Tag Archives: interview

Video Conferencing: Authors at Your Fingertips

Author S A Larsen

You’ve just finished reading a fantastic book with your class. The kids are engaged and the story is the topic of conversation. Go beyond the traditional project or book report and transport the author to your doorstep.

The Digital Age:
We live in a digital age, and fortunately for our schools, many authors are available to video conference. Location and time differences are no longer a deterrent. Many authors list video conferencing information on their websites. An internet search can also help you find available authors. Some authors charge a fee and some don’t. Chat with your author to see what terms can be reached. Link To Mixed-Up File Authors

If your school doesn’t have a budget for author presentations, be creative:

  • Take book orders from the students. Many authors are happy to sell and ship personally signed copies.
  • Ask the PTO to purchase class sets for the grade levels.
  • Offer to post  a review of the book on strategic websites.
  • Feature the book in the school newspaper or on the school website.
  • Post the book and video conference snippets on the school Facebook page.
  • Display the author’s name and book title on the school billboard.
  • Invite your local newspaper columnist to cover the class video chat.

Have fun and don’t be afraid to use your imagination!

Annabelle Fisher, author of The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, Skypes with a class of readers

So, you’ve booked the author. Now what?

Ask the author:
First, ask the author what they offer. Some will talk about their book and the background it took to write it. But, if it’s a science author, they may have a favorite demonstration to share. If it’s a picture book illustrator, they may draw the character for the kids. If it’s a fantasy author, they may demonstrate how to create imagery through descriptive writing from a new world.

Does the author request questions before the video conference? This helps the author give informed and well-thought-out answers. Poll your students. What do they want to know? Was there a fascinating section of the book they wanted to know more about? What about behind-the-scene events? Why did the author create a certain character? Did the author use traits from real people? Were any of the events in the book part of the author’s life? Were there unanswered questions in the story line? Help students focus their questions so they pull out unique elements of the author’s work. This is the benefit of video conferencing. You have the author’s ear! When conference day comes, let the students take turns asking the questions.

Student Created Games

Do students have something to share with the author? 

Did they create a skit? Did they write an alternative ending to the story or insert a chapter in-between? Did they write a quiz show or create a game that targets details from the book? Did they create trading cards of the different events and characters? Or perhaps your students would like to dress in character and the author has to guess the character’s identity.

Using Google Maps with author interview:
Also, consider things like Google maps. Students have the ability to bookmark a location on the world-wide map with their own information and facts. This is a great option for historical novels or any story that travels. Consider having students interview the author about the different locations and the importance of each site. Besides being a great project where students research and enter information on the world-wide map, people from around the globe get instant access to the information your students have entered. Extend the project by collaborating with other classes (from anywhere in the world) and build a map together.

Before you read:
Think forward. Invite the author beforehand to share background information and tidbits before you start reading. Why did they write this book? Did they face challenges? Does the story relate to their own life or the life of someone else? Who or what influenced them? Meaningful introductory conversations set the stage for an engaging beginning.

Authors love sharing and the age of video conferencing has opened up a new set of doors.

Let’s Keep This Party Rolling!

It’s the 3rd week of our 7th Anniversary Celebration and there are 8 AMAZING authors giving away their books right here, right now.  Check out the books and mini author interviews below. Get all the way to the end and enter to win!

KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN, by Melissa Roske (www.melissaroske.com)

Eleven-year-old Kat Greene has a lot on her pre-rinsed plate, thanks to her divorced mom’s obsession with cleaning. Add friendship troubles to the mix, a crummy role in the school play, and Mom’s decision to try out for Clean Sweep, a TV game show about cleaning, and what have you got? More trouble than Kat can handle—at least, without a little help from her friends. (release date August 22nd)

Question: How are you like your main character?

Melissa: Kat and I both have a parent with OCD (in my case, it’s my dad); we’re both huge fans of Louise Fitzhugh’s classic 1964 novel, Harriet the Spy; we both like to collect Snapple caps; we both love sushi; and we both have a dry, slightly sarcastic sense of humor. (Okay, more than slightly!)

 

INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS, by Dusti Bowling (www.dustibowling.com)

A move across the country, a friend in need of help, and a mystery to be solved. Aven Green is about to discover she can do it all… even without arms. (ARC)

Question: How are you like your main character?

Dusti: I like to think that, like Aven, I don’t give up easily. As a writer, that’s a really important trait because there are so many times when it’s tempting to give up, especially with how much rejection a writer can go through.

 

ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, by Leah Henderson (www.leahhendersonbooks.com)

An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father in this captivating debut novel laced with magical realism.

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Leah: The goat. In my debut, there is a wonderful family goat named Jeeg, which means lady in Wolof. Early critiques said she was not integral to the story and should be taken out, but for me, she was everything. Each time she was on the page I could smell her little hairs and sense her eyes taking in all that was around her. She was a link to the mother that I thought was too precious to lose. I was determined to keep her in the story and I am so happy that I did. Jeeg makes me smile.

 

THE DOLLMAKER OF KRAKOW, by R. M. Romero (www.rmromero.com)

In the land of dolls, there is magic and in the land of humans, there is war. Everywhere there is pain—but together, there is hope. (ARC)

Question: What’s one event from your life that you’ve never worked into a story but you’d like to?

R.M.: I take care of a feral (stray) cat colony with five members—Snow White, Cow

Cat, Socks, Harvey, and Whisper—and they’re fascinating to watch. They have squabbles and best friends, and they all look out for one another like they’re part of a little furry family. Each cat has such a distinct personality that it’s easy to imagine them being characters in a story I write someday! (Snow White is my favorite. She’s a beautiful white cat who loves everyone.)

 

AHIMSA, by Supriya Kelkar (www.supriyakelkar.com)

In 1942 after Gandhi asks each family to give one member to the Indian freedom movement, 10-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father joining. But he’s not the one becoming a freedom fighter. Her mother is. (ARC)

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Supriya: I really enjoyed writing about Anjali’s cow, Nandini, because their bond is so strong.

 

UNDER LOCK AND KEY, by Allison K. Hymas (www.allisonkhymas.com)

When 12-year-old retrieval specialist (not “thief”) Jeremy Wilderson botches a job and puts the key that opens every locker in the school in the hands of an aspiring crime kingpin, he must team up with his nemesis, 12-year-old private detective Becca Mills, to get it back.

Question: How do you select the names of your characters?

Allison: Funny story, actually. I liked the name “Jeremy” because I thought it was everyman while still being a little spunky. But, when it came to the last name, I was stumped until I went to class and my teacher wrote “wilderson” on the board instead of “wilderness.” I know a freebie when I see it!

I picked the names based on how I liked the sound, as I usually do, but when I looked up what their names meant later, I was happily surprised. “Jeremy” means “appointed by God” and “Wilderson,” as far as I can tell, means “to deceive or lead astray.” Not a bad name for a thief-like character who is trying to do the right thing. “Becca” means “snare or trap” and “Mills” could come from a word meaning “warrior,” which also suits my intense little detective.

 

UNDER SIEGE! by Robyn Gioia (www.robyngioia.com)

Two 13-year old boys most help save the Castillo de San Marcos fort from the English or the town will perish.

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Robyn: The alligator in Under Siege! because it brings the reality of hunger and survival to the surface.

 

THE GHOST, THE RAT, AND ME, by Robyn Gioia (www.robyngioia.com)

Bell wanted to be 8th grade president. What she got was a dead rat, a clue, and a ghost from the past.

Question: What’s the BEST writing advice you’ve ever received? (Or . . . what’s the WORST writing advice you’ve ever received?)

Robyn: It seems so simple, but the best writing advice I ever got was from my critique writing group in England. “How can I make this interesting for my readers?”

 

THE SECRET DESTINY OF PIXIE PIPER and PIXIE PIPER AND THE MATTER OF THE BATTER, By Annabelle Fisher (www.annabellefisher.com)

Poetry whiz kid, Pixie discovers she’s a descendant of Mother Goose and that her rhymes have special powers. But to join the Goose Family and protect their legacy, she must be ‘braver than brave’ and’ truer than true’!

 

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Annabelle: Writing about Pixie’s goose, Destiny was a lot of fun. Since Destiny first appears as an egg that Pixie finds in the woods, I got to go through the process of hatching a gosling in a home-made incubator, along with my character. I did a lot of research about pet geese and their humans. They have lots of personality! Pixie and her gosling have an amazing bond. It made me want to get a pet goose!

ENTER TO WIN!  There are 7 different ways to earn entries! You can leave a comment below, follow MUF on Twitter, share about the giveaway on FB, and more. Give yourself loads of opportunities to win by earning all 7 different types of entries. The giveaway closes at midnight (ET) on Tuesday, June 27th. Be sure to check back on Thursday, June 29th, for our final MUFiversary giveaway! (Eligible only to U.S. addresses.)


Special thanks and congratulations to Monica Hodges who entered last week’s just-for-schools MUFiversary drawing and won a collection of new books for the library at JEFFERSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in Mount Vernon, WA!


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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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