News Flash!

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For all our wonderful and loyal followers, we have a News Flash for you!

The Scriblerians have opened up a new site!

http://www.scriblerians.com   (click on book reviews to subscribe)

We will still post here, but we are hoping you will check out our brand new idea for the literary world. Here is a description of who we are and what we will be providing.

About the Scriblerians

The Scriblerians is a group of nine authors and critique partners who write for student readers. We agree that our target audience is not the students, per se, but their parents, teachers, and librarians. We want to nurture relationships with those adults who make book-purchasing decisions for their student readers by providing an essential service to them.

We want to provide reviews for books, especially those written for the Middle Grade and Young Adult markets, evaluating both content and literary quality.

This will help us recommend engaging, well-written books and offer discussion questions for popular books that may include questionable content for a Christian-worldview reader.

 

Here is an excerpt from of a critique done by Loraine Kemp.

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is a bittersweet teen fiction about a boy struggling to come to terms with his mother’s serious illness.

Synopsis:

Connor, a twelve-year-old-boy, is faced with unbelievable stress – a dying mother, a father who has split from the family, a recurrent nightmare, a domineering grandmother, and bullies at school. Then, a monster visits. But this monster, which Connor initially believes is just a dream, insists that Connor “called” him. Between dealing with the above problems, Connor must listen to the monster’s stories that force him to confront his anger, confusion, and frustrations. And at the end of the monster’s three tales, Connor is forced to reciprocate by describing his nightmare – a story of truth, and the root of his depression and anxiety.

 

For the rest of the post including pros, cons, and general impression, hop over to our site http://www.scriblerians.com

Again, to subscribe, click book reviews and plunk away. We would love to see you there!

 

Skellig

Written by David Almond

                                                          skellig

“I thought he was dead. He was sitting with his legs stretched out and his head tipped back against the wall. He was covered with dust and webs like everything else and his face was thin and pale. Dead bluebottles were scattered on his hair and shoulders. I shined the flashlight on his white face and his black suit.”

Michael has reluctantly moved across town to a new house. His baby sister is very ill and his parents are devastated and distracted, leaving Michael depressed and without his old friends. Exploring the overgrown yard, he ventures into a dilapidated garage. He discovers, under cobwebs and dead insects, a strange creature that resembles a weak old man named Skellig. He is such a pathetic being that Michael starts to take care of him. When Michael meets a neighbour, Mina, and he introduces her to Skellig. They move the winged creature to a safer place and take care of him until he starts to gain strength. Michael wonders if Skellig is part angel. Desperately hoping his sister survives a heart operation, Michael tells the creature about her. During the baby’s operation, Michael is sure she has died, but the baby lives, and the mom describes a vivid dream she had in the hospital of a winged creature visiting the baby before the operation. Skellig disappears but the healthy baby arrives home and the family is whole again.

Pros: The cover attracted me first, but soon the lyrical prose drew me in to the characters and the mystery of what and who Skellig was. Was it human, bird, angel or all of the above? The book is very clearly written from a boy’s perspective and voice, and rings genuine. Michael’s family is going through a lot of tension with the baby’s illness, and the mental anguish they are all going through is palpable. But the theme of the power of love carries through to the very satisfying end.

Cons: Michael and Mina associated with this strange human-like creature and hid this fact from their parents, so parents of younger children would have to remind them to never talk to strangers.

Personal Opinion: This is a very well written book with mystery, good character development and suspense, but more than that, Skellig can appeal to both YA and MG readers on different levels. The adventure of finding a mysterious creature in a scary place would appeal to the younger crowd and the lyrical prose and deeper themes would appeal to the older crowd. Skellig has won two awards and was nominated for five more, so this should give readers an idea of how popular the book has been. And I would agree wholeheartedly with their assessments. I highly recommend this book.

Discussion points for parents and teachers:

MG:

  • There are many friendships. Find and discuss three.
  • Michael was very unhappy in the beginning. How did Skellig help him feel better?

YA:

  • Themes are recurrent in the book, like love and nurturing, connections, death, and spiritualism. Choose two and elaborate.
  • The lyrical prose is different from many books. Describe the difference.

lorainekemp1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rare Close Collaborations

Many publishers forbid their authors and illustrators to work closely with one another because often the author’s preconceived notions of what things should look like conflict with the illustrator’s ideas. And the publisher doesn’t want that hassle.

However, the publisher that I’m working for, Sono Nis Press, welcomes this type of collaboration. And I love it! Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon is the fourth book where I’ve been able to work with the author to produce illustrations.

I thought you all might like to meet my friend and colleague, Karen Autio, the author of our book whom I have known for 18 years. She has stuck it out with me and my crazy requests for models and/or people to take pictures of me doing various crazy things. (ie. taking pictures of me dancing in the snow in a silk housecoat for another book. Maybe I’ll show it to you someday…)

Here is a picture of Karen and I in the Wild Horse Canyon in 2014.

IMG_3057 Karen and I

Karen, you have been very busy! Can you tell us about your other books?

My trilogy of historical novels for young readers focuses on Canadian history that hasn’t had much attention, along with issues of family, friends, and faith. Second Watch deals with the Canadian Pacific Empress of Ireland steamship’s role in immigration and its shipwreck in 1914—Canada’s Titanic. Life purpose and the impact of tuberculosis on a farming family make up the core of Saara’s Passage. Sabotage in Canada during the First World War is the central theme of Sabotage.  My newest book is an illustrated chapter book called Kah-Lan the Adventurous Sea Otter, set on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC.

Karen and books

How long have you worked on Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon?

I’ve lived in the Okanagan (in British Columbia’s Southern Interior) for 20 years, and most of that time I’ve been intrigued by Wild Horse Canyon and its history as a place to trap wild horses. I so wanted to get to Wild Horse Canyon (in Okanagan Mountain Park) to explore it, but I thought the hike in from Kelowna was onerous, and I didn’t have access to a boat to take me across Okanagan Lake for the shorter hike* in from Commando Bay (* see my answer to the third question). In 2006, my curiosity got me researching the canyon, and the more I learned about it and the area, the more fascinated I became with the history. By 2013, when my third historical novel was about to be published, I couldn’t resist writing the outline and then text of this picture book, which was then accepted for publication by Sono Nis Press in January 2014.

What were your thoughts on working so closely with a friend and colleague?

I remember when I first mentioned this story idea to Loraine (before it was accepted for publication) and asked if she’d be available to illustrate it, she said, “No, my schedule is too full.” I was incredibly disappointed. So you can imagine my delight a year later when my publisher agreed with my recommendation of Loraine as illustrator and offered her the contract, and she accepted. She is the perfect artist for this project, with her lifelong knowledge of the Okanagan, intimate experience with horses, and realistic art style based on detailed research. Loraine stated at the beginning of this project, “I can’t think of a better partner to work with,” and neither can I.

Now, if we were horses, Loraine would be a fancy warmblood and I’d be a trustworthy cob (we confirmed this via an online quiz!). She’s full of spunk and energy, a true extrovert, while I’m more quiet, contemplative, you know, an introvert. At times I’m reining her in and at other times she’s spurring me on out of my comfort zone. We complement one another in so many ways. Knowing each other so well, we’re free to honestly critique each other’s work, which has strengthened both the text and illustrations.

What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the project?

Two challenging aspects immediately come to mind. First, wrangling the historical details, especially when resources were non-existent, were scarce, or disagreed. Second, and here’s where I address the * in my first answer. Getting into Wild Horse Canyon to actually see the setting of the book was incredibly challenging! In September 2014 we finally met someone who was willing to take us by boat to Commando Bay! (Just below the canyon) However, the promised short hike to Wild Horse Canyon had us detouring through a smaller overgrown canyon, needing to bushwhack over fallen and burned trees, through prickly bushes, and climbing rocks and sliding on loose ones.

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But we made it!

A year later we met a hiker who guided us to Wild Horse Canyon on foot from the end of Lakeshore Road in Kelowna—not as onerous a hike as expected, but still a full day’s adventure.

The most rewarding? Again, I have two answers. First was experiencing the incredible, awesome Wild Horse Canyon twice, with its breathtaking sheer granite west wall and the peace of its secluded location. Second was the initial feedback on the story, that people got what I was aiming to convey about the history of place, a journey through time.

What do you hope readers will get out of the book?

I hope readers (and those being read to) will enjoy connecting to history. May they be so fascinated by the changes over time in one place that they’re inspired to explore the range of history of their own neighbourhood.

I have been told, and have experienced, that in order to keep a friendship healthy, you shouldn’t live, work, or travel with friends. Karen and I have committed all of the above taboos, and will do even more as we tour together to schools and libraries this fall. I am looking forward to finally sharing this huge project with kids and adults alike – with my buddy Karen!

Karen Autio at Mission Creek Greenway

I’m taking a stab in the dark, but I’m assuming most of our readers are creative. I hope you also have a friend with whom you can share many types of creative activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeri Massi

As most of you realize by now, I’m a great fan of Jeri Massi’s novels for tweens having posted two book reviews: Derwood, Inc. a year ago, and Hall of Heroes earlier this week. Jeri graciously agreed to an interview. After all, how could any author resist my enthusiasm?

Hall of Heroes

 

Whenever possible, the Scriblerians invite our honored authors to “sign” our slam book.

Nickname (in childhood or now or both): Jeriwho

Genre: I prefer to write fantasy and SF but rarely get a chance to do so. I’ve written across many different genres: Westerns, mysteries, adventures, historical, fantasy, SF, etc.

Favorite scripture: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53:10-11

Favorite quotation: All warfare is based on deception. – Sun Tzu

In high school, I was… loud, and tall.

 

 

Jeri blog
Jeri, welcome to the Scriblerians.
Thank you, Linda. It’s an honor.

 

 
As you know, I love your Peabody Kids series, especially the first book, Derwood, Inc. The humor is timeless. In fact, I recently spoke with a fifth grade teacher who still uses Derwood in her classroom. She shared with me that the book is her kids’ favorite choice in the curriculum. How have you updated your characters since the Derwood Series was published about – what – 30 years ago?
If a character works in a story, he or she should never need to be updated. Jack will always be the charming leader, and Penny the loyal companion. Scruggs will always be the person in transition. Humor and mysteries alike tend to be built on certain familiar character types, so while their clothing or jargon may change over time, they remain essentially the same whatever the time setting of the story. We see the same characters clearly in Hall of Heroes, which is an exact mirror of the characters from Derwood, Inc.

 

 
While Derwood was fun and adventurous with lessons for the Peabody Kids in each book, Hall of Heroes strikes deep. I took in such themes as: “Love God and enjoy Him forever,” and “Heaven completes our creation.” Have I nailed it, or would you add another theme dear to your heart.
“The Christian life is built on humility.” The humor of the story is built on the fact that the “good guys” think they are always going to be victorious, just because they are the good guys. They’re actually pretty arrogant and full of themselves. In short order, the bullies overthrow them and steal their club house. There is a thematic link to Martha Jenkins, who has done so much good in her life, but is facing certain death while still too young for it. Both groups have to accept their lot with humility. Jean herself notices that Digger seems much more heroic when he is helping around the house for Martha. He fulfills the role of a manly Christian effortlessly when he forgets about acting like a hero and simply offers his work to a suffering person.

 

 
Many of the readers of the Scriblerians blog are also writers, so I’d like to ask questions in relation to how you write your novels. Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? When I think of Derwood, Inc. I assume it had a bare skeleton which you fleshed out with twists and turns that might have surprised you as you were writing. But did Hall of Heroes need a stricter outline?
All of my stories are outlined. I always think of the plot first, then complete it in outline form, and then start writing. If I decide to throw in a new twist, I usually outline it into the main outline.

 

 
While you had several comical moments with the villains in the story, the mature spiritual issues caused my chuckles to subside as I contemplated eternity and how God sees our mission on earth. When your readers finish the last sentence of the book, what do you want them to come away with?
Well, first, that nothing is as it seems. Martha Jenkins had a lot to offer, but she was pretty much ignored by her church. And nobody meant to be unkind to her; they just didn’t look hard enough to realize their Christian duty towards her. The real Hall of Heroes meets in Martha’s living room, three overlooked people who love each other and have fellowship in the face of a great tragedy. Christianity today is blinded by grandeur, and that’s a horrible blindness. We will find the power and the fellowship of Jesus Christ with the least of His brethren, always.

Second, we all die, and yet we all must live. Digger’s joy over regaining the club house is not misplaced. Martha herself had a full life until close to the end. We ought to live joyfully and make our boast in God, and we ought to approach death with humility and willingness to go where He leads us, even there.

 

 
I always enjoy teen and tween fiction when the main characters have GOOD parents, intact families with Mom and Dad loving each other and watching out for their children. Jean experiences growth as she makes her own decisions, and her wisdom comes from the example of her parents. Am I in the minority of adult readers today, or do you find the reading public does want wholesome material for their children?

I think the best readers want the truth, whether that truth is couched in a conventional story with a home and a hearth, or whether it’s couched in science fiction, or fantasy, or talking animals, etc. The reality is that many children do lose one parent, or both parents, and so fiction should also reach out to them. I have given up on figuring out what most readers want. I write what I believe makes a good story. I assume that if it keeps me and my spot readers entertained, it ought to entertain others.

Jeri Massi

Jeri and Ben

 

Want to know more about Jeri Massi? Read her Blog on the Way (www.jeriwho.net), follow her on Twitter (@jeriwho), or like her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jerimassi).

Is This Your Child?

My heart was heavy when I saw this video. I really identified with its message. Have a look…

I was born and raised on a farm loving the outdoors and playing non-stop with my horses, cats, dogs, and friends on our property. I wasn’t into sports as much as our kids, but still preferred to be outside rather than inside, and invented very simple games to occupy my time.

But today, to be completely honest, I do enjoy my time in front of my screen, with FB, emails, or whatever. I can certainly see the draw of watching youtube videos and movies, but can’t say that games are much of a temptation.

Our kids’ generation’s screen habits started gradually, but have burst into their lives with video games and phones. We tried to limit our sons’ time on the computer when they were young and they didn’t own phones. And it worked most of the time. But when they went over to friend’s houses, how could we control that? Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but kids are almost considered weird if they don’t have phones. (I won’t go into that personal pet peeve)

I feel that this draw also takes them away from reading, and as a writer, I wonder how we can recapture their hearts and time. We as parents can try as much as we can while our kids are at home, but what happens when they leave? I am trying to picture how these kids who are hooked on games etc. will bring up their own kids. I have confidence that there will always be kids in sports etc. and I am encouraged by commercials on tv. about trying to get our kids off screens. And I know that many kids are able to moderate their time on screens. But there is much that we can’t identify with as adults who weren’t raised with these temptations. There is the world of difference between how we spent our time as kids, and how our kids spend their time.

Can I safely say that if I was raised today, I wouldn’t be hooked on screens too? I can’t, in all honesty.  I doubt it, but I will never know.

As a blog writer, I feel that I should have some answers, but all I can do is present the very complicated problem, and offer what we did as parents. I’m very interested to hear what your thoughts are on this!!

The Bowling Ball

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Todd goes through life much like an oversized bowling ball.

Like his arrival home – heralded by the usual thumps of him kicking perennially unlaced runners against the wall, then a shoulder check to the door while twisting the knob and finally, an eruption into the house.

“You won’t believe this,” he exclaims, stomping into the kitchen in his rumpled gray T-shirt and khakis. Frayed hems flop behind his heels. He tosses his backpack onto the island. “Mr. Crowthers sprung a surprise vocabulary test.”

Our cat sidles out of the kitchen.

Todd scratches his wild curls, yanks the milk out of the fridge and slams the door. Three fridge magnets clatter to the floor. He replaces one.

So far, the bowling game is comparatively low scoring.

“Was it a surprise to everyone else?” I retrieve a magnet from under the fridge.

“Dunno. Prob’ly.” He grabs a spoon and the Almond Crisp, then scrapes a stool to the island.

“Well, how’d you do?”

He stares at the back of the cereal box. “With what?”

“You know, the surprise test.”

“Oh, not sure. We didn’t mark ‘em yet ‘cause he had some VERY IMPORTANT things to discuss. He even held us for an extra six minutes.” He splashes the milk into the bowl, and onto the counter.

“So, what did he say?” I hand him a rag.

“Something about mid terms. I think.”

He swipes once at the milk puddle then fires the rag toward the sink, but instead nails my Easter lily. It nose-dives to the floor. Head Pin!

“Oops.”

I hate that word. But, there are others – “uh oh,” “whoops”, and the ever popular, “Was that an antique?”

“Todd. Seriously! Slow down!” I rush over and groan at the severed white bloom in the pile of dirt.

“Sorry…Oh, hey, you gotta see this.” Burrowing through the contents of his backpack, he yanks out a wrinkled piece of paper. He slaps it down exclaiming, “D’ya like that?”

I recoil – it’s stained brown from something in his pack I’d rather not know about. I gingerly smooth it out and see a circled 43/40. “Wow. Nice going. But 43 out of 40?”

“Bonus points.” He pumps a fist. “I named three Roman Emperors.”

For the millionth time, I wonder how consistent he would be if he really tried.

After re-washing the counter, I bring out the dustpan.

“Hey, I can do that,” he blurts through a full mouth.

I glance at my other tender plants – more potential pins. “Uh, no. S’okay.”

Suddenly I’m in a firm neck hold. Todd delivers a smooch that feels more like a playful punch to the jaw.

“Goin’ to Brandon’s to work on a project. ‘Kay?”

I survey my once neat kitchen. This bowling match could turn out a winning score very soon. “Sure. Great idea.” I say a bit too enthusiastically.

He hauls his backpack off the counter, snagging his cereal bowl. It clatters to the floor.

“Whoops.”

“Todd!”

Strike and end of match.

 

Does this sound like anything you could relate too? I’m hoping you can say yes.

This little story was  the winning entry to a contest on personalities I’d submitted to years ago. I think I took all of ten minutes to write it, as it was crystal clear in my mind. I had, right in my own home, all the inspiration I needed to write about a boy’s personality. All I had to do sometimes (when I wasn’t scurrying off in the car to another of his hockey practices) was grab a chai tea latte, and watch. Okay, plus grab a rag.. and a broom.. and a tylenol for my headaches.

But the difference between normal people (and I use that term loosely) and writers, is that life experiences seldom go unnoticed and/or undocumented. Living life is just doing research for our books. My boys know that my characters are them in different settings. And thankfully they are fine with that.

So tell me, how many of your characters are your family members and/or friends? Or if not, where do you get your inspiration?

 

 

Jill Williamson’s RoboTales: How the project came to be

Jill Williamson is one of my favorite authors. I’m really excited about her new project! She’s guest blogging for us today to tell us about it and about how YOU can be involved. To get signed copies of these books, check out Jill’s Kickstarter campaign.

And now, here’s Jill!RoboTalesTitleArt-1024x277

The dream began in 2012. My son Luke was in fourth grade when I spoke to his entire elementary school to promote the local public library. The books I’d written at that point were best for readers in middle school and above, but my visit got kids excited to read my books anyway. Several lined up to check out the 500-plus-page tomes. Some of the fifth and sixth graders stuck with the stories, but most the younger kids lost interest. It made me want to write something for readers ages 7-13.

I went to Luke for help.

Jill-and-Luke

Over the course of the next six months, our whole family brainstormed. Luke had been studying fractured fairytales in his class, so we decided to write a children’s chapter book series of fairytale retellings that would take place in a fictional solar system. The stories would be tied together by a lost robot dog who was broken and trying to find out who he was and what he was built for. We called the series RoboTales. There were already so many fairytale retellings for girls. We thought it would be fun to target this series to boys, though girls would like the books too. I read the first three stories to my daughter Kaitlyn, who particularly loved Robo and the creatures he met along his journey.

As I worked on the books, Luke became my writing partner, naming characters, creatures, and helping to plot out the stories in detail. He even designed Robo out of LEGOs. I couldn’t have done it without him. He’s quite creative.

Luke & Robo

Luke & Robo

But with my other writing contracts, my speaking schedule, and the busyness of life, the series hovered at the bottom of my priority list. I just couldn’t find the time to get them written.

From the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2014, I made time. With Luke’s continual brainstorming support, I finished the first three books in our planned eight-book series. Luke and I have plotted out the other five books, but until I knew for certain that we would be able to publish the books, it didn’t make sense for me to write all eight ahead of time.

We live in an isolated community, so when we take a trip to the nearby city, it’s a three-hour drive. Luke and I did a lot of brainstorming on these drives, and Luke took notes. Then during the weekdays while he was at school, I’d take his notes and work on the stories or the proposal. It was every writer’s dream to have someone to talk to constantly, to brainstorm, and to get feedback. I’m so glad Luke was willing. This has been a fun project. Luke and I can’t wait to get these books into the hands of young readers!

Click here to visit our Kickstarter page and read more about how you can help make this project a reality.

WillYouHelpUsMemeREADERS: Have you ever involved your family in a project?