Tag Archives: Michael Buckley

Never Too Old for Back-to-School

It’s Back-to-School month for many students, teachers, librarians, and parents. Summer is at its peak, and yet the supermarket aisles are filled with crayons and notebooks and lunch boxes. It’s time to get back to the business of learning.

As authors, we never stop learning, really. At least we shouldn’t. Even though I teach workshops about writing, mentor new writers, and critique others’ work, I still seek out opportunities to learn from those who paved this road I’m lucky to travel.

The best teachers are perpetual students. I believe that with all my heart.

Walking with Jane Yolen at her home, Phoenix Farm, during Picture Book Boot Camp last spring.

It’s important for authors to look for learning opportunities and find ways around all the reasons why we can’t pursue them.  Too far, too expensive, too time consuming, maybe in a few years. Of course, some of those are valid reasons, and no one can do everything their heart desires, but if each of us sought out one mentor encounter a year — attended a lecture, went to a book signing, signed up for an advanced workshop — all opportunity would not be lost on “maybe next year.”

Have you ever been in the presence of someone and I thought, “This is golden. I need to remember everything about this moment?” I look for moments like that. Sometimes I find them among hundreds of people in an auditorium, listening to a speaker. Sometimes, it’s just me, face-to-face with a beloved author, feeling the warmth of their handshake and trying desperately to form words in my mouth that make it sound like I made it past third grade.  That was me at this moment:

Standing on Ashley Bryan‘s front step, Little Cranberry Island, Maine, June 2015.

Here in rural Ohio, I don’t exactly live in a literary hotbed. But, I do live within driving distance to The Mazza Museum, the country’s largest collection of art from children’s literature. I’ve made the trip there to hear dozens of authors and illustrators speak. I’ve sat mesmerized by Tony Abbott, had a conversation with Gary Schmidt. and listened intently to Michael Buckley.

Last winter I drove two hours in the other direction to hear what Kwame Alexander had to say, and one piece of advice he gave the audience made a beeline to my brain and has changed the way I think. “Say yes,” he said. Be that person that says, “YES!” to opportunities.

So what Back-to-School opportunities will our Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors bloggers say “YES!” to this year?  Maybe sign up for that amazing out-of-state-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Take a road trip to hear someone speak?  Attend a presentation at your local bookseller? Listen to a podcast?  Read that craft book on writing you’ve been putting off reading – you know, the one everyone says is “magical?”

It’s time. It’s time to get back to school.

Literary Descendants of Classic Characters + Giveaway

Throughout history, there have always been characters, fictional or otherwise, who capture our collective imaginations. Usually these characters possess supernatural powers of some sort, but sometimes they’re mere mortals, who have somehow fascinated us. In recent years, several middle-grade authors have been inspired by the gene pools of cultural icons. The most recent of these is Annabelle Fisher, whose novel The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, is out now from Greenwillow Books.

9780062393777Annabelle has generously donated an autographed copy of her book. Keep reading to learn how to win it and to read about other fabulous middle-grade novels about fictional descendants.

In  The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piperan ordinary fifth grader with a talent for coming up with rhymes and poems without even trying discovers she is a direct descendant of Mother Goose. Pixie’s flair for poetry sometimes leads to unexpected challenges. But, eventually, she comes to accept and appreciate her uniqueness. The novel mixes charming literary allusions with magic, humor, and issues about family and friendship.

 

9781484720974Melissa de la Cruz’s well-known Descendants Series about the offspring of Disney villains is a favorite of many middle-grade readers. The Isle of the Lost and Return to the Isle of the Lost follow the adventures of Mal, whose mother is the evil fairy, Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty. Mal is accompanied by Evie, Jay, and Carlos, who are descended from Jafar, Cruella De Vil, and The Evil Queen. These descendants of villainous characters are coming of age on the Isle of the Lost, where their parents have been banished.

 

9780062004963It’s not just the villains who fascinate us in fairy tales. In Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters, Diane Zahler takes readers to a time where Sleeping Beauty is married with two daughters, one of whom has been cursed similarly to her mother. When Aurora begins to struggle not slip into an enchanted sleep, the sisters accept the help of a young fisherman and embark on an ocean voyage to find their good fairy aunt who might be able to reverse the magic. They encounter beasts, storms, and  other dangers, but they can’t give up. If they do, Aurora could end up taking a one-hundred-year nap.

 

9780786856299Another series based on descendants of the famous and powerful is the well-known Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, by Rick Riordan. These mega-popular books follow the exploits of Percy, who finds himself at a camp for demigods and learns he is the son of Poseidon the Greek god of the sea. His companions include Anabeth Chase, the daughter of Athena, and Luke Castellan, the son of Hermes. The series includes The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian.

 

9780312602123A certain famous fictional detective has inspired a few series about his descendants. One of which is Tracy Barrett’s The Sherlock Files, which follows the adventures of Xena and Xander Holmes, who think living in London will be boring until they’re handed a cryptic note that leads them to a hidden room and a secret society. When they discover they’re related to Sherlock Holmes and inherit his unsolved casebook, life becomes more exciting. In the first installment, The 100-Year-Old Secret, the siblings set out to solve the cases their famous ancestor couldn’t, starting with the mystery of a prized painting that vanished more than a hundred years ago. Other titles in the series include: The Missing Heir, The Beast of Blackslope, and The Case That Time Forgot.

 

9780810993228Real-life brothers, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, who collected and published folklore in the nineteenth century, have inspired a series called The Sisters Grimm, written by Michael Buckley. In these books, orphaned siblings Sabrina and Daphne Grimm learn they are descended from the Brothers Grimm. The sisters soon find out it’s their legacy to keep a group known as the Everafters, a parallel race of magical beings, in line. Books in the series include The Fairy-Tale Detectives, The Unusual Suspects, The Problem Child, and more.

If you have any favorite novels about the descendants of famous fictional or historical characters, please tell us about them. And for a chance to win the autographed copy of Annabelle Fisher’s The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, share this post and let us know where you shared in the comments section. The deadline is Wednesday midnight. We’ll announce the winner on Thursday.

Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her recently published middle-grade novel, The First Last Day (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin) is available wherever books are sold. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: http://doriancirrone.com/welcome/blog/