Tags: introductions

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It's my great pleasure to introduce you all to Bev Patt, author of Haven (Blooming Tree Press, 2009). Haven will hit the bookstores shortly and I interviewed Bev so we'd all get to know a little more about her and her wonderful debut novel. Look at the beautiful cover for her story. Doesn't it invite you in? I've got some of her scoop straight from Bev in the answers below.

Haven is such a mysterious name – it conjures up many images in my mind. How did that come to be the title of the story, and what do you hope it conveys to the reader?

Well, Latonya, one of the main characters in the story, lives in a group home called The Haven. It's kind of a wreck of a place so there's some irony there. Rudy, the boy who's telling the story, lives with his parents and brother in more of a traditional "home" setting, though it is fraught with tension and secrets. Rudy's pal, Stark, lives alone with his father after the death of his mother. So, in a way, all 3 are looking for more security, more happiness, more of a sense of family - in other words, a Haven, where they can feel completely safe and loved. And I have to give credit to my publisher, who came up with the name. I was going with something completely different.


Give us a quick hook. What’s your story about in three lines or less?

Oo! I hate these! Ok: ATVs, holding hands, family secrets, goofball pals, runaway plans, midnight rides and what it really means to be a friend. 


And please give us the story behind the story.

I was a teacher at a school for Wards of the State- kids that had been taken away from their parents because of abuse or neglect. When my husband and I tried to take in one of my old students who needed foster home, we were denied because our race didn't match the child's. Unfortunately, during the 1980's, hundreds and probably thousands of kids ended up living in large, state run group homes instead of individual foster homes for the duration of their childhood because of this restriction.  The laws have since changed, thank goodness.

 Tell us how you got started writing.

Like most writers, I was an avid reader from early on. Not surprisingly, then, my favorite thing to do as a teacher was to read to my students, especially since most of them had never been read to before. Ever. When I stayed home to have my kids, my passion for reading progressed very naturally into a passion for writing. I was hooked!

 What are 3 things your readers might want to know about you?

1. I was not very good in English or LA. My best scores were in Math and Science.
2. I went on an African safari when I was 13.
3. My family has a licorice company and I grew up with a steady supply of Red Vines in a jar in my kitchen.

 In middle school and high school, who were your favorite authors and what where your favorite books?

In middle school, I could not get enough Nancy Drew books, (tho I skipped over the parts that talked about her matching cashmere sweater sets, etc).  I read a lot of my mom's old books, classics like Little Women, The Little Princess, The Yearling (sobbed through this). In High School, I started reading Barbara Kingsolver (The Bean Tress, still one of my faves), Louise Erdrich (The Beet Queen) and wacky John Irving (The World According to Garp, etc.). I think reading Irving tripped a switch in me - I realized for the first time that serious stories can have laugh-out-loud moments and really oddball, quirky characters. I try to incorporate similar humor in all of my books.

 If you could give Haven to one person, or one group of people, who would you give it to and why?

One person - the boy it's dedicated to - Roland T., whom we wanted to take in and were denied. I'd love for him to read it (and I'd love to make contact with him again) so he could see that it wasn't us that denied him. He was told that WE changed our minds about taking him because he was a different race than us. Sadly, he believed it. He refused our calls so we were never able to set him straight.
One group - all of my old students, as a tribute to their strength & courage.

 You have another book coming out in 2010, would you tell us a little about that?

Love to! It is called BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: A WWII SCRAPBOOK. It's the story of two best friends that get separated during the war - Dottie going to a Japanese Internment Camp and Louise staying home in Seattle, WA. History nuts will love the photos and 1940's memorabilia and fiction lovers will enjoy following the two girls' struggles with family, friendships, prejudice and love. Reluctant readers will like the scrapbook format, with photos, drawings, newspaper clippings, letters - all the writing broken up into short bites. And I'm hoping teachers and librarians will incorporate it into their history/social studies curriculums/reading lists!

What’s cooking on your writing table? Tell us about your works in progress.

I've got a new contemporary novel I'm revising - about a girl who discovers the spiritual world of her Thai roots. On another burner, I've got the beginnings of a humorous middle grade novel about a boy musician who's band has replaced him with a tone-deaf hottie, who also happens to be his best girl-pal. And when I want to work on something shorter, I go to my pile of humorous picture book manuscripts and fool with one of those.

 As a new author, what is the most surprising thing about the publishing business that you’ve learned?

1. How much revising goes into a novel. Like, sometimes it ends up unrecognizable from the first draft.

2. That not all books published end up in the bookstores, only the ones the buyers buy. This shocks everyone, who just assume that  when my books come out, they'll just go into their local bookstore and it will be waiting for them on the shelf.

3. How gosh darn long it all takes from the initial "Is this manuscript still available?" to having the book in your hands.


And what advice do you have for other new authors seeking publication?

1. Don't turn up your nose at any kind of publishing opportunity - I did several articles for nothing but a byline and 3 free copies. Better to have your name in print than in a drawer.

2. READ. Everything.

3. Pursue other hobbies/activities. These will give you fodder for your writing as well. And they will feed a part of your brain that needs nourishing.  Writers don't write in a vacuum.

Thanks, Donna! This was fun:)

And thank you, Bev. I'm excited about seeing your book for the first time, and reading it. It sounds like a wonderful, uplifting story. I can't wait.

So there you have it, folks. Look for Bev's book out soon.


Initiation Launching...

Would you like to win a copy of Initiation? I’d love to send a copy to you! Just leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a copy of my debut novel. The drawing will take place on Monday, May 4th – my 44th birthday!

A little info about the book...

Terrified and feeling like an uninvited guest at the all-boys St. Stephen’s School, Mauricio Londoño sets his main goal for freshman year: basic survival.

Even with efforts to tiptoe through the school year, Mauricio can’t resist the allure of the world inhabited by his precocious classmates and the drama that plays out on FaceSpace. When a cruel digital scheme sweeps through the school, Mauricio not only becomes one of its victims, but also starts to think that maybe it’s not so bad to be honest about who he really is.

Now, some thoughts on my launch…

About two weeks ago I received an email from my best friend from college. The subject line read “OMG.” She had been in a Barnes and Noble in New York City, shopping for books for her daughter’s Easter present, when she bumped into my book. Being my best friend, she bought three copies!

I had thought that Initiation’s publication date of May 1 meant that it would appear in bookstores on that date, but apparently things aren’t quite so exacting.

A couple days after the OMG email, a former colleague sent me a message on Facebook congratulating me on my book, which he had just read.

So, it seems that my book has been launching for a couple of weeks now!

I found it in my neighborhood bookstore, 57th Street Books, last Friday. It was thrilling to see it there on the shelf, waiting for someone to come and take it home!

There are many people who made this novel possible. It takes a village to make a book. I am grateful for the support of my agent, Laura Dail; many folks at Flux, especially Andrew, Brian, and Sandy; my husband, Matt; and my friend and editor extraordinaire, Laura Dickerman. I am also grateful to the members of the Class of 2k9, who have taught me so much about books, publishing, marketing, and collaboration.

My book has been called “dark,” and it’s been called “edgy.” I look forward (with excitement and anxiety) to hearing more readers’ reactions (maybe even from some readers who aren't friends and family!). I’m also hoping that in its stark and dark realism, it might push young adult readers to contemplate their uses of digital tools as well as the choices they have about who they want to be, online and off.

Launch Post for Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French

With Earth Day two days away, it seems the perfect time to launch Operation Redwood!   Writing this book has brought so much of my life together  -- my childhood love of reading, the hours I spent reading to my own kids, my environmental work, and many trips to the redwoods. 


For those who find your way to Operation Redwood, I hope you enjoy spending time with Julian and his friends in the forest.  I hope the secret e-mails, hopeless plots, hidden passwords, and various misadventures make you want to stay up late to find out what happens.  And I hope you discover a few surprises along the way.


Thanks to all my friends and my family and all the other book lovers who made the launch of Operation Redwood possible – my agent, editor, the hardworking people at Amulet, the bookstores and bloggers, the Class of 2K9, and, of course, the readers!  Come visit me at operationredwood.com.


S. Terrell French

ppbk cover

BREATHING's Debut -- Dreams Come True

I’ve always been a dreamer, not unlike my protagonist in Breathing, Savannah. She and I, we dream big. People think we’re crazy. But we’re like some kind of insane bulldog. We just won’t let up. And we do our best to surround ourselves with people who won’t let us give up when the going gets discouraging.


On Saturday, I asked the class of 2k9 about when they really felt their dream coming true. For me, it began with the first email from my soon-to-be agent. She said she’d read half my manuscript and to please not accept representation until she’d finished it and had a chance to call me. I was over the moon. I’d had my share of rejections, mostly on a prior manuscript, so I tried not to get my hopes up too high. But I’m terrible at that. My hopes have some sort of magnetic pull, they just shoot up even when there’s virtually no cause.


But then she called and was ready to send the book out right away and was sure it would sell. And I believed her. And a couple of weeks later I had a book deal. And the whole process has been so surreal. And at every step along the way, I marvel about how the dream is coming true – choosing the publisher to go with, getting the editorial letter, going to copyedits, getting page proofs and galleys and reviews and hardcovers -- every step is so exciting. And I really do try to stop and celebrate every one of them with my family. I figure I mourn every rejection, so I ought to celebrate every step of success.


So as this Thursday (April 16) approaches, and the story I wrote out in my notebook and typed up on my laptop finds its way into bookstores around the nation, I will be feeling immense gratitude and celebrating my dream come true. Here’s wishing all of you your very own dreams come true! Dare to dream!

Author Photo

To Me "Perfect" Is A Swear Word

CONTEST! Win your very own autographed copy of My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters. Just post a comment here between now and April 30th.

I owe my book’s birthday to another set of birthdays: my daughters’. No, they haven’t provided me with material from their own lives, not yet, anyway (consider that a warning, girls!). It’s this: I stopped acting perfectionistic when I became a parent. I realized right away that perfection doesn’t mix well with scant hours of sleep, a screaming infant, and shocking amounts of laundry begging to be washed (and how could one tiny red sock dye an entire load of whites pink?).

I used to be a perfectionistic writer. In college, I would rework the first paragraph of an essay a dozen times until I got each word just right. I spent way too many hours working on those essays and often the meaning got lost in making pretty sentences. But perfectionism stopped me in other more important ways. I took a children’s literature class and for the final project I wrote another one of those bland essays, instead of a creative story. I was so afraid to fail at my dream of one day writing and publishing books that I didn’t even try. I never even signed up for creative writing; I took expository writing (again afraid to fail at fiction).

Skip ahead a few years. I’m taking a history class at the University of Utah because I wanted to write an historical novel, but didn’t want to actually fail at writing that novel so I decided to get a second major. How’s that for perfectionism? At the end of the semester, I waddled into class eight months pregnant to get my final paper back. I had not spent hours and hours working on this essay; I wrote it fast because I was a big, tired, pregnant woman. My professor wrote glowing comments, including an invitation to apply to graduate school. At the bottom she added that the essay could have been better written. My first thought: well, I can do that!

So I had that baby and another. I let my writing dream recede into the background as full-time mommying took over my life. Parenting challenged me like nothing else ever had, and probably never will. I worked really hard to rid myself of perfectionism. I read books and modified my behavior (I did not want to pass it along to my daughters). When my two-and-a-half year old begged to stay at Montessori school with her older sister, I got the urge to write a novel: a story for my daughters. Not a bestseller or award-winner. I fell in love with writing fiction and wrote two more manuscripts. I started submitting them and collecting rejection letters, but as a recovering perfectionist, I kept plugging away.

My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters is my fourth manuscript. I wrote it in a flurry for National Novel Writing Month. I wrote while making Thanksgiving pies; I wrote early in the morning, late at night, in coffee shops, and really, truly conquered any lingering perfectionistic habits.

So thank you, Emma and Sophie, I couldn’t have done it without you!

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CONTEST! I will send a real copy of Watersmeet to one lucky winner! All you need to do is post a comment on this blog post between now and April 15!  Good luck! And thanks for coming to the 2k9 site!

I had a blog post for today all worked out. It was brilliant. I planned to reread it last night, one final time, and then put it up, sure of thousands of comments. But something intervened. Was it Fate? The Goddess? The Patron of April Fools?


Here's my story.


My launch day was April 1. (And yes, I've heard the joke—"Are you sure it's not an April fool's prank?") Several people have asked me, "What are you going to do to celebrate the day?" And the truth is I was at a loss. It's not like a theatrical or gallery opening opening where there is an event to mark the moment. The book may or may not show up at bookstores on that day. One of my 2k9 friends had her books show up 6 weeks early! And two days ago, when I called my publisher, my books were not yet in the warehouse. So where to go or what to do to feel launched?


It got more complicated. I had the day off from teaching, but my kids are on spring break, and they wanted to go to the zoo. Not too author-ly. And then we woke up to rain. The zoo was out. Instead we went to the Franklin Institute—Philadelphia's science museum. A great museum, but somehow even less author-ly than the zoo.


Or so I thought.


We pulled in to the parking garage and I saw it: a banner fluttering in the cold wind. A red lion rampant. And next to it—the sign: Here till April 19! Narnia!


It had to have been Fate. Or the Goddess. Or the Patron of April Fools.


I am a writer because of Narnia. It was the first book—or books—that showed me the power of storytelling. It sold me on fantasy. And now, today, April Fool's Day, I was going to spend my book launch day, in Narnia.


Before we even got to the Wardrobe door, I saw a display of some of CS Lewis's things: his pipe, his notebook, his wardrobe. There was a picture of him with JRR Tolkein—another of the Fantasy deities. My heart started to beat faster.


And then, through the Wardrobe. Okay, it was a little cheesy—the lights come on, the door opens, and there is a little fake snow falling. But I loved it. I stood under the snow so it would be in my hair. I gaped at the dress the White Witch wore in the movie. I found Edmund's torch left in a pile of treasure. I saw Queen Susan's horn that summoned the Pevensies to Narnia and the aid of Prince Caspian. Lucy's vial of healing drops, Mr. Tumnus' red scarf, Trumpkin's mail shirt. It was all there.


(There was also an attempt to make this scientific, something about weather tangentially related to the idea that in Narnia under the White Witch it was always winter and never Christmas. I ignored those exhibits.)


Fascinating to a writer were videos of the artists talking about the making of the movies. The consideration of detail is exactly what I tried to do in my own world building in Watersmeet. The most amazing was Prince Caspian's shield. One of the designers held it up and pointed to the etchings around the outside—scenes with centaurs and fauns and other Narnian creatures. They were tiny. There is no way a movie viewer would notice them—ever. But he was proud of them. He knew that this level of detail made the world more real whether or not anyone every saw them up close.


I thought of the hundreds of pages of Watersmeet that never made it into the final cut. Lots of them didn't even make it into the third or fourth cut! But by writing them, by becoming intimately familiar with my main character Abisina and the cranky dwarf Haret, by knowing what phase the moon was in when these two met a minotaur, by knowing the legends as well as the future of this world, it was a more complex, a more real world than if those pages had never been written.


One of the last exhibits displayed the crowns of Queen Lucy, King Edmund, Queen Susan, and High King Peter. As I stood there looking at them, a video of Aslan appeared in the window above my head. "Once a king or queen of Narnia," he said in his gravelly bass voice, "Always a king or queen of Narnia!"


And I was. I was a Queen of Narnia in that moment. And a Queen of Watersmeet. And the Queen of my launch day.

Jane in Bloom in Stores Now

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.”   - Chinese Proverbs

Jane in Bloom is about twelve year old Jane’s journey.  A journey of loss and of survival.  And ultimately, a journey of hope.  But it’s not a journey Jane chooses.  Jane’s journey is chosen for her, and she must learn to keep on stepping, even if it’s only one step at a time.


I think this message is universal.  All of us go through times in our lives where it’s all we can do to put one foot in front of the other.  All we can do is take it step by step.  It is only after we have moved forward that we can look back and understand why we were on that path in the first place.

I am so happy that Jane’s story is in the world at last.  That girls might find comfort in knowing that they aren’t invisible, and that they deserve to be seen.  And that we all have gifts—we just have to be brave enough to look in the mirror and recognize those gifts. 

For every person out there today who is reading this and feeling invisible and powerless, I ask you right now to think of one thing about yourself that makes you proud to be you.  One thing that makes you special.  Write it down on a piece of paper and then tape that piece of paper to your mirror today.  And every time you look at it, let it remind you how truly beautiful you are.  And then keep on stepping forward.




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I heard the other day that the Phish are getting ready to tour together again. This is great news. I first saw them in the early 90s when they played small venues, and it was always dance, dance, dance until I dropped kind of fun.


I used to have a job cocktail waiting at the Tree Café in Portland, Maine, one of those “I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-life after-college” forms of employment (I think lots of writers probably have had them). The Phish headlined at the Tree once a month. In addition to the regular Portland crowd, they drew fans from Burlington and Portsmouth. Instead of glassware we switched to plastic on the nights the Phish played because the thrashing bodies could seriously launch cocktail trays. If I made any tips, they were usually sweat-soaked, but then, the work was never about the money.


The band members were the most considerate and professional of any of the groups who visited the Tree. They were artists who enjoyed their art and though they went on to greater fame, it always seemed like they turned the Tree Café into the center of their universe. They kept up the twinkle-badinkle as long as we wanted them to, and believe me, we always asked for more.


Freaked, my first novel, is debuting this week and is a tribute to the Grateful Dead (the band who made history by allowing their music to be taped and shared for free), and the Phish, who, like the Dead, developed their audience because of their artistic generosity. Long ago in San Francisco, there must have been Dead Heads who bounced, whirled, and flailed in small clubs, knowing that later were experiencing history. Certainly, when the Dead eventually played big venues, there were people like Scotty Douglas Loveletter (the main character of Freaked) and me who fell madly in love with their music.


Scotty mentions in Freaked that every Dead Head has a story to tell and though I don’t expect a whole lot of teens to know much about the Grateful Dead, or the Phish, I am thinking many have soundtracks that accompany the best moments of their lives lives. By adding Freaked to the common pool, I hope to continue the tradition of living through song that I learned from the bands I liked. I hope Freaked inspires the next set of stories. Music, adventure, youth, joy—they intermix and the greatest reward of art, is that moment when you hand it to the next person.


Happy reading—


J.T. Dutton





Launching Bull Rider - Pop the Champagne!

Last night, watching the Oscars and seeing the sheer joy on the face of the winners, , I was struck by something that film people speak of over and over – the collaboration that is required to produce their work. Authors are fond of saying writing is a lonely profession – which it can be. But this morning I am thinking of ALL the people who have helped make me an author, who have helped shape my writing and this book Bull Rider which debuts tomorrow. There is my family – our children learned early and well to ask if they could interrupt me at the computer.  Add my husband who listens patiently to my ongoing concerns and many friends – some of whom have waited with me for years – waited for tomorrow. There are critique groups who always had my back, SCBWI – the lifeblood connection of children’s authors and illustrators, online communities like Verla Kay’s Blue Board and this wonderful, supportive class of 2k9. And let’s hear it for all the members and  honorary Nevadans of NV SCBWI. Does this sound like an Oscar speech yet?


Well, I’m not winning any awards here, but I’m just so darned excited to present Bull Rider to the world, and I’m really truly humbled by the number of people who’ve supported me. Did I mention my editor? My agent? The talented cover designer? The sales, marketing, and publicity people? The booksellers who are already on board?  The great librarians who put our books into the hands of children? Be assured, writing may sometimes be lonely, but producing a book is not. Now, imagine me bowing, tears in my eyes, saying THANK YOU. THANK YOU.


Here’s the serious part - Bull Rider is fiction but I hope it rings true. I hope readers feel for the O’Mara family, route for Cam as he gets on his first bull, and cry for Ben as he struggles to recover from life changing injury. Reading can touch a person and so can writing. I knew I’d enjoy writing the rodeo parts of Bull Rider and I loved describing the ranch scenes. Creating character? – a blast. But plotting and researching for Bull Rider took a turn I didn’t expect. Writing this book brought me face to face with the sacrifices our military men and women make. It made me see what it might be like for a military family to cope with a loved one with a life changing injury. I am honored to have written Bull Rider about families who have given so much. Bull Rider is my small gift of gratitude to them and my literary offering to you.


So now, let the party begin. I imagine a loud one with steel drummers ankle deep in confetti, champagne corks popping, children chasing each other with squirt guns, and maybe a couple of dancing bears. Imagine yourself celebrating with me today and with each of our stellar 2k9 authors  as their books hit the shelves. Go ahead – make a comment – add to the noise. Happy party and happy reading.

Heart of a Shepherd

Our First Debut Book

          As eager as I am to tell you about my debut novel, Heart of a Shepherd, the first of our class of 2K9 to “graduate” to the world of bookstores, I can’t get Tuesday’s inauguration off my mind. Here’s why.

         I was born in Oak Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago which was in the late 60s just beginning to become integrated. My parents were very involved in the civil rights movement at the time.

         What I remember most are the exchange students my family invited to live with us to help people get used to having people of color in the neighborhood. I remember walking to the park holding hands with Jitendra when I was five. He was from New Delhi. Someone at the park said a word to him I didn’t understand. I assume it was a racial slur. What I did understand from the look on her face as she took her children away from the park was that this grown woman did not want me to be holding the hand of a black man. I could tell she was afraid of a person that didn’t scare me at all. It was a tremendously empowering moment, to realize that I didn’t have to swallow every little fear someone else spooned up for me.

         Many people have said they never thought they’d live to see the day we would have a black president, but for me—knowing I was free to turn away other people’s fears, that we are all free to let go of fears that serve no good purpose—I have always known, we’d see this day.

         As a new author there are plenty of things I might choose to fear: reviews, censorship, the current economy. I’m grateful for my 2K9 classmates who share this enterprise of moving from the writers we’ve always been to slightly more public people, authors. I’m also grateful to my amazing family and my steadfast editor for helping me choose not to be afraid of telling the truth about what it means to send someone you love to war. That’s the heart of my story.

         The beautiful cover is by artist Jonathan Barkat and designer Jan Gerardi. My classmate Suzanne Morgan Williams will be posting an interview about my book on Monday, January 26th.