Tag Archives: Book Giveaway

Interview and Giveaway with Sarah Jean Horwitz – Author of The Wingsnatchers: Carmer and Grit Book One

Today we welcome Sarah Jean Horwitz, whose debut middle grade novel, The Wingsnatchers:  Carmer and Grit Book One, comes out April 25th from Algonquin Young Readers.

The Wingsnatchers:  Carmer and Grit Book One is a stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.

The Wingsnatchers is such a wonderful middle grade read. What are your favorite things about middle-grade fiction (as a reader and as a writer)?

One of the things I love about middle grade fiction – and fantasy in particular – is the unadulterated sense of magic and wonder. I don’t mean to say that the middle grade fictional universe is an uncomplicated one; on the contrary, this is the age when most kids are getting quite acquainted with the complexity of their own worlds, and the best stories know this. But there is an absence of outright cynicism, and that’s always a refreshing pond to dive into for a little while – both as a reader and a writer.

What inspired you to write The Wingsnatchers?

I knew for some time that I wanted to write a faerie-centric urban fantasy, but I never really had an idea with teeth to it until one day – as early as 2011, I think – a very specific image fell into my head: a boy in a shabby top hat and a faerie with a mechanical wing sitting on the brim. I was still in school at the time and working on other projects, so I put the two of them on the back burner, but I think I knew, even then, that this was the story to stick with. I just had to know more about them.

One of the things I love most about The Wingsnatchers is the world-building. Both the steampunk world of Carmer and the fairy kingdom of Grit come to life on the page in vivid detail. Can you tell us a little bit about your process in creating such a colorful and lively fantasy world?

Despite how integral the steampunk aesthetic is to the book now, it happened mostly by accident! The story is set (super!) roughly in an alternate 1880’s-1890’s, but that wasn’t always the case. When I started, it was way earlier – think mid-to-late 1700’s – and that wasn’t sitting quite right. Then, when my research into the Industrial Revolution went a bit too far down the rabbit hole and well into the 1800’s, I came across the early history of electric lighting – which, of course, became a central element of the plot and the story world. Building a Victorian-inspired setting from there, especially with a focus on the stage magic and vaudeville scenes, was just plain fun.

I was also, obviously, heavily inspired by Boston and its public parks. My personal map of the Oldtown Arboretum in the book is literally a traced-over and heavily rearranged version of the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain in Boston. I would walk by the Boston Public Garden at night and imagine the globes of the streetlamps powered by faerie lights. I love this city and its unique blend of old and new so much. I hope the fictional Skemantis is a fitting tribute.

Also, some of the coolest elements of the story world actually exist! The Moto-Manse, for example, is based on a Burning Man exhibition I found on Pinterest called the Neverwas Haul. It’s a thing!

Carmer and Grit are such wonderful heroes – and so perfect together. What drew you to writing these characters and what are your favorite things about each of them?

Thank you! Carmer and Grit were inspired by some of my favorite mystery-solving duos – all the way back from the original Holmes and Watson to today’s Joan and Sherlock on the show Elementary, Sam and Dean Winchester from Supernatural, and even Hiccup and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. I’m a firm believer in “platonic soulmates” – the one person out there who gets you, man, even if on paper, you may not have much in common. Carmer and Grit literally come from different worlds, but that doesn’t stop them from being a great team. In fact, it makes them better! I wanted to write a story about friends whose differences bring out the best in each other.

I love Carmer’s wry sense of humor and his determination to do the right thing, even if it’s uncomfortable or disadvantageous to him personally. I love Grit’s passion and impulsiveness – even when it gets her into trouble – and her frankness. I wish I could be as no-nonsense as she is!

There are so many interesting secondary characters in the book – from automata cats, to talking puppets, to the wonderful Antoine the Amazifier. Do you have a favorite?

The cats are my favorite, because my best friend hates them. Ha! Okay, let me explain: I was always convinced they were fun and creepy and different, even if they were pretty ridiculous, and she was like, “No, girl, just no,” but I kept them anyway. And I trust her opinion more than anyone’s in the world, but I kept them in anyway. And then not only did the book get published, but those creepy cats made it all the way to the cover! So that will be forever entertaining to me.

Your steampunk world is full of magic and science. Did you do any research while writing The Wingsnatchers? If so, what did you learn?

I did quite a bit of research! And then a lot of it got chucked out the window in service of the story, because magic is cool and I wanted to let magic be cool. Carmer would most definitely not approve. My major areas of research were the history of electric light and Victorian era stage magic and magicians. I obviously wasn’t concerned with writing a true historical fantasy, but I did try to play off the general “look and feel” and some of the driving social anxieties of the time.

The Wingsnatchers is Book One in the Carmer and Grit series. Can you give us any hints about what’s coming next and do you have any book recommendations for fans while we wait impatiently for the book two?

Well, I joked in my debut author group the other day that I was torn between two titles for book two: “Youths Flying Airships and Making Questionable Decisions” or “Everyone is a Little Bit Traumatized From the Events of Book One.” Does that count as a hint?

If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend the wonderful The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, which just won the Newbery Medal. It is the perfect blend of magical and honest and complex-but-not-cynical.

Sarah Jean Horowitz author of The Wingsnatchers: Carmer and Grit Book OneSarah Jean Horwitz is the author of the middle grade fantasy novel CARMER AND GRIT, BOOK ONE: THE WINGSNATCHERS and a member of the Boston Teen Author Festival organizing team. She loves storytelling in all its forms and holds a B.A. in Visual & Media Arts with a concentration in screenwriting from Emerson College. You can find her reading, writing, and occasionally dancing around like a loon throughout the Boston, MA area.

 

You can reach Sarah through her website or at one of these social media links:

Twitter: @sunshinejhwitz

Instagram: @sunshinejh

Facebook: sarahjeanbooks

Website: www.sarahjeanhorwitz.com

Sarah is giving away one Advanced Reader Copy of The Wingsnatchers:  Carmer and Grit Book One (US entries only, please).

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Patricia Bailey is the author of  the  middle-grade historical novel The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan (April 2017). She blogs here and at her website patriciabaileyauthorcom.

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Growing Up with Biographies ~ Biographies Have Grown Up

old bios 2

Remember these? I do. I was in 3rd or 4th grade when I discovered the section of the school library that housed all the books labeled with a capital B on the spine. Biographies. Martha Washington. Dolly Madison. Mark Twain. Clara Barton. These are a few I remember reading from the shelves of that wonderful basement library that doubled as the music room.

When my young son, a dyed-in-the-wool farmer even at age ten, seemed to lose interest in reading anything not part of a class assignment, I found a biography of John Deere. Suddenly, my little reader was back!

A few years ago, I submitted a picture book biography to a publisher who contacted me with the best kind of rejection. “This isn’t right for our list, but…”  The “but” was a great one. They were very interested in launching a new series of biographies for middle-grade readers, and since I had previously published books for middle-graders, would I be interested in writing the first book in the series? Now that’s a rejection I could handle!

This middle-grade series was a new venture for the publisher, and the editors and designers were more than willing to lend an ear to my suggestions about what a middle-grade bio should look like. Immediately, I went back to that row of “B” books in my elementary library. Yes, they had grabbed my attention, but not every elementary reader was as enamored as I was. I took a more critical look at the biographies of my youth. They were text-heavy and sparsely-illustrated, usually with some pen and ink line drawings smattered here and there.

And then, I thought about the most recent biography I’d purchased for my youngest daughter. It was Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.

amelia lost

Filled with photographs, text boxes, diary entries, and varied fonts, this is how an engaging middle-grade biography should look, feel, and read. Luckily, others agree. Today’s biographies are a far cry from the those bios of old (beloved though they may have been!)

Below are some recently-released biographies for the middle-grade crowd.  Stick with me to the end. There’s a GIVEAWAY hiding there!

Bayardcover

Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist by Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long – Bayard Rustin was a civil rights leader who believed in nonviolent action as means of achieving social reform. The organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, Bayard Rustin’s story will inspire young readers to stand up in the face of injustice.

most dangerous

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin was recently named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015.  Sheinkin’s confidence his middle-grade audience is evident as he tackles the political life of government whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg during a tumultuous time in recent history.

MILLIE B COVER

Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist  by Julie K. Rubini 

Hot off the presses is this biography of Mildred Wirt Benson, the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew series. Rubini takes readers on a journey through Millie Benson’s life as a journalist and as the very uncelebrated author of  many books in history’s most celebrated juvenile series. Why did it take years to discover the identity of the writer we’ve always known as “Carolyn Keene?” Follow the clues to solve the mystery of Millie Benson.

Kammie Cover

Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek by Michelle Houts

Here is the initial installment in the new Biographies for Young Readers series I mentioned earlier. Dorothy Kamenshek was a teenager from Cincinnati, Ohio when a man named Philip Wrigley sent scouts to find women who could play baseball as well as the men on his Chicago Cubs (men who were rapidly leaving the ball field for the battlefield at the start of World War II.)  Made famous by the movie A League of Their Own, Kammie and her Rockford Peaches inspire girls to “throw like a girl” and be proud of it.

And now, since you stuck with me…

THE GIVEAWAY!

Author Julie Rubini has generously provided The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors a signed paperback copy of Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist. To enter, please comment below. Maybe you’d like to add the title and author of a noteworthy biography for middle-grade readers. Maybe you’d rather reminisce and tell us about your favorite biography.

Just leave a comment below by midnight Eastern Time on Tuesday, November 10, 2015. 

The lucky winner will be announced on Thursday, November 12, 2015!

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. She’s still a fan of biographies and good old-fashioned letter-writing. She created The 52-Letter Challenge for those who are up to writing a letter a week for an entire year.   Find Michelle at www.michellehouts.com. On Twitter and Instagram @mhoutswrites and on Facebook as Michelle Houts.

Everything You Need to Know About Teacher’s Guides-Plus Book & Critique Giveaways!

Natalie LorenziI’m thrilled to welcome Natalie Dias Lorenzi back to the Mixed-Up Files. Natalie’s first novel for children, Flying the Dragon, was published in 2012 and has been honored on best-of-the-year lists from the International Reading Association, the Cooperative Children’s Books Center, the Bank Street College of Education, and the New York Public Library. Her next novel, Someplace Like Home, will be published in 2016. It’s a companion novel to Flying the Dragon and follows the journey of 10-year-old Ravi as he leaves Pakistan with his mother and sister to live in the United States, not knowing if his father will ever be able to join them. Ravi adapts to a new country and a new school and meets his friend Hiroshi, one of the protagonists from Flying the Dragon. While Hiroshi’s story had kite-making and kite-fighting woven through it, Ravi’s will be filled with the love of his favorite sport back home, cricket, and the one that replaces it in the U.S.: baseball. Natalie has taught elementary school and English for Speakers of Other Languages in Virginia, and in international schools in Italy and Japan. She is currently a librarian at an elementary school in Fairfax, Virginia.

You can visit Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s website, follow her on Twitter, find out more about both books here, and read her book review blog that shows ways to use books in the classroom.

 

Thanks again for joining us, Natalie. I’d love to know why you think it’s important to have teacher’s guides.

Having a teacher’s guide increases the chances of getting your book into classrooms and into the hands of kids and teachers. With state testing, teachers have loads of paperwork, documentation, data collection and reflection….all of which put a squeeze on their time. Teachers are busy people! But it’s not just teachers who will use your guide—homeschooling parents, book club facilitators, and public librarians use them, too.

As a teacher myself, I use discussion questions and activities that authors and publishers provide on their websites, and it makes my job a lot easier. Especially with novels and longer works of fiction, if I have to choose between two equally-appealing books, I go with the one that has a guide every time.

 

How detailed should they be?

As detailed as you’d like them to be. Some discussion guides come in the form of bookmarks with a few discussion questions, some are more like a pamphlet, and others can be 50 pages long. It really depends on how much time you have, which leads me to the answer to your next question…

 

How did you create the teacher’s guide for your middle grade novel, Flying the Dragon?

The mistake I made with the guide for my own book is that I waited too long to put something up on my website for teachers. I’d envisioned a detailed, activity-packed, standards-based resource that I simply didn’t have time to put together. What I should have done was to start small—a bookmark, or pamphlet-style guide at first, and then added a more detailed guide later on. As it was, it took me over a year to post a completed guide for Flying the Dragon on my site! In the meantime, I gathered links that I thought would be helpful for teachers and created this Pinterest page. It’s a quick and easy way to provide resources for your book–background knowledge, other activities, etc.–while you’re working on your own guide.

 

Wow, I took a peek at your Pinterest page, and I love the videos and the 20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes article. You put together such interesting sites and guides. Can you share some tips for creating amazing teacher’s guides?

1. Know the curriculum standards for your audience. Keep in mind that while Common Core has swept the country (except for these states), current testing is based on state standards, not Common Core. No matter which standards you use, find the commonalities and stick with those. For example, every grade studies plot and characterization on some level, so find out how deep this standard goes with your target age group, and go from there.

2. While you want to keep standards in mind while writing activities, don’t feel like you have to list every single Common Core standard addressed for each activity. I’ve seen guides with pages and pages of standards. While I appreciate the time and effort that went into compiling such lists, I can tell you that, as a teacher, I don’t even look at those. Teachers know the standards they’re required to teach. When I preview an activity, I automatically know which standards it addresses, and I decide from there if I’m going to use the activity or not.

3. Create a user-friendly layout. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just easy to follow. Have a table of contents for longer guides.

4. Do some research—find guides that you like online and bookmark them. Note the different formats, content, and delivery and then decide what you’re most comfortable with.

 

What are the biggest pitfalls to avoid when creating a teacher’s guide?

I know I’ve mentioned lay-out already, but I’ll say again here. If your guide is just a long list of questions, it’s fine to have it written in list format. But if you’ve got chapter-by-chapter guides, or if you have distinct sections like pre-reading questions/predictions, a vocabulary section, etc. then make it easy for a teacher to quickly scan your guide to find what she needs. Have clear labels for each section, leave white space and have a table of contents for longer guides.

 

Can writers create good teacher guides on their own if they don’t have a teaching background?

Yes, they can. I’d have an educator or two look it over and provide feedback if you can. When creating questions, familiarize yourself with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and let Howard Garner’s Theory of Intelligences guide your activities.

 

Thank you for sharing those links! Do you have any tips for using teacher’s guides?

Every teacher knows what his or her students need. The best way to utilize a guide is to dip in and try out questions or activities that fit the academic, social, and behavioral needs of your students.

 

That’s great advice. How well do teacher’s guides work for book clubs?

I think guides may work even better for book club facilitators than they do for teachers. Oftentimes, book club leaders aren’t teachers—they’re parent volunteers, or even students themselves at the high school level. Having access to questions and activities makes it easier for them to get a discussion started with readers.

 

Do you keep a future teacher’s guide or Common Core in mind when writing or revising a middle grade novel?

Never. I write with readers in mind, not standards. If your book has a science or social studies tie-in, then it may seem like it will fit best with curriculum, but language arts standards apply to any book. Don’t worry about standards as you write; write the best book you can, and teachers will figure out how to use it!

 

What’s the best way to let people know you have a teacher’s guide for your book?

Provide a link to the guide on your website and make that link easy to find. Let your publisher know about your guide and ask that they post it, as well. Send the link to anyone requesting information about author visits. If you have bookmarks or postcards printed, include the fact that there’s a link to a teacher’s guide on your website and make these available at all your author appearances, school visits, and teacher/librarian conferences.

 

Where can teachers find guides to their favorite books? If there isn’t a guide available, is there some way they can request one? 

The first place I’d check is the author’s website, followed by the publisher’s site. If you don’t have any luck there, places like Teachers Pay Teachers often have activities up either for free or for a reasonable price. If you can’t find a guide for a book, by all means email the author and/or publisher! They may have something in the works. If not, hearing from you is good incentive to get started on a guide for educators.

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is another author/educator/guide creator, and some of her guides can be found here.

 

Thank you for visiting the Mixed-Up Files again, Natalie. You shared a wealth of knowledge about teacher’s guides, and I’m sure it will be a huge help to writers, teachers, librarians, and many others.

* If anyone has questions for Natalie, ask in a blog comment and she’ll stop by to answer them!

If you’re searching for teacher’s guides for great middle-grade novels, here’s a list of links to check out:

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

The Map of Me by Tami Lewis Brown

Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Ellie McDoodle: Friends Fur-Ever written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Fiona Finkelstein, Big-Time Ballerina! by Shawn Stout

Penelope Crumb by Shawn Stout

Fudge series by Judy Blume

Mallory series by Laurie Friedman

Chet Gecko series by Bruce Hale

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

The Ballad of Jessie Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

Trouble in the Trees by Yolanda Ridge

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

My Very UnFairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski

The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito

The Multiplying Menace by Amanda Marrone

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart

A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk by Jan L. Coates

The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas (you can find magical translations using the runic translation chart here.)

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens (Woman’s History Month Lesson Plan)

Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lewis Brown (Woman’s History Month Activity Kit included in the link)

 

In addition to the lists of great teacher’s guides for picture books through young adult novels listed on Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s site, you can also find more at these websites:

* Debbie Gonzales has links to guides for middle grade novels and chapter books. To find guides for other genres, click on Sample Educational Guides toward the top of her website.

* Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

*As Natalie said before, don’t forget to check out the websites of your favorite authors and publishers. You should be able to find great teacher’s guides and activities there…and if you don’t it can’t hurt to request them!

 

Thanks again for all your amazing responses, Natalie—and for offering TWO generous giveaways!

* Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and you’ll have a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Natalie’s novel, Flying the Dragon.

Flying the DragonAmerican-born Skye is a good student and a star soccer player who never really gives any thought to the fact that her father is Japanese. Her cousin, Hiroshi, lives in Japan, and never really gives a thought to his uncle’s family living in the United States. Skye and Hiroshi’s lives are thrown together when Hiroshi’s family, with his grandfather (who is also his best friend), suddenly moves to the U.S. Now Skye doesn’t know who she is anymore: at school she’s suddenly too Japanese, but at home she’s not Japanese enough. Hiroshi has a hard time adjusting to life in a new culture, and resents Skye’s intrusions on his time with Grandfather. Through all of this is woven Hiroshi’s expertise and Skye’s growing interest in kite making and competitive rokkaku kite flying.

 

* Natalie is also giving away a 10 page critique! It can be up to the first ten pages of an MG/YA or one picture book. Let us know in a comment if you’d like to be entered for the critique giveaway.

The lucky winners will be announced on Thursday, April 24. Good luck!

*You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the Flying the Dragon paperback giveaway, but anyone can enter for a chance to win the critique.

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Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.