
Charlotte Huck Children’s Literature Festival
Check out this amazing schedule! I’ll be doing a keynote Friday morning, and two breakout sessions, including one where I’ll be fangirling–talking books and stories with awesome authors Kristine O’Connell George and Janet Wong.

Monday, Feb 29 NYC: TV satellite tour

Tuesday, March 1, Milwaukee WI
AM: Glen Hills Middle School, Glendale
PM: Longfellow Middle School Wauwatosa

Wednesday, March 2, Indianapolis IN
AM: Center for Inquiry School
PM: St. Thomas Aquinas

3:30pm booksigning
Kids Ink
5619 N. ILLINOIS STREET, Indianapolis 46208

Thursday, March 3, Winnetka IL
School events TBA

Friday, March 4, Chicago area
AM: Bernard Zelle Anshe Emet Day, Chicago
        Rogers Park Montessori, Chicago
PM: DaVinci Academy, Elgin

2:00pm Saturday, March 5, Naperville IL
Presentation and signing!
Anderson’s Bookshop
123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville

Monday, March 7, Dayton OH
AM: Cline Elementary School, Washington Township
PM: Southdale Elementary School, Kettering

Tuesday, March 8, Cincinnati OH
AM: Symmes Elementary School, Loveland
PM: Montgomery Elementary

Wednesday, March 9, Nashville TN
AM: Currey Ingram Academy, Brentwood
PM: Julia Green Elementary, Nashville

6:30pm, Nashville
Presentation and signing!
Parnassus Books
3900 Hillsboro Pike Ste 14, Nashville 37215

Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12, Murfreesboro TN
Southeast YA Book Festival!

Thursday, March 10
SE YA school visit dayAM: Oakland Middle School, Murfreesboro

Friday, March 11
SE YA school events

Saturday, March 12
SE YA Community Day
12:30-1:15pm I get to be on a panel with the fabulousnesses of Sharon Cameron, and Tracy Barrett!
Booksigning: 9-11am, and 1:30-2:15pm

Sunday, March 13, Rochester NY
9:00am presentation, A LONG WALK TO WATER
St. Paul’s Episcopal forum

 

My TedX talk:

 


Reviews coming in…

FOREST OF WONDERS, Book One of the WING & CLAW trilogy, will be published by Harper Collins on March 1, and I can hardly wait!

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Reviews have been coming in, and the book is available for pre-order–at the usual online sites and at Indiebound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062327383

Here’s what reviewers are saying:

From School Library Journal: “…The real beauty in Park’s work lies in the relationship she creates between Raffa and Echo the bat. The story contains some high-intensity action scenes that will hook readers. The world-building is intensive; there is clearly a multilayered history and culture underlying the richly detailed setting. This story would be great as a way to create some interest and engagement with students studying chemistry or earth science. VERDICT A strong addition by a wonderfully talented author to diversify middle grade fantasy collections.”

From Kirkus: “…The measured pace builds to a cliffhanging climax as Raffa balances family loyalties, compelling ethical dilemmas, and his role as an apothecary, all at a level completely accessible to the audience. Echo the bat is a particular delight, and among Raffa’s new friends in Gilden are dark-skinned Kuma and working-class Trixin. Final art not seen. With its engaging hero, talking animals, arcane magic, moral issues, and unresolved plot, this first of a proposed trilogy promises more exciting forest wonders.”

From Publishers Weekly: “…There’s no shortage of action or ethical dilemmas in this endearing tale, first in Park’s (A Long Walk to Water) Wing & Claw trilogy. In the city, Raffa finds himself caring for a pair of raccoon babies and making new friends, including Kuma, a scrappy girl known for taming a mighty forest bear. A malicious plot to use experimental herbal infusions on innocent animals is part of an overarching theme in which Raffa wrestles with how to use his knowledge—for healing or for deception and even willful harm. As in life, the choices are never black and white as Park’s realistically flawed characters struggle between looking out for the greater good or for themselves.”

from Booklist: ” …the world building and rich characters, not to mention a bevy of comical talking animals, will lure in middle-grade fantasy fans, and the gentle message of conservation and kindness to all creatures will resonate with young animal lovers. A cliff-hanger ending leaves plenty to cover in the forthcoming follow-up.”

I hope readers will have as much fun reading the book as I did writing it!

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My TEDx talk: Can a children’s book save the world?

Please view and share!

 

 

 


What a month!

Two amazing events: On November 7, the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. I couldn’t describe it any better than author Elizabeth Bluemle, on her blog for Publishers Weekly. (Note the first photo in the post, copied below: I’m the one who took it, standing up on my chair to get the shot!)

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http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?p=17433

A week later, I gave a TedX talk for TedX Beacon Street! More on this later, when the edited video gets posted on their website (www.tedxbeaconstreet.com). For now, a couple of photos taken by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publisher Betsy Groban. My talk was entitled “Can a children’s book save the world?”

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Ted 2


I’m giving a TED TALK!

I’m giving a TED talk! For TedX Beacon Street in Boston. Here’s the information on the live stream:

Title: CAN A CHILDREN’S BOOK CHANGE THE WORLD?

Saturday, Nov. 14 2:00pm EST

www.tedxbeaconstreet.com

So excited! Hope lots of you will ‘join’ me online.


Torn?

1969 was the first year I was a Cubs fan.

I hope that at least a few people reading this understand the sheer weight of that seemingly simple sentence. In August of 1969, the Cubs were in first place by NINE games. They finished the season in second–eight games behind. Obviously it wasn’t quite mathematically impossible, but they had to lose a LOT of games to achieve such dire numbers.

The team that overtook them was the New York Mets.

A few smatterings of memory from those childhood years:

–Jack Brickhouse: “Santo-Kessinger-Beckert-Banks, the infield third to first.”

–Ernie Banks: “The Cubs will shine in ’69.”

–Billy Williams, uniform number 26. Randy Hundley, 9. Ferguson Jenkins, 31.

–Glenn Beckert (18, second base), hardest man to strike out in the National League.

That’s all from memory; I didn’t look any of it up. I was an ardent Cubs fan into the ’80s, when I lived for several years in Europe, in the days before cable and internet. For game 5 of the NL playoffs in 1984, I assiduously avoided looking at the International Herald Tribune for the result. The next day, I went to an American bar in London, where they had arranged for a videotape of the game to be overnighted to them from the states.

I watched the game there. I remember being intensely annoyed by a Padres fan a few bar stools down, who kept saying, “17 years! 17 years we’ve been waiting….”

Just shut UP, would you? For the Cubs, it had been FORTY years since their last postseason appearance.

They lost.

In 1985, I had a baby boy. A few years later, my husband got a job in Manhattan, and we moved back to the U.S., to Brooklyn. I picked Brooklyn because of Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. We did all of our apartment-hunting there; I refused to consider living anywhere else.

My son got interested in baseball, and became a rabid fan.

A Mets fan.

What’s a mother to do? Well, this mother plonked herself down on the couch next to that little boy and began watching Mets games with him, explaining the infield-fly rule, the double-switch, the suicide squeeze. Mother-love trumps all: I never thought it would happen, and it didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I became a Mets fan too.

During the ’90s, the Braves were the Mets’ nemeses. When my son was about eight, I told him about the ’69 season, and how much I had HATED the Mets back then. With a look of utter horror, he said, “You mean, it’s like if I had a kid, and he was a BRAVES fan?” I said yes. After a moment of contemplation, he said, “Wow. You must really love me.”

Being a fan of a baseball team is about the dailiness of a long season. For more than twenty years now, I’ve followed the Mets every single day–the way I followed the Cubs as a child. On television mostly, but sometimes radio. Staying up late for the left-coast games. Watching sports news for recaps of the rare games I miss.

Several people who know my baseball history have said to me, “Cubs vs Mets in the playoffs! So you’ll be happy no matter who wins, right?”

If the Cubs win, I’ll salute and applaud Cubs’ fans everywhere–including my nine-year-old self.

I will also be heartbroken.

If the Mets win, I’ll be ecstatic . . . with a pang for Cubs’ fans everywhere, including my nine-year-old self.

That is not at all the same as being happy no matter who wins.


Dear Meg…

Imagine yourself as a child reader. In almost every single book you read, the main character is a BOY. Boy after boy after boy. You search and search and finally, you find one that stars a girl. She’s feeble and helpless and her story is about how she manages to get a BOY to help her.

Wouldn’t you say, “This is ridiculous! We need stories about girls! ALL KINDS of girls, girls in the fullness of their humanity!” (Okay, maybe if you were a child reader, you wouldn’t say that last phrase–but you’d feel it.)

And then someone you respect and admire says, “Don’t be silly. There are girls in the newspapers and on TV. Just go look at them there. Literature is to expand the mind. You have to have the imagination to put yourself into boy shoes.”

Well, yes. And girls and women have done this–have had to do this–for centuries, and it is indeed mind-expanding. But as a female reader, I am grateful for books like yours that feature strong, quirky girls. And other books about misfit girls, improbable girls, brave and crazy women.

No, I take that back: Grateful isn’t quite the correct word. I *am* grateful, but I also have the RIGHT to expect such books. Because one of literature’s most important functions is to reflect the world, and the world is full of people who are not boys.

When I say that we need diverse books, that is what I mean. We need books that show people in the fullness of their humanity. ALL KINDS of people. EVERY kind of person. Including queer black boys.

Not on tv or in the papers. In BOOKS. In literature. In art that lasts and matters.

Humbly but firmly,

Linda Sue