Monday, October 29, 2012

Spooky Good Reads for Halloween


by Kris Kahrs

  Gather round Chickens!  The Pen and Ink Blog has compiled a list of spooky good reads for you and the kidlets this Halloween.  So, chuck the candy, pull up a stool, grab a swig of apple cider and read on...


Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley (1992) 

Pre-K and up.  This die cut book is a lot of fun to read to kids.  As you turn the pages, the monster grows piece by piece and as you keep going, the kids get to interactively tell the monster off and it disappears bit by bit. 


Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler and S.D. Schindler (Aug 9, 2005)

Ages three and up.  You can just imagine the problems of a skeleton with hiccups.  Now imagine how difficult it would be for him trying the various methods of getting rid of the hiccups and you'll have an idea how visually funny this book is!


 The Hallo-wiener by Dav Pilkey (Sep 1, 1999)    

Ages four and up.  Oscar the Dachshund gets a special costume from his mom to wear for Halloween.  One problem -- it a hot dog costume and guess who's supposed to be the wiener that goes inside the bun? By the author of Captain Underpants.


Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Aug 25, 2003)

Ages four and up.   A rhyming story of a witch and the friends she picks up as she flies through the night.  Is there room for one more?  You have to read it to find out!


The Halloween Kid by Rhode Montijo (Aug 3, 2010)     

  Ages Kindergarten and up.  Rhode Montijo is the author and illustrator of this superhero story of The Halloween Kid and how he keeps Halloween safe for all.  The retro illustrations are the real treat.



Bone Soup by Cambria Evans (Sep 8, 2008)

Ages 6 and up.  This is the Halloween version of the old tale "Stone Soup".  A story I still tell to my son at night.  In this retelling, Finnigin the always hungry skeleton is looking for his next meal on Halloween and needs to convince the townspeople to share a meal with him.  


Sounds Spooky by Christopher Cheng and Sarah Davis (May 1, 2012)  

 Ages 5 and up.  SCBWI homeboy, Christopher Cheng's book Sounds Spooky is the perfect read for Halloween.  He uses the Onomatopoeia of words to help the reader hear the sound as well as set the tone for the story.



The House With a Clock In Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt) by John Bellairs and Edward Gorey (Aug 3, 2004)

 Ages 8 and up.  A deliciously chilling tale for the older crowd, John Bellairs writes a couple of different series for this age group that are thrilling but not too scary and that have an upbeat resolution.  At 179 pages, you won't finish reading this to the kids on Halloween, but the good news is that they'll keep coming back night after night asking you to read more.


Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham (Aug 7, 2012)    

 Ages two and up.  This is a charming, funny read.  Being a ballerina is every girl's dream, especially so for Vampirina, but this little dancer has the extra challenge of also being one of the undead.


Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown (Aug 21, 2012)

 Ages 4 and up.  How would you feel if your favorite snack all of a sudden became alive and started stalking you?  That will give you a good idea of what happened to Jasper Rabbit one day while noshing on his crunchy treat.  There's some lovely illustrations you'll enjoy, parodying cinematic classics. Put down the cupcake and back away slowly.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dispatch #3 - SETIcon II or Why the World is Not Ending December 2012

Convention Badge
by Lupe Fernandez

In June, I attended a conference organized by The Institute for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Among the many topics discussed were:

  • The Next Big Science Revolution - (Hint: Artificial Intelligence)
  • How to Survive Your Trip to Mars - (Hint: Wear a Spacesuit)
  • All Aboard the 100 Year Starship - (Hint: You think flying to New York is a long trip?)
  • Did the Big Bang Require a Divine Spark? - (Hint: If there's a Divine Spark, was there a Divine Lighter?)
  • How to Survive an Alien Infection - (Hint: Our microbes are better then their microbes.)
  • Human vs. Robots Who Should Explore Space? - (Hint: I'm ready for my one-way trip to Mars.)
  • How Do You Invent an Alien Language? - (Hint: Don't use ambiguous photographs.)

Me, Dr. Frank Drake and Intern Amanda Aguilera
My favorite moment was meeting Dr. Frank Drake. For those of you not in the know, Dr. Drake was the first radio astronomer to listen signals from the stars, and founded SETI back in the good old days. A certain Senator Proximire thought Dr. Drake was a kook and awarded him the infamous Golden Fleece Award for wasteful government projects.

For shame, Senator! At long last, have you no decency?

Other notables in attendance:

  • Bill Nye - The Science Guy
  • Robert Picardo - TV actor who played the hologram doctor on Star Trek Voyager.
  • Mary Roach - Author of Stiff, Bonk and Packing for Mars.
  • Richard Rhodes - Author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb
  • and...
  • My new favorite astronomer and personal friend of mine - well not actually a personal friend, but I did give him the idea of the Divine Lighter - Seth Shostak.

And what, pray tell, does this post have to do with writing? Let's look at language. Particularly, the word "believe." Do you believe in intelligence life exists beyond the Earth? What? You Do Believe.
Belief only requires faith, not facts.

Electromagnetic Spectrum - Believe it or Not

I don't have to "believe" in the propagation of the electromagnetic spectrum to know that my radio, TV and cell phone works. I believe I will publish a manuscript one day. Alas, I have no observable phenomena to back up my claim. I just keep the faith, baby.

For those you who believe the alleged Mayan Calendar prediction of the End of the World as We Know it on December 2012, I offer words of consolation.

It ain't happening.

End of the World
During the session Cosmophobia: Doomsday 2012 and Other Fiction Science, the august panel, including two astronomers, assured us that the alleged Mayan Calendar prediction has no basis in fact. However if you wish to profit by this internet driven event, Seth Shotak suggests finding someone suffering from Cosmophobia and offer to buy their house for $10,000 dollars. Come January 2013, you will own a new house.

As for me, I will gaze into the night sky and wonder about worlds upon worlds, and imagine landscapes unknown and accents unborn.

I'd like to thank my friend, Amanda Aguilera, for introducing me to the SETI Institute. She's an intern there, and as far as I'm concerned, has the best job in the world.

Monday, October 15, 2012

In Conversation with Christina Diaz Gonzales

Click Picture to Visit Christina's website
by Hilde Garcia

Pen and Ink is pleased to be a part of Christina Diaz Gonzalez's blog tour for her new book, A THUNDEROUS WHISPER.

Christina is the author of the award-winning and best-selling children’s novel, THE RED UMBRELLA. Ms. Gonzalez’s debut novel (the story of a 14 year old Cuban girl who is sent to the U.S. in 1961 as part of Operation Pedro Pan) showcases the generosity of the American spirit and highlights the pain of losing one’s homeland. Reviewers from publications such as The Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal have praised the book as being exceptional, compelling and inspirational.

Her second novel, A THUNDEROUS WHISPER, was just released.

Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. She's actually making a difference in the world.

And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, and more. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.  

Christina, where did the inspiration to write this story come from?
It started with a friend of mine asking me some questions about Pablo Picasso’s famous painting, “Guernica”.  I was embarrassed that I didn’t know anything about this work of art and so, as soon as I left his office, I googled it.  I was amazed to learn about this small Basque town that Hitler chose to bomb during the Spanish Civil War and how Picasso used it to represent the atrocities of war in his painting.  From there my interest in the town and the Basque people (my own family being part Basque) was piqued and did more research.  I soon stumbled across an old picture of a sardinera (a woman who sells sardines) and the entire story flashed in my head. The only thing left to do was to write it!

What type of research did you do?  What was the most effective research? How did it differ from The Red Umbrella's research, your first book?
I read many first-hand accounts from survivors of the bombing and other primary sources.  Yet, unlike my research for “The Red Umbrella”, there weren’t many people alive that I could interview about the experience. So, I was very grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Spain and meet with one of the curators at Guernica’s Museum of Peace and with the president of Guernica’s historical society.  They showed me the town, explained what it was like before and after the bombing…even snuck me into one of the old air raid shelters!

I have heard people say you are an SCBWI success story. For those of us that don't know this, please tell us how SCBWI made a difference in your writing career.
SCBWI had been instrumental at all points in my writing career.  I developed my writing skills with the help of my amazing SCBWI critique group, met my editor at a conference while having a critique, met my agent at another conference (a year after having sold my first book) and still get support and energy from all the SCBWI writers I meet.

Have you done a blog tour before?  What do find that works best? 
This is my first official blog tour (I visited a few blogs with “The Red Umbrella”, but nothing was structured) and I am really enjoying it.  I have to thank Alethea from Read Now, Sleep Later for setting everything up.  She has been AMAZING!

How was it different to work with an agent for this book as opposed to no agent for your first book? (If I got this wrong, help me rewrite the questions so it works for what message you want to get across.)
The great thing about having an agent is you have a partner that will help you shape your writing career…not just sell a book. I have been very lucky to have an incredible editor (Nancy Siscoe – who edited both The Red Umbrella and A Thunderous Whisper) and so there weren’t any real issues where my agent, Jen Rofe, would have to get involved (although it feels great to know that I have her in my corner).  I trust that my agent is always looking at the “big picture” and will tell me truth…even if I don’t want to hear it sometimes. It’s great to have that kind of relationship.

How did you get this book to an editor? Did you mail it? Was it a chance meeting at a conference? Was your agent the door opener?
My agent sent the first 30 pages to Nancy Siscoe, my editor from The Red Umbrella, as an exclusive. It was all I had written, but my agent felt confident about the book.  In a couple of weeks, we had an offer and then I got busy finishing the book!

How long from acceptance to launch date did this process take?  Did you find it shorter or longer than your process for Red Umbrella?
The book was sold in July 2010 and I finished writing the first draft in November (I think).  The process took about two years which is similar to The Red Umbrella.

Favorite advice for writers:  
When facing a difficult scene to write, don’t let “writer’s block” stop you. Write anything.  A poorly written page is easier to revise than a blank page.

Where do you like to write? Is chocolate your favorite tool other than a laptop? He he I know the answer! By the way, how were my cookies? Did they make it to the plane?
I like to write at a local Starbucks with another author friend of mine.  It’s like having a gym partner – even when I don’t feel like writing, knowing that she is there and waiting for me, forces me to go and be productive. 

Favorite tool?  Duh…chocolate! Not just any chocolate though…dark chocolate. Mmm. (As for your cookies…delicious! And no, they did not make it to the plane – several writers ate them throughout the night!)

Do you have a book trailer?  It seems that every book these days has one. 
Not yet!

Thanks, Christina. It's been a pleasure hosting you.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Author Laurisa White Reyes
In Conversation

Laurisa White Reyes
by Lupe Fernandez

Laurisa White Reyes is the author of The Rock of Ivanore, a middle grade fantasy about an enchanter's apprentice, Marcus Frye, who crosses the Isle of Imanes and encounters monsters, treachery and his destiny.

Besides writing, Laurisa is also a voracious reader. She also loves musical theater, chocolate, sushi, ancient history, bearded dragons, and rain storms. She lives in Southern California with her husband, 5 children, 4 birds, 2 lizards, 2 turtles, 1 fish, 1 dog, and a partridge in a pear tree.
“Reyes deftly develops her plot and characters and firmly holds readers' attention throughout this exciting and surprising tale.” – School Library Journal
How did you come up with names like Quendel, Ivanore, or language from the “ancient tongue”? 
It was very complicated. I conducted hours of research, and…

No. Not really. I just made them up as I went along. Even the title of the book was off the cuff. If a name sounded good, I used it. I actually tried not to make the names too difficult to pronounce. Many of them are just everyday-type names with slight changes (ie. Jayson, Kelvin, Bryn). Since it is a book for younger readers, I wanted the names to sound “fantastical” without being heavy-handed. When I read a book and I have to stop to sound out words, it detracts from the overall reading experience.

At what point during your process did you draw the Isle of Imaness map? 
I am so glad you asked that question! I sketched out a very rough map with pencil while I was still writing the first draft. I needed to have some sort of visual reference so I could get the directions right. When the draft was done, I took my truly awful sketch to my dear friend Kathy Everts, who is a talented artist. I gave her my manuscript and the drawing and asked her to make me a map because, as everyone knows, every fantasy novel must have a map. She drew this gorgeous pen and ink sketch on parchment which I still have framed in my bedroom. When the book finally was published, she had to draw one more because some of the directions and locations had changed during the revision process.
“Young readers…will delight in this opening title in The Celestine Chronicles series, which delivers a fantasy adventure for a reluctant readership.” – Booklist
Kathy Everts, Map and Laurisa
Will the following books include a map of the mainland? 
Yes! The sequel, The Last Enchanter (tentatively due out in 2013) still takes place on The Isle of Imaness. But in the third book, Marcus and Jayson take off for Hestoria. I am working on a sketch of that map right now. Also, I’ve written a hefty prequel called The Crystal Keeper, but I don’t have a publisher for it yet. It begins a separate series all its own for a YA audience, and follows Jayson and Ivanore during that fourteen year separation only mentioned briefly in The Rock of Ivanore.

Why did you choose to tell the story in third person personal with alternating views of Marcus, Jayson and others? 
Two reasons, really. The first was that I was a brand new writer back then and didn’t know any better. (chuckle)

While I was still in the early stages of writing I attended the summer SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles and heard an agent say that children’s books should always be written in a single point of view. My silent response to that was – Why?

I was reading The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown at the time and was fascinated with his technique of writing from three points of view. He uses it as a device to heighten anticipation and tension in the story. I wanted to achieve that sort of thing in The Rock of Ivanore. I also disagreed with the perception that children were incapable of keeping track of multiple points of view. In fact, from observing my own children, I believed they were more than capable. Today’s kids are great multi-taskers. If they can handle fast-paced video games, and movies, and smart phones and the internet, they could surely manage three points of view in a novel. And I was right. The kids who have read The Rock of Ivanore, love it.
“Marcus is a hero who engages challenges in a way that is both human and admirable.” – Publisher’s Weekly
How did you avoid getting too carried away in world building? 
Great novels for kids are all about the story and the characters. No matter what the genre. In fantasy, it is vital to establish the world in which the story takes place, but once that’s done, move on. The description of The Isle of Imaness is light. I give just enough to get the ball rolling, but kids have amazing imaginations and I wanted each reader to build the world to his liking in his own mind. I was more interested in allowing the readers to fall in love with Marcus, and Jayson and Bryn than I was in them getting really caught up in the world of Imaness.

You review books on your blog, A Thousand Wrongs. What happens if you don’t like a book? Do you still review it? 
I don’t read very many books, actually. I try, but I’m a very slow reader. I read on average about 30 books a year, and I like to choose for myself what those books will be. So very rarely do I read a book I don’t like, though it does occur from time to time. Usually I just won’t finish it. If I get to the end of a book, then I’ve liked it at least enough to read it and will give it a positive review. I don’t post about books I would never read on my own. And I never post negative reviews. I know how difficult it is to write a book, and just because a particular title isn’t right for me doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else. Reviews are very subjective. I would never try to dissuade someone from reading any book just because I didn’t care for it.
“Reyes’ debut novel is a gripping fantasy just right for younger readers who clamor for adventure but are not quite ready for Lloyd Alexander’s ‘Grey King’ or J.R.R.Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings.’” – Deseret News
What you do hope your readers will carry away from reading The Rock of Ivanore? 
The protagonist, Marcus, is an enchanter’s apprentice who is pretty bad at doing magic. But when he is given the task to find the Rock of Ivanore and bring it back to his village, he must dig deep within himself to find the ability and confidence he needs to succeed. Like Marcus, we all have moments in our lives when we don’t feel good enough. We may have goals and dreams that seem, at times, out of our reach. But with hard work and perseverance, I believe all dreams are attainable. When I do school visits, I use the theme “Find Your Magic” to encourage kids to never give up on their dreams. I hope, by reading about Marcus, that they will feel more confident in themselves and not be afraid to dream big.

The Management would like to thank Laurisa for this interview. For more about Laurisa, see her website. Then go read her book, The Rock of Ivanore.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Writer's Struggle

Ms. J.J. Pennfur
by Penny

I'm J.J Pennyfur, the Furriest and smallest member of the Pen and Ink blog team. Most humans call me Penny.

I am an aspiring children's book writer. My first love is YA.

In spite of being a single mother with six small children, I managed to finish my manuscript in time to go to the SCBWI Summer Conference for a critique of my first pages.


I was pretty nervous, this being my first conference. I hoped for words of advice and support from my fellow writers. And I got them. (You will note that many of these word's are addressed to my picture. I had a problem with my baby sitter and had to leave for a while. But I made it back in time for my critique)

Thanks to all the writers who supported me: Betty Birney, Christopher Cheng, Judy Enderle, Jody Feldman, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Stephanie Jacob Gordon, Jo S. KittingerAmy Goldman Koss, Greg Neri, Alexis O'Neill, Claudia Pearson,Yuki, Yoshino, and Paula Yoo.

And special thanks to Linda Pratt, agent extraordinaire for my manuscript consultation.