Author Archives: Michele Weber Hurwitz

Celebrating National Pi Day with books about PIE!

Unless you live on another planet, you probably know that tomorrow, March 14 — 3/14 — is National Pi Day. The Greek letter Pi is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Since I don’t understand that very well, I choose to celebrate National Pi Day by eating pie and reading books about pie. What a delicious way to spend the day!

The first book that comes to mind is Pie by Sarah Weeks. When Alice’s Aunt Polly passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world famous pie crust recipe. Except in her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her fat, disagreeable cat, Lardo, and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness — friendship, family, and doing something for the right reason. A delightfully scrumptious book!

Another yummy pie book on my list is a just-published novel by Kat Yeh, The Truth About Twinkie Pie. Two opposite sisters, a million dollars in prize money from a national cooking contest, and a move from the trailer parks of South Carolina to Long Island, NY — that’s the recipe for this novel about family and friendship. Sprinkled with recipes and down-home commentary, the characters are endearing and true to life.

Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass has to do with a boy who is bored with his job of delivering pies. The plot is a little confusing, since it takes place in The Realms, located inside dark matter. When something goes terribly wrong, main character Joss is bored no more and has the monumental task of rebuilding Earth. Lots of interesting facts about physics and the universe.

Next on my list is Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. A favorite among teachers and young readers, this is the story of Steven, who plays drums in a band, has a huge crush on a hot girl, and is constantly annoyed by his younger brother Jeffrey. When Jeffrey gets sick, Steven’s world is turned upside down. You’ll have to read the book to find out what Dangerous Pie is!

Pies & Prejudice (how clever is that?) is part of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick. The club reads Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and in their continuing adventures, the girls hold a bake sale then suddenly have a thriving business to contend with.

And while we’re discussing pies, we can’t forget kids’ cookbooks! Two of my favorites are Baking With Kids by Leah Brooks and American Girl Baking, published in conjunction with Williams-Sonoma. Both cookbooks have colorful photos, step-by-step easy to follow instructions, and have recipes for not only pies and pie crusts, but also cookies, cakes, muffins, scones, and other treats.

Enjoy your Pi and Pie Day!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of the upcoming novel, Ethan Marcus Stands Up (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, August 2017), as well as The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold (both Penguin Random House). Visit her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

 

 

Inside Copy Editing

How exciting! You’ve received a book contract and soon after, you begin the editing process. As you probably know, a book can go through any number of revisions with your editor. My first middle grade novel went through seven revisions, but my third novel, only two. Just when you think you’ve done everything you can possibly do with your manuscript, next comes the copy editing phase.

When I was a newbie author, I wasn’t quite prepared for the intense round of copy editing where everything from commas to style to hyphenation is checked and scrutinized. But there’s a reason for the madness, I assure you! And I’ve come to realize that the copy editor is my way-smarter-than-me BFF. Here are the issues that the all-important copy editor is responsible for:

1. Spelling and punctuation. Copy editors know their stuff, like when to use a comma to modify clauses or set off words such as “like” and “luckily.” This of course provides consistency throughout the novel and makes the author look like she knew what she was doing all along.

2. Hyphenation. I always seem to do it wrong, so thank goodness my copy editor is on top of whether or not to hyphenate half-baked, gross-looking, or sky blue. I’ve learned that hyphenation sometimes has to do with a noun or verb in the sentence. Who knew!

3. Capitalization is also carefully checked, such as language arts (lower case) but PE for physical ed. Numbers are a whole ‘nother section in regards to how to write time, ages, percents, heights, etc.

4. Copy editors also watch for the uniform use of specific types of text like italics for unspoken dialogue and thought, as well as the style for text messages, foreign words, sounds, and mouthed dialogue.

5. Grammar in general. The all-important “who” and “that,” the use of “then,” plus correct adverbs, verbs of utterance vs. gestures, and pronouns. And more grammatical goodies than you ever realized existed!

6. Fact checking. If you’ve written a historical novel and you’re describing an article of clothing for example, the copy editor will check that detail and may ask for more information from you. Copy eds will look at everything in the book to make sure it’s accurate and makes sense with the story.

Copy editors often create a “style sheet” with a list of characters and places mentioned in the book, as well as commonly used words and phrases, so everything remains consistent and is spelled the same throughout.

The majority of copy editing is done electronically on a document using comments (each person has a different color) and the track changes feature. It can sometimes be challenging to work with but it’s much better than the ol’ paper and pencil version. And once you’re done, you’re on the way to seeing page proofs and galleys, where your book starts to look like a book!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of the upcoming middle grade novel, Ethan Marcus Stands Up, publishing August 2017 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, and The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both from Penguin Random House. Find her online at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

 

A favorite author for Friday the 13th

Several different stories exist about the origin of why Friday the 13th is a superstitious and unlucky day. But what is known is that this day and the number 13 affect millions of people worldwide. Many buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor and airports don’t have a Gate 13. Some people won’t get married on the 13th and others won’t seat 13 people at a dinner table. The fear even has a name — friggatriskaidekaphobia!

Frigg is for the Norse goddess after whom Friday is named, triskaideka is a Greek word meaning thirteen, and phobia is, of course, fear.

Today being Friday the 13th, I’d like to celebrate my favorite author of spine-chilling ghost stories and spooky mysteries — Mary Downing Hahn.

Hahn, a former children’s librarian, has been writing books for almost 40 years and is a perennial favorite with young readers. Her books have stood the test of time for several generations. Hahn’s classic Wait Till Helen Comes has been in print and selling steadily since 1986!

My daughter discovered The Doll in the Garden when she was around 11 and was completely riveted by the story of a girl who finds an old doll in the garden of her new home. The doll’s owner —  a ghost — wants the doll back, even though she died 70 years ago. My daughter is now 24 and the book still is on her bookshelf. I imagine the same is true for many of Hahn’s readers.

What I love about Hahn’s stories is they’re definitely spooky but aren’t overly frightening to kids. In fact, Kirkus Reviews once said that Hahn mastered the art of the “not too creepy ghost story.”

Some of my other favorites of Hahn’s include The Old Willis Place and Stepping on the Cracks.

When asked in interviews why she wrote ghost stories, Hahn said she believes that having a ghost in a story makes things happen. A ghost, she said, can give a character insight or empathy and offer a deeper understanding of her own nature and the world in which she lives.

A little known fact about Hahn is that she didn’t publish her first novel until age 41. Although she’s won numerous state and national awards, she’s said that writing has always been a journey of discovery and each book started with only a character or situation and a vague idea of what would happen. In fact, she often worried she wouldn’t be able to complete each book or her editor would reject them!

Not only do I love reading Hahn’s books, but her words about the struggles of writing give me inspiration in my own days of doubt. I hope they inspire you too. Beware of black cats and ladders today, and happy Friday the 13th!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold (both Penguin Random House) and Ethan Marcus Stands Up, coming August 2017 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin Books. Find her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.