Category Archives: Authors

A Ninny Contemplates Courage

Girl Preparing to Pool Dive

Last week at graduation ceremonies for our daughter, who received her physician assistant degree, one of the speakers gave a piece of advice that made it hard for me to listen to what anyone else said.

“Keep your courage in an accessible place,” she told these future healers.  Immediately I had visions:  a capacious side pocket made for sliding in a hand and pulling out a fistful of pluck;  a small pouch concealing a shining dauntless stone;  a backpack bulging with fortitude.  I could use one of those things, I thought.

So often we talk about finding courage, as if it’s something that wanders off at the first opportunity. I was struck by the idea of keeping it with us, carrying it around, knowing just where to find it at all times.

The young people graduating that day are already far braver than a ninny like me will ever be. Their life’s work will be taking on the sickness and pain of others, of doing everything they can to ease and relieve suffering. They’d already shown their mettle,  learning about the endless complexities of the human body, and if you asked any one of them, she’d say she’d only begun.  A lifetime of learning lies ahead. The room brimmed with excitement and yes, a tinge of fear over what they’d taken on. The speaker’s advice was going to come in handy.

first_steps

I found myself  thinking how the youngest children have no  concept of courage. They know go and see and touch, and the drive to do all those things propels them forward on those first juddering steps into the unknown. Toddlers never know where they’re going till they get there–and there often  lasts only a few moments before it’s on to the next discovery. Yet it takes bravery to leave the safety of a parent’s arms–just watch how often a little guy looks around to make sure Mom or Dad is still nearby.

As kids get older, the need for courage becomes conscious. Some risks are physical, like learning to ride a two-wheeler,  step onto a diving board, or pet that very large dog. Some are social–nerving up to make a new friend, audition for a part in the play, or  go to a very first sleep-over.

The situations that call for moral courage are the ones that the writer (and reader) in me finds most moving and powerful. From early on, even before they can talk, children have a strong sense of right and wrong, of justice and fairness. When my kids played make-believe, the stories they made up were always about good vs. evil, about the kind-hearted and true winning out over the greedy and dishonest. Real life, they discovered, was a good deal more complicated. And the older they got, the truer that became.

In the middle grade novel I’m working on now, my main character hates making choices. She’s slipped through life, getting away with things, not taking responsibility if she can help it–she’s so much like me at age twelve. In my story, she will, at last, face a decision she can’t escape.  She’ll have to find her courage, something she’s not used to keeping in a pocket or other accessible place. She’ll have to hunt and dig and probably ask for some help.

One reason I’m loving writing this book–why I always love writing for middle graders –is how central and powerful questions of right and wrong are to these readers. To be worthy of my audience, I have to think hard and deep, not just about how things should be, but how they are, and what we each, with our one wild, precious life, can do.  Writing for middle graders forces a ninny like me to be brave, and for that I am very grateful.

*****

Tricia is the author of What Happened on Fox Street and Mo Wren Lost and Found. Her  new middle grade novel, Moonpenny Island, will publish in February.

 

 

 

 

 

THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES Launch, Giveaway, and Time Travel Titles!

Do you love a little bit of time-travel/time-bending elements in your middle-grade books? We’ve got some great titles for you – plus we’re celebrating one of our very own Mixed-Up File-rs brand new Middle-Grade with Scholastic!

Time of the Fireflies_Cover

THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES is the story of a beautiful heirloom doll with a secret family curse, a bit of historical fiction from 1912–and time-slipping. The novel has received terrific reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and School Library Journal who said, “Haunting, well-constructed tale . . . A plot filled with suspense, adventure, and mystery. A perfect choice for lovers of ghost stories, historical fiction, or just a good yarn.”

Help Kimberley celebrate THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES by entering the Rafflecopter below to win a signed hardcover copy of FIREFLIES, gorgeous Book Club Cards, and a glow-in-the-dark firefly necklace like this one:

Fireflfy Necklace

THE-TIME-OF-THE-FIREFLIES-Book-Club-Guide.pdf

Watch the mysteriously spooky book trailer right here, too!

Time Travel Middle-Grade Titles – a Mix of New and Oldies!

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

The Infinity Ring series by James Dashner, et al

WARP, Book 1 The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

Watcher in the Woods by Robert Liparulo

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder

Nick of Time by Anne Lindbergh

The Last Snake Runner by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Here’s an even bigger list of MG and YA Time Travel books from Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/28181.YA_MG_Time_Travel

Let a book carry you away to another time and place!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kimberley Griffiths Little’s best ideas come when taking long hot baths, but instead of a sunken black marble tub with gold faucets and a dragon-shaped spigot, she has New Mexico hand-painted tiles in her adobe home along the Rio Grande. She makes a lot of chocolate chip cookies when writing/revising.

Find Kimberley on Facebook. and Twitter:@KimberleyGLittl Teacher’s Guides, Mother/Daughter Book Club Guides, and book trailers “filmed on location in the bayous/swamps of Louisiana” at Kimberley’s website.

 

Thicken thou Skin

Writers often stay in the closet about their writing. Why? Because admitting you’re an author opens you up to feedback, critique, and rejection – more than any professional outside of arts and entertainment.

reject-stamp-100108266Staying in the closet, however, means never getting published. For this reason, writers are encourage to thicken their skin and get used to rejection. Easier said than done, especially since most writers are sensitive and empathetic by nature.

I am hyper-sensitive to rejection of any kind, even outside of my writing life, and self-doubt has been my worst enemy for as long as I can remember. After five years in the business of being an author, my skin has not been thickened – wrinkled, but not thickened – and my ego is more fragile than ever.

At first, I thought the self doubt would disappear after I finished my first manuscript. Nope- that was when I first came out of the closet and faced the rejection of publishers.

First published book? Nope – then it was reviews and sales records.

Second published book? Nope – ditto to above followed by the rejection of my third manuscript.

Agent? Well, this is the stage I’m at now, having just signed my first (and hopefully last) contract with a literary agent earlier this month. I am excited about this new step in my career but I have to admit, by this time in the game I am grizzled and wrinkled enough to know that the need for thick skin does not end here. As we work on another set of edits before she makes my first agented submission, I know we heading back at stage one (only this time in a tank with bigger fish – and sharks).

ID-10086055Since my skin is not thickening on its own, I’ve collected a list of links that can help writers – and anyone with a heart beat, really – face the world of feedback, criticism, and rejection. Not exactly light summer reading but maybe, just maybe, it can help bring us into fall with something more useful than a sunburn.

Rejection: 3 Methods for Coping (Gotham Writers) A good, quick place to start.

 25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection (Terrible Minds) Digger deeper with ideas that go beyond the standard “suck it up”. Caution: mostly flowery, but occasionally foul, language.

5 Ways for Writers to Overcome Self-Doubts (write to done) While some of these pointers apply to more seasoned writers (NOT authors), I love The Pimple Rule. Great links to other posts on making peace with criticism and why feeling like a failure boosts creativity.

The Seven Stages of Publishing Grief (Writer Unboxed) Describes the ups and downs of writing in the age of google and amazon with a demonstration of how a writers reaction to bad book news follows the seven stages of grief.

Famous Writers Who Were Rejected Before Making it Big (Bubble Cow)In an industry where comparison is paramount, remembering that all the great ones – our mentors, our role models, the objects of our envy – have also been rejected can literally help keep us sane.

I truly believe that if you are not getting rejected you are not getting published but sometimes – okay, often – a gentle reminder is in order. And since the web is littered with them, here are some more:

Best Sellers Originally Rejected (Literary Rejections)

Famous Authors Harshest Rejection Letters (Flavorwire)

Literary Rejections on Display: When all else fails, it helps to know you are not alone. This blog is for the not-so-famous among us to share the pain of rejection.

Famous Writers on Literary Rejection (Aerogramne Writers’ Studio) And finally, some words of inspiration from writers who have been through the tunnel and reached the light of success but still faced rejection.

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If you have any tips to share, please comment! I’d love to hear how you’ve thickened thou skin. Or have you given up?

 Yolanda Ridge is represented by Amy Tompkins of the Transatlantic Literary Agency. Her books include Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011) and Road Block (Orca Book Publishers, 2012).