Monday, June 30, 2014

First Line/paragraphs from Crystal Kite Finalists Part 3

by Susan J Berger

The annual Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world. This post covers the finalists and winners in New England, New York and Texas/Oklaholma. All links are to the SCBWI page. You can follow the page links to purchase sites.

Again . . The Crystal Kite is a rather odd award in that there are no Categories. Therefore a picture book may be competing against a young adult novel.

New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island) 

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry
You didn’t come. I waited all evening in the willow tree with gnats buzzing in my face and sap sticking in my hair, watching for you to return from town.

Call Me Amy by Marcia Strykowski

Sharp ocean air raced around my bedroom before I slammed the window shut and headed downstairs.
My big sister Nancy called out to me. “Are you going for a walk by yourself again?” She swung her dark glossy ponytail over one straight shoulder.
            I nodded as I stooped to pull on my boots.

Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden

The shrinkadinks think I have a screw loose. Ain’t playing with a full deck. Whacked-out wiring. Missing Marbles.
I love this voice. Dear Life You Suck  just joined my TBR list.
Living With Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles

Part One
A true Karate man
 is one with a godlike capacity
 to think and feel for others;
irrespective of their rank or position
-Gitchen Funakoshi (1868-1957)

When Caleb, Dave and I pull up at my uncle’s apartment building, a wave of sickness rolls up my throat and threatened to spew across Caleb’s dashboard. I will back it down. Breathe. The car idles at the curb, waiting for me to get out. Caleb leans forward and peers up at the building as if it’s the first time he’s seen one taller than four stories. 

Monster Needs a Costume by Paul Czajak, Illustrated by Wendy Grieb
Monster needs a costume for his favorite time of year.
“It’s nearly Halloween,” he roared. “The day is almost here!”

When Rivers Burned by Linda Brennan, Illustrated by Lisa Greenleaf The story behind Earth Day
Once, in America citizens were sickened by smog; pesticides wiped out wildlife in towns, fields, and forests, and the rivers were dirty enough to burn.

When Rivers Burned had no preview on Amazon, nor is it available at the LAPL. But I want to read it! Its cover shows five awards. I contacted Linda and asked for the first line and she graciously sent it to me.


The Story of Fish & Snail Written and Illustrated by Deborah Freedman
Every day . . . Snail sits in one special spot, waiting for Fish to come home with a story.

New York

Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Today I heard a pinecone fall.
I smell a spicy breeze.
I see Forest Wildly waving
Rows of friendly trees.
I’m here.
Come visit.
Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde
The Art of Being a Princess
The Foreward.
(Are you kidding? Nobody reads the foreword.)
“One should always strive,” Princess Imogene read in The Art of Being a Princess (third revised edition) “to be the sort of princess about whom it is said: ’She was as good as she was beautiful.’”
            “Ugh,” Princess Imogene said. She slammed the book shut – hating it already based on the first sentence.

  I put a hold on this one at the library. Must read.


Crankenstein! by Samantha Berger, Illustrated by Dan Santat

 Texas, Oklahoma

Ball Written and Illustrated by Mary Sullivan


This hilarious one word book (repeated a lot) is an ode to a dog’s one track mind. A Theodore Geisel Honor book, Ball is a delight and proves that a word is worth a thousand pictures.

Happy Birthday, Bunny! by Liz Garton Scanlon
“What are these and what are those?”
“Fancy shoes and party clothes!”
Liz Garton Scanlon wrote All The World, one of my favorite picture books. The SCBWI bookstore did not have a "buy link" so I used Amazon.

Nugget & Fang by Tammi Sauer Illustrated by Michael Slack
1+1 = 2
Minnows = Shark lunch.
This is what Nugget is learning in minnow school. And this is why Fang is losing his best friend. Yes, Fang is a shark. He does have big sharp teeth. And he will convince Nugget that they can still be friends.
If he doesn’t, then . . .
2 - 1 = 1 lonely Fang
In the deep, deep ocean lived two best friends. Nugget and Fang. They did everything together.

The Dark Between by Sonia Gensler

When Kate Poole was twelve, her body had folded easily into the medium’s throne. Her limbs had been shorter, her joints more elastic. In those days she stayed cool and supple while waiting for the hymns to end.

Fascinated, I read the rest of the available preview on Amazon. I downloaded it from the LAPL.
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
The First Night
From the rooftop of Information Headquarters Bingo and J’miah stood on their back paws and watched Little Mama and Daddy-O trundle away; their stripy gray and black silhouettes grew smaller and smaller in the deepening duck.
            Daddy-O called out, “Make us proud, boys!”
            That was followed by Little Mama. “Be sure to follow orders!”


Army Camels: Texas Ships of the Desert by Doris Fisher

"Raise the gangplank," ordered Captain Porter. "All the camels are loaded. It's
time to set sail for Texas. Camels, ho!"

I couldn't find the first line so I wrote to Doris Fisher and she kindly supplied it. This on is on my must read list.

I hope you find some of your own “must reads” here. Happy reading and writing, my friends.

You might also like First Lines From Crystal Kites - California/Hawaii and the West

And First Lines From the Crystal Kites - Southwest and Midwest

Monday, June 23, 2014

Author Mina Javaherbin
In Conversation

Mina Javaherbin
by Lupe Fernandez

Mina Javaherbin is author of GOAL! and Secret Message. Last May, I visited Mina at A Great Good Place for Books as she read from her latest picture book Soccer Star, illustrated by Renato Alarcao. No hardship or obstacle can keep Brazilian boy Paulo Marcelo Feliciano from playing the greatest game in his world - soccer.

Mina read from Soccer Star. The audience of adults and children followed along. She punctuated the action and pausing for emotional moments. Her passion conjures up the hardscrabble streets of Brazil, the salt-sea smell, the hot sand and the whoomp of the soccer ball. Though, Mina labored on this book for years, she ended reading with a choke in her voice, and a tear in her eye.

 There's not a lot of scoring in soccer. Does this reflect a "journey is more important than the destination" theme for you?
Soccer is a strategy game, it's like chess, really. It's not a contact sport and is pretty civilized compare to say, hockey, or the American football. It's an intense planning sport. I don't think in soccer journey is more important than the destination. I suppose the emphasis is on the fact that a well played journey will make it easier to achieve goals.

Soccer is popular all over the world. Why choose Brazil as the setting for Soccer Star?
Well this goes back to my book Goal! which had the soccer theme with a social justice angle and took place in South Africa, which hosted the last world cup games. I suppose I thought I'd do one about Brazil where the world cup takes place next, so Soccer Star was born while it did not shy away from displaying social justice issues of the children in Brazil.

Have you ever visited Brazil?
No, unfortunately I never have.

What was your working relationship with illustrator Renato Alarcao?
Ranato Alarcao is a name I first heard from my editor at Candlewick Press. We had no direct contact during the production of the book. As you know the manuscript is bought first and then the editor tries to find the best illustrator for the purchased written words. My wonderful editor found Mr. Alarcao. Of course there were suggestions from me as my editor kept me in the loop and asked my opinion during the art production of the book, but it is customary in the picture book world that the book's editor is the main liaison between the author and the illustrator. Renato and I connected on social media after the book's completion.

Your book Goal was about boys playing soccer in South Africa. Will there be a third book featuring the same sport? How about boys playing soccer in Iran?
I hope to write more soccer themed books and keep addressing social justice issues in them. One day I may also write about boys playing soccer in Iran.

How do you stay so awesome?
Funny you should ask since you and I actually met at "How To Stay Awesome Camp". As you very well know, we need to consciously surround ourselves with people who think we are awesome and that we think they are awesome as well. Life is too short and we are our own worst critics. So it's always better to stay awesome, like in that Lego movie!

The Management would like to thank Mina for granting this interview. 
For more Mina visit her website.

See our other October 2011 interview of Ms. Javaherbin. She discusses Secret Message and other awesome subjects.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Let It Go

By Guest Blogger David Krol

I am blessed to be in a family of writers. You have been great fans of my dynamic duo- Victoria and Sam- my kids who have been guest bloggers on our page, but now you get to hear from the person half those kid genes belong to- my husband, David Krol.

Our joke is that he can make filet mignon out of hamburger meat.

But that's no joke, it's a skill to be able to take a story and mold it out of nothing. He has a brilliant mind and is also the most amazing editor, catching everything there is to be caught and has been the biggest champion of my writing and my novel.

I am so honored he agreed to write this post, so I could finish the laundry. Mt. Washmore has been reduced to prairie land. (Thanks babe!)

Happy Reading.

Hilde Garcia

In 1993, I wrote a short story in which the protagonist dies. He might not have been the nicest protagonist, but he didn’t really deserve to die. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, on board a subway as it crossed the Manhattan Bridge, facing two strangers intent on harming him for no discernible reason. A police detective and his partner later try to decipher the crime.

This short story was going to be the core of a three-part novel, the first and third parts set in New York in the present, the second in New York in the late eighteenth century. And bad things were going to happen to a lot of people. Maybe not your cup of tea, but I enjoy the horror / suspense genre, so I thought I would enjoy writing something in that genre, too.

Over the next 20 years, I re-visited the novel on numerous occasions, completing the first third of the story, adding several characters who met rather gruesome ends. But the next two thirds never really came together.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down at my computer, once again trying to inspire myself to finish this thing, and found myself wondering why I hadn’t completed it years ago. When I got past the usual "I haven’t had the time" excuse, I thought about the core, the short story, and I realized that the strangers on the train didn't make any sense. And if they didn't make any sense, then the detective and his partner didn't make any sense, either. And then it hit me: the protagonist couldn’t actually be the protagonist, because I had killed him off in the beginning of the story.

In other words, the core of my novel didn't make any sense.

I think I had known this for quite some time, but hadn't wanted to admit it to myself. After all, I couldn’t delete the core! It now spanned several chapters, and the main characters had been written over two decades ago. Deleting that would mean I had been wasting my time.

Or would it? There was only one way to find out. I opened up the latest version of the novel and, before I could think about it, found and deleted the entire core – the so-called protagonist, the train, the detectives, their investigation. (Yes, I saved.) Now what?

With the "core" gone, I was no longer tied to a detective story, which I had never wanted to write; I had always wanted the reader to be the detective. And suddenly an idea came to me. The dead characters – what if they were all connected to each other somehow? And what if they were connected to the past in some way, too?

I typed up some notes, the notes turned into an epilogue, and suddenly the second part of the novel took shape. The dead characters are connected. And so is the "protagonist," who's only a minor character now, but a very important one. He still dies on board that subway train as it crosses the Manhattan Bridge, except now he dies while he's staring out at the New York City skyline -- the eighteenth century version, which is entirely ablaze.

As for why and how he dies, why Manhattan is ablaze in the past, and how he can see that, you'll have to read the novel to find out. When it's finished.

David Krol has been writing for a long time. He enjoys reading young adult fiction and writing stories that aren't suitable for a young adult audience.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dispatch #23: At Off-Ramp's End


by Lupe Fernandez

Exiting 580 Westbound at W. Grant Line Road exit, there is a gravel shoulder at the end of the off-ramp. The shoulder curves around a cut in the hill composed of sedimentary rock eons old. A sun-blasted beer bottle, a torn black iPhone cover, a rumpled blue sweatshirt, dead grass, green weeds and a post with a broken wire. Across the road are more brown hills, a row of power lines, the rumble of high traffic, the smell of dust and asphalt. Miles and miles of gray asphalt, filled cracks like tar veins.

How did this stuff get here? Who stops at a place like this?

I am here to help my nephew with his broken-down car. The alternator on his Datsun had failed and the car could not make the drive over the Altamont Pass - most famous for its infamous 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival. He calls AAA and we wait for the tow truck.

Two black SUVs roar down the ramp and pull onto the shoulder, kicking up dust and keeping their engines idling. In the back seat of the second SUV three young men wait, sitting straight up, feed-caps on their heads, the collars of their plaid shirts crisp. Their faces are brown from their birth and from working, perhaps in the fields or more likely construction or laying brick and mortar, installing drywall, digging ditches for sprinklers, landscaping earth into gardens.

A black car shows up and pauses by shoulder, and then lead the two SUVs north on Grant Line Road, following the faded yellow and black ribbon that divided the two lanes, a civil demarcation of traffic law, of you stay there and I stay here, for if we collide, we die.

A blue truck skids to a stop where the off-ramp bleeds into the shoulder. A woman gets out and collects debris that had fallen out of the truck bed.

The AAA tow truck arrives, the driver sitting high in his cab. As my nephew fills out paperwork with the driver, I sit in the shadow of my car, out of the 95 degree heat. A black strip of rubber, a sliver of tire tread lays in the gutter of the shoulder. A shoulder has a gutter? For even an oil-stained, barren shoulder has a place were it puts its trash. How long has the discarded strip lay there? When did the truck with its nameless drive have a blow-out?

Perhaps at 2am on a long haul from Los Angeles or some parts east, the truck traveled up the grade, the driver tuned to a distance frequency of an broadcast Evangelist or the thumping beat of Banda music, when one of the tires blew. This sliver of tire thread flew across several lanes, tumbled down the embankment and crashed into the shoulder of W. Grant Land Road exit. A blown tire cost the driver time and money as he proceeded to the nearest truck stop or pulled to the side of the lane and called a tow truck.

The AAA tow truck hooks up my nephew's car. More paper work. The tow truck's engine shuts off. Did the tow truck fail? Will the tow truck call another tow truck to get towed? Is there a line a tow trucks to tow tow trucks? How far does the line go? Around the world? To infinity?

Sweat. Fumes. Asphalt.

Paper work complete, the AAA tow truck with my nephew in the cab circle off the shoulder, cross the road and head up the on-ramp back to 580.

I climb in my car, crank up the air-conditioner and head for the bright green sign that reads Freeway Entrance. A blue and red interstate shield has 580 WEST printed in white.

An arrow points to the on-ramp and home.

Monday, June 2, 2014

More First Lines from Crystal Kite Finalists


By Susan J. Berger 

Congratulations to all the Crystal Kite Finalists. There are finalists in fifteen SCBWI districts. This post covers the Southwest and the Midwest. I have no first lines for three of these books, but it felt wrong leaving out any of the finalists. I used the SCBWI Blurb in place of first lines on those books. All links are to the SCBWI page. You can follow the page links to purchase sites.

Again . .

The Crystal Kite is a rather odd award in that there are no Categories. Therefore a picture book may be competing against a young adult novel. The annual Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world.

Southwest (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Southern Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico)

All Through My Town by Jean Reidy

Rising, waking.

Bread is baking.

School bus honks its horn

Backwards by Todd Mitchell

To anyone ever lived backwards, you are not alone.

Saturday November 15th

Bright red tulips. That’s the first thing I remember. Only they weren’t tulips. Their petals were drops of crimson, sinking into bathwater. It hit me that the drops must be coming from somewhere. Then I saw his wrists and I realized the red was blood.

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

This 2014 Caldecott Honor Book is a wordless story.
In this innovative wordless picture book with interactive flaps, Flora and her graceful flamingo friend explore the trials and joys of friendship through an elaborate synchronized dance. With a twist, a turn, and even a flop, these unlikely friends learn at last how to dance together in perfect harmony. Full of humor and heart, this stunning performance (and splashy ending!) will have readers clapping for more!

Openly Straight

 by Bill Konigsberg

If it were up to my dad, my entire life would be on video.

Anything I do, he grabs his phone. “Opal,” he’ll yell to my mother. “Rafe is eating cornflakes. We got to get this on film.”

A Summer of Sundays by Lindsay Eland
I like the middle of brownies and the center of a chocolate cookie. The gooey middle of a just-out-of-the-oven cinnamon roll is as close to heaven as you can get.
 But being the middle child is no gooey-cinnamon roll center, that’s for sure. And if someone tells you anything different, well,, he’s either a grown-up who wants to make cooked broccoli sound oh-so-delicious, or he’s a grown-up and he was an only child. And an only child has no idea of what it’s like to be third in line for the bathroom.
But I do.

Winner is Tea REX by Molly Idle

No preview available This blurb is from the SCBWI Bookstore.

Some tea parties are for grown-ups. Some are for girls. But this tea party is for a very special guest. And it is important to follow some rules . . . like providing comfortable chairs, and good conversation, and yummy food. But sometimes that is not enough for special guests, especially when their manners are more Cretaceous than gracious . . . Introducing Tea Rex, a guest that just about any child would love to have to tea!  

Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio)

45 Pounds (More or Less) by Kelly Barson
I long for the roof to cave in at Keehn’s department store. For a bomb threat. Or even a simple power outage. Anything to stop the torture of swimsuit shopping with my mother.

Boom! Boom! Boom! by Jamie A. Swenson, Illustrated by David Walker
One stormy night I jumped into bed.
Safe with a book and my bear named Red.
Flash! Crash! Boom! Boom! Boom!

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, Illustrated by Dan Santat 

The Lion is known throughout the animal kingdom as the “King of Beasts.”
The Great White Shark is the most feared predator in the ocean.
And the Timberwolf’s howl strikes terror into the hearts of fuzzy woodland creatures everywhere.

But even SAVAGE CARNIVORES get their feelings hurt.

Doggone Feet! Written and Illustrated by Leslie Helakoski

No preview available This blurb is from the SCBWI Bookstore

A dog's point of view from under the table about life with a growing family.

Here is the Book trailer.

Penguin Cha-Cha Written and Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

Julia was wild about everything at the Romping Chomping Park and Zoo, especially the shows. Every weekend she shimmied up a tall tree and watched the performance.


Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller
One bright fall day, Sophie chose a squash at the farmers' market.
Pat Zeitlow Miller kindly sent me the first line, but I'm leaving the SCBW Bookstore blurb in because I love the idea of this story and can't wait to read it.

Here's a story that celebrates the special love between a child and her favorite toy — only in this case it's a butternut squash! On a trip to the farmers' market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. From then on, Sophie brings Bernice everywhere, despite her parents' gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot. As winter nears, Sophie does start to notice changes ... What's a girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble?
This is Pat Zeitlow Miller's debut book.
Note: From Random House.The recipient of four starred reviews, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, Sophie's Squash will be a fresh addition to any collection of seasonal books.
More first line posts to follow.

Happy Writing!

You Might be interested in First Lines from the Crystal Kite -California, Hawaii and the West