Tag Archives: Giveaways

Interview and Giveaway with Pura Belpré Honor Author Alexandra Diaz

 

Alexandra Diaz is the author of The Only Road, a Pura Belpré Honor book and Américas Award winner, which she also co-translated into Spanish, El único destino. She is also the author of the YA novels, Of All the Stupid Things (re-titled When We Were) which was a ALA Rainbow List book, and Good Girls Don’t Lie. For her day-job, she teaches circus arts to children and adults. She can be found at alexandra-diaz.com, facebook.com/AlexandraDiazAuthor, or on Twitter @alexandratdiaz.

(Photo credit: Owen Benson)

From Indiebound:

Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel.

Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed–like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Angela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.

PURA BELPRE HONOR BOOK
ALA NOTABLE BOOK
“Powerful and timely.” —Booklist (starred review)
“An important, must-have addition to the growing body of literature with immigrant themes.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

Congratulations on the Pura Belpré Honor! Tell us what it was like to find out about it. How did you celebrate?

I was driving a friend to Tuscan and didn’t hear the phone ring. It wasn’t until 11 o’clock that night that I checked my messages. I was very excited and thrilled and couldn’t really believe it. In the morning I double-checked the messages and sure enough it was still there! Once back in Santa Fe, my mom and sister took me out for lunch, and the ladies in my writing group brought cake and ice cream to our following meeting. It was awesome and such an honor!

In your Author’s Note, you tell us that you are the child of Cuban refugees. How does that inform your writing in The Only Road?

I grew up hearing stories of what it was like to leave family and home behind. Though my parents’ experience was different than what my characters went through, the thoughts and feelings remained the same: what was going to happen, would they make it, would they ever come back, and so forth. But mostly it was the sense of not having any other choice.

How did you decide to depict the uglier, more violent aspects of the journey and still make the book appropriate for middle-grade readers?

I wanted a book true to the current immigration status and the experiences of real people. But yes, I also didn’t want to introduce situations that readers weren’t prepared to understand. For example, I mentioned that if the gangs thought Ángela was pretty enough, she would become one of the gang members’ girlfriends and left it at that. The reader could then interpret that to whatever level they felt comfortable.

Why did you choose to have Ángela and Jaime travel together, rather than Jaime going it alone?

By traveling together, they could help each other out, it adds compassion, and it also ups the tension. I love characters and characters’ relationships with each other. As a writer, I think I would have been a bit bored if Jaime were on his own, especially as other characters come and go.

A Spanish version of The Only Road was also published. Can you tell us about the process?

I think I had just finished writing the English version when I was asked if I wanted to translate it. The prospect excited and scared me as my brain shifted continuously from “I’d love to!” and “I can’t do it!” I never learned Spanish in school so my writing abilities are not very strong. But my mom said we had to do it and I’m so glad we did. We worked on the translation together—her focusing more on the grammar and vocabulary and me on the narrative/character voice and structure. I chose the title El único destino because “destino” has a double meaning of “destination” and “destiny”. Hopefully the overall effect worked well!

What kind of research did you do to get the details right?

I read a lot of biographies, autobiographies, and other nonfiction material that discussed the immigrants’ journey. I also interviewed a few people who had either immigrated themselves or worked with immigrants or along the migration trail. I knew I wouldn’t want to experience it for myself, but I did want to remain true to what happens and several resources expressed similar events. Thank goodness for the internet, which allowed me have access to much more than I would have found otherwise, including a map of the cargo train routes through Mexico. I did visit Mexico a couple of times to get a feel for the country and what it looks like and translate that sense into the book.

If there was one single thing that you wanted readers to get from The Only Road, what would it be?

Young people read about slavery and the Holocaust but not so often about what is happening with immigration today. I would like readers to know this is something that is going on in the world today, possibly even happened to classmates or neighbors. And for those readers who have experienced something similar, I wanted to remind them that they are not alone and there’s always hope.

How is writing middle-grade fiction different from writing for young adults?

When I write YA, I tend to write in first person, while middle grade comes out in third. Most of the differences I noticed were around that: first person is more internal and limited to what that one character is experiencing while third person allowed me to move into an occasional omniscient or different characters’ point of view. Also, when writing for young adults, anything goes in terms of language, sex, violence, etc. but middle grade fiction requires a few more filters. That said, I never felt restricted or frustrated in terms of what content to include. If anything, I feel I’m a better and more diverse writer as a result.

What other books do you recommend to readers who enjoyed The Only Road?

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez is a great historical novel about Cuban immigration in the 1960s that is truthful and compassionate.

 

I also enjoyed The Arrival by Shaun Tan, which is a wordless graphic novel that truly captures the feel and emotions of an immigrant or refugee.

What’s your favorite thing about middle-grade fiction (as a reader or a writer)?

I love getting involved in the story and situations of youth. I feel I can connect better with them than I do adults or fiction for adults. I also enjoy that for the most part middle-grade fiction is fast-paced with good action and generally has some funny lines.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to write middle-grade fiction?

It’s important to know your audience, how they behave and interact together. Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve noticed is talking down to your reader, or having the protagonist seem too young or too good. Read a lot of middle grade and write even more. If there are people you trust who can give you constructive criticism, that’s great, keeping in mind that your work can always be better, but not every bit of feedback has to be applied. Remain true to yourself while striving to make your writing better. Above all, keep writing and keep going no matter what setbacks you might find.

 

Alexandra has kindly offered a copy of The Only Road as a giveaway. Enter below (USA/Canada only, please).

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A Chat With Author Trudi Trueit & A Giveaway of My Top Secret Dares & Don’ts!

Please give a warm Mixed-Up welcome to Author Trudi Trueit and her latest release My Top Secret Dares & Don’ts. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to interview Trudi. Plus, this is my first post for MUF, so if I sound overly-excited don’t worry. It will eventually wear off.

Twelve-year-old Kestrel must battle evil twin sisters and overcome her own worst fear to prevent the foreclosure of her grandmother’s beloved lodge in this fresh, funny M!X novel.

Description: Kestrel and her family are headed out to Vancouver, BC, to help out her grandmother at her beautiful ski lodge. It’s been in the family for generations, but the business is in trouble—and there are lots of people looking to take over the property.
Kestrel is determined to help her family retain their precious business—one that her grandfather built literally from the ground up. But two evil twins—who happen to be the daughters of a property developer determined to drive the lodge out of business—prove to be her nemeses in every way possible. Can Kestrel help save the lodge and beat the twins at their own game?

Sounds amazingly sweet, doesn’t it? Well it was. Want to know how I know that? Trudi was gracious enough to share a copy with me. Feel free to read my thoughts HERE.

Hi Trudi! It’s wonderful to have you here. I’m intrigue by writers who are successful in writing both fiction and non-fiction. Mind sharing  your reasons and inspirations for writing fictional tales, and how do those differ from your nonfiction work? 

I’ve always loved to read! As a kid, I couldn’t wait for the Scholastic Book Club order to come in so I could lug home my stack of new books. I started writing stories and plays when I was in early elementary school, inspired by writers I admired, such as Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, E.B. White, and E.L. Konigsburg. Although I adored the book Mixed Up Files, my all-time favorite book is Kongisburg’s Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. I identified closely with the main character and it taught me the most powerful thing a story can have is relatable characters.

Fiction and nonfiction have more in common than you might think. With both genres, you must be clear and succinct, write lively prose, and tell a good story. Fiction is the ultimate in creativity; there are a million different choices you can make about where the plot will go at any given point. You are in complete control. With nonfiction, you are telling stories that aren’t your own, yet you still have decisions to make about the angle, the narrative, and what to include (and leave out). I especially enjoy the research aspect of nonfiction; interviewing experts and unearthing new gems of information. Can you tell I was a TV journalist before I wrote for children? Also, nonfiction can have as much lasting power as fiction! A book I wrote on the water cycle more than a decade ago is still being used in school curriculums today.

Great point about writing techniques being the same. And those SBC order forms … Yes! I always had a hard time dwindling my choices down to one or two. 

I’m a character name fanatic and the name Kestrel is definitely unique. What about this character told you her name should be Kestrel?

I am a character name freak, too. I try to select a name that reflects personality and struggles. Several years ago, I met a Native American woman named Kestrel. She was a volunteer at a wildlife rehab facility, helping injured eagles and hawks (a kestrel is a type of falcon). I tucked the name away with the idea that one day I would give it to a character, who needed to spread her wings. When I started thinking about my main character in Dares & Don’ts, who was small in stature and hiding behind her fears, I knew she needed a name to aspire to. She had to discover she had it within her to fly! Kestrel seemed like the perfect fit. BTW, Kestrel’s grandmother is named Lark – another bird!

Kestrel’s desire to help her family is admirable. How important is it to you, the author, to include a middle grader’s family and interactions with them in your books? Have you found it makes a difference to your readers?

It’s everything! Your family plays an integral role in your values and how you identify with the world. Unless you’re doing a story about an orphan, you can’t have a well-rounded story about a 12-year-old without giving him/her a sense of family (even then, an orphan’s friends become his/her family). Plus, it’s our intimate relationships that reveal who we truly are. If you read about a girl, who is kind to her friends but viciously insults her little sister, it speaks volumes about the person she is. There’s no better way to show readers the heart of a character than to peer behind the doors at home. And I do think it matters to readers. After my last book, The Sister Solution (the story of two sisters who are as different as night and day) I got many letters from readers saying, “This is exactly how my sister and I relate to each other!”

“…our intimate relationships that reveal who we truly are.” I love this. Great note for writers. If you could take Kestrel and drop her into a different book which book would it be and why?

I’d love to drop Kestrel into Stealing Popular, another title of mine. It’s the story of a girl, Coco, who decides to play Robin Hood in her middle school. She ‘steals’ from the popular kids to give to the misfits and outcasts, who never seem to get any breaks. Coco finds a way to get her best friend on the cheer staff and the least popular girl in school voted as Fall queen. With Coco’s courage and Kestrel’s tenacity, they’d make a great team!

What makes this book different from some of the other stories you’ve written?

This book, more than any other, tapped into my life during a very dark time – my mother’s death. After she passed, it took me a while to find my desire to write again, but I knew she wouldn’t want me to wallow. She was my first reader ever and my champion until the very end. The random thoughts I wrote down after her death sowed the seeds for Dares and Don’ts. Often, the first time kids face death is through the loss of a grandparent. In the book, Kestrel didn’t know her grandfather well (my grandfather died before I was born) and she doesn’t know how to comfort her grandmother through the grieving process. Kestrel is afraid she’ll say or do the wrong thing. She’s scared she may make things worse. Still, she doesn’t back away from Grandma Lark, which would be the easiest thing to do. She hangs in there and, in doing so, discovers it’s not her words or actions that matter – it’s her mere presence, her love, that is helping her grandmother heal.

I can only imagine. I’m sure it was tough to get back to writing, but we’re all glad you did. <3 

How do you navigate the social arena and connect with your readers when most of them are at an age where they aren’t connected via social media?

That is true, many young readers aren’t on social media but most do spend some time on the internet. The best way I can connect with them is by making it easy to find me. I have a kid-friendly web site, www.truditrueit.com where readers and their parents can log on to find out about my titles, read my bio, and drop me a note. I also put out an e-newsletter twice a year so they (or their parents) can subscribe to that to keep up on news or join my reader street team (a street team is a group of kids willing to read and review a new release). Another great way to reach readers is through the incredible people, who put my books into their hands: librarians! So I share news and run giveaways through social media channels like Facebook (facebook.com/truditrueit) and Twitter (@truditrueit)

This is fabulous! Again, writers take note.

Let’s leave your readers and writing admirers with your most valuable piece of writing advice in a tweet + hashtag.

Your first idea is rarely your best. Think of another. And another. #writersdigdeep @truditrueit

LUV! Guess what I’m hopping off to tweet? Lastly, what can your fans expect from you next?

I just finished (as in two days ago!) the first book in an action/adventure middle grade fiction series for National Geographic, which should be out this time next year. It’s an exciting project and I can’t wait to share more about it soon!

Oh wow! That sounds amazing. Looking forward to reading it. Thank you for joining us and for sharing your wisdom, work, and excitement. All the best to you always.

Trudi Trueit knew she’d found her life’s passion after writing (and directing) her first play in the fourth grade. Since then, she’s been a newspaper journalist, television news reporter and anchor, and freelance writer, but her favorite career is what she does now—writing for kids and tweens. She’s published more than100 fiction and nonfiction titles for young readers, including My Top Secret Dares and Don’ts, The Sister Solution, Stealing Popular (Aladdin MIX) and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series (Aladdin). She loves all things chocolate and lives with her husband and two cats north of Seattle, WA. Visit her

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Simon & Schuster Author Page | Trudi’s Fiction on Amazon

And guess what, Mixed-Up Files readers? Trudi is offering up a copy of My Top Secret Dares & Don’ts to one lucky winner! (US only.)

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Here are two more sweet reads by Trudi!

 

 

 

Click on the images for more! 

S.A. Larsen, known to family & friends as Sheri, is the author of the award-winning  middle grade novel Motley Education, numerous community interest stories, young adult shorties, and her soon-to-be released young adult novel Marked Beauty.

Interview and Giveaway with Science Author Patricia Newman

I’m so excited to welcome Author Patricia Newman to the MUF blog today. She writes SCIENCE books!  YAY!

Patricia (middle) is shown here with Lilian Carswell (L) and Brent Hughes (R).  Photo credit:  Elise Newman Montanino

 

Author Patricia Newman has written several titles that connect young readers to scientific concepts, including Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem, a Junior Library Guild Selection and recipient of a starred Kirkus review; Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a Green Earth Book Award winner; Ebola: Fears and Facts, a Booklist Editors’ Choice selection; and the upcoming fall 2017 release, Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. In her free time, she enjoys nature walks, the feel of dirt between her fingers in the garden, and traveling. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

Patricia is here to share her newest book,

Sea Otters: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem (Millbrook Press, 2017)

 

Why do you write science books? 

I like the way science connects to nearly all aspects of our world. For instance, in Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem I show kids how saving endangered predators can benefit our air, our water, and our food supply. In my opinion, for kids to be successful in the 21st century, they will need to become global citizens who look at the bigger picture. Science can help us do that.

 

How do you choose your subjects for your books?

In the case of Sea Otter Heroes, the subject chose me. I was invited to the David Smith Conservation Research Fellows Retreat in April 2015 by Chelsea Rochman, one of the scientists that I featured in Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She thought her colleagues might be interested in learning more about communicating their research to children.

 

I conducted a day-long writing workshop, and somewhere in the middle, marine biologist Brent Hughes and his mentor Lilian Carswell (the Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator with US Fish and Wildlife) approached me to see if I would be interested in writing about Brent’s sea otter discovery. He explained to me that he’d discovered a trophic cascade in which sea otters, the apex predator in an estuary off Monterey Bay, restored the natural food chain and healed the ecosystem so it could perform functions that benefit us. The more I spoke with Brent and Lilian, the more I liked the idea. Everyone thinks sea otters are adorable, and every kid knows about food chains, but Brent had found an amazing twist that most kids wouldn’t know about.

 

You seem drawn to eco-friendly topics. Is that something that you are passionate about? 

Yes, without a doubt. We have only one planet. It sustains us in so many ways. The ocean produces nearly 75% of our oxygen, it feeds us, and it entertains us. In a world where concrete is king, I think kids (and adults) benefit from getting closer to nature. In the current political climate, I want to persuade kids to love nature before they are corrupted by “alternative facts.” Caring is key because we protect what we love.

 

Tell us a little about how you do your research. How much time do you spend? What type of sources do you look for?

Nonfiction requires digging, and like my colleagues I dig through scientific journals, online sources, books, magazines, and newspapers. I also interview scientists conducting amazing research, and if I’m lucky I take a field trip to visit their labs. For Sea Otter Heroes, I spent a day on Brent’s research boat enjoying the sun on my face and the crisp ocean breeze, watching pelicans dive and sea otters crack open crabs with a rock. There are definitely worse jobs!

 

Why is back matter useful for readers?

As a researcher, I love back matter because it contains all sorts of gems. But for kids, I hope it extends the reading experience. When a novel or a fictional series ends, we have to say good-bye to beloved characters, but nonfiction science back matter lays more research, more videos, and more books within a child’s reach and encourages continued inquiry—the basis of all science.

 

Anything that you are working on that you would care to share? Other books that we can look for from you soon?

Photographer Annie Crawley (from Plastic, Ahoy!) and I team up again for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue (Millbrook Press, Fall 2017). We had a great time with this book, traveling to three different zoos, getting up close and personal with the animals, and fighting a fierce Colorado blizzard. The book features three endangered species—orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinos—and shows how zoos protect them and their wild habitats. Annie and I are excited to introduce our readers to the three scientists that we interviewed. The two women and one man are amazing role models for kids.

For fall 2018, think elephants.

 

Do you do school and/or Skype visits? Why do you think these are helpful to students?

I visit schools in person or virtually every year. Author visits motivate kids to apply themselves to reading and writing. We introduce them to a variety of literature—some of which is bound to pique their interest. Authors also show kids what real revision looks like and that writing takes perseverance. I tell students that writing is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but even in the face of rejection I refuse to give up on myself. What child who shares a piece of writing with me or asks about writer’s block or struggles to put ideas on paper wouldn’t benefit from believing in him/herself?

If you want to learn more about Patricia’s books or just drop her a line, you can find her on Twitter @PatriciaNewman  or visit her website at http://www.patriciamnewman.com/  to check out some of her other amazing science books:  

 

 

 

 

It’s Time for a Giveaway!!    Patricia’s publisher, Millbrook Press/Lerner, has generously donated a copy of her Sea Otter Heroes book. For a chance to win, leave a comment below about your favorite animal!


Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning author of over 25+ science books for kids. Visit her at her favorite place to explore the world around her www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com