Archive for June, 2012

Flying the Dragon

June 25, 2012

I suspect that one of the reasons that I’ve written two cross-cultural books is that I like reading them.  That’s why I’m excited about the launch of Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s Flying the Dragon.  For a behind the scenes look at how this book came to be, you can visit Emu’s Debuts for the first installment.  



Revisiting the Top 100 Chapter Books

June 17, 2012

Betsy Bird decided to revisit her Top 100 Children’s books poll on her Fuse#8 blog.  She made a few rule changes to tweak the results.  If I remember correctly, she wound up putting together a separate poll for kids.  She also asked that people vote for the first book in a series as the representative unless there was something exceptional about a later book in the series. Both THE HIGH KING by Lloyd Alexander and THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN by J.K. Rowling were among the sequels that made it. 

There actually was quite a bit of shifting.  I know that I made some different decisions in order to help my favorite books move up the list.  On the first time through, I went almost exclusively on love based on the number of times that I checked out a book when I was a kid.  On this occasion, I did shift votes to the first of the series.   I also tilted toward the books that I adore now as well as giving a bit of extra love to books that I wanted to see move up.  It wasn’t a pure best of the best list. 

So here was my first round:

1. The Grey King by Susan Cooper (It’s the fourth book in her DARK IS RISING series, but I read it first because that was all the local library branch had. I loved it all the same.)

2. Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager (Edward Eager’s books are so much fun. SAVING THE GRIFFIN can trace its literary roots back to KNIGHT’S CASTLE, HALF MAGIC, THE TIME GARDEN and their siblings.)

3. The City of Gold and Lead (This is the second book of John Christopher’s original TRIPOD trilogy. THE WHITE MOUNTAINS comes first, but this one hit me the hardest.)

4. The Silver Chair C.S. Lewis (Jill Pole was my hero!)

5. Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth….Konigsberg (I could relate to Elizabeth, and I had my own Jennifer.)

6. My Side of the Mountain (Great adventure. A wonderful survival story.)

7. Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (I also adored BLACKHEARTS IN BATTERSEA and NIGHTBIRDS ON NANTUCKET. I’m afraid the others in the series left me a bit cold.)

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (My most recent title on the list. For the rest of this list, I was going by the books that I had a deep and abiding passion for back in elementary school.)

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein. (I read THE LORD OF THE RINGS when I was eleven also, but it really doesn’t fit in as a chapter book.)

10. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol. (I also liked ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS very, very much.)


While the book titles changed, eight of the ten top authors kept their same places. Two books dropped off entirely. Two others jumped on.   

1. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

2. Half Magic by Edward Eager

3. The Westing Game by Raskin

4. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis

5. Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me Elizabeth….Konigsberg

6. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

7. Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

10. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol.

Taking a Risk

June 12, 2012

At the Missouri SCBWI retreat back in late April, Viking editor Kendra Levine shared a couple of ways to think about creating a high-stakes story.  It’s been more than a month, so any mistakes or misrepresentations of what she shared are the fault of my less than stellar memory and note-taking.  But anyway, she started with a “What if…?” question.  I was pretty satisfied with my response for PORTRAIT: What if a girl receives a small portrait from a relative that could have been painted by a Renaissance master? 

But then Kendra went on to expand past the concept:

After inciting incident, a main character must main action while risking the stakes during setting.

And behold, as I tried to convert my “What if” into a plot, a wide and gaping hole opened up before me.  In fact, after I tried an initial run at my story, I wrote the following in my notes:

While Risking:


So I knew there was a problem, but I do often need a metaphorical two-by-four applied to the side of the head.  This came very gently with a preliminary evaluation from my insightful agent, Erin Murphy. I knew that my character was taking certain chances to do the right thing in my manuscript, but she wasn’t risking anything on a personal level.