Monday, May 31, 2010

Back from BEA!

This past week TEXAS SWEETHEARTS Jessica Lee Anderson and PJ Hoover were off to the Big Apple for BEA. Talk about a great time! You can view tons of pictures over on PJ's blog, and here's a fun video roundup we did of the whole event!

We have a special guest coming this Wednesday for our Featured Sweetheart, so be sure to check back!



Happy Monday!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Need some writing inspiration?

Happy Monday from The Texas Sweethearts! From a recent write-in at Spiderhouse Cafe, Texas Sweethearts PJ Hoover and Jessica Lee Anderson and special guest E. Kristin Anderson dish a bit on some food related writing thoughts.



Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

FEATURED SWEETHEART: Christina Hicks

The Texas Sweethearts are thrilled to annouce our Featured Sweethearts is librarian Christina Hicks. Christina is an active volunteer, and she is full of enthusiasm and passion when it comes to young adult literature.

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TXS: You stay busy as a librarian and volunteer, Christina. Could you tell us about your involvement in TLA, and what you're looking forward to?

CH: This was my second TLA conference (I got to attend last year and even brought about 10 teens on TT4L day!), but my first as a really active member of YART (Young Adult Round Table). I am one of the newest members of the Maverick Graphic Novel List Committee, so I was really looking forward to meeting the other members of our committee, especially after Wylaina gave us capes to wear!

Since TLA has come and gone, I’ll talk about the things I enjoyed rather than what I’m looking forward to, I always love meeting favorite authors- this year I got to meet Shannon Hale and my internet/YA author icon Maureen Johnson! I also loved all of the sessions I attended, especially author panels where authors share their process and inspirations. The Give a Kid a Book booktalking session was also great as were YART booklists booktalks.





 

TXS: What influenced you to become a librarian and what advice do you have for folks wishing to become librarians?
 
CH: I don’t think my decision to become a librarian shocked anyone. I’ve always been a reader, my best friend and I would share a book during recess in middle school, walking back to class slowly so we could read as much as possible- our teacher dubbed us the Laggers. On my 16th birthday I turned in my application to work at my local library and shelved my way through high school. And I’ve never looked back; I’ve never even held a job outside of a library! I love being surrounded by, not just books, but information. I think a big characteristic of librarians is that we thirst for knowledge; if a question comes up during the day I can’t rest until I find the answer. If a patron needs something I can’t help looking and looking until I find it. I also love sharing my interests with people, and since my biggest interest is books…. :)

My advice for those wishing to pursue a career as a librarian, especially if you are getting your Masters degree, is to have a strong support group! I completed my MLS online while working full time, and my coworkers, friends and family were definitely a great help!



TXS: How do you get teens excited about reading? What are some books they've been asking for?
 
CH: I’m lucky to work in an area that has a strong population of avid teen readers, but for those who are not big readers I’ve built up our graphic novel collection and tried to emphasize GNs as a legitimate literary vehicle that is just a good as a regular book. I usually have newer books sitting out at my desk when the junior high kids come in after school which puts it right in their eyeline while hanging out with me. By hanging out with them I’ve gotten pretty good at matching up their interests with possible books they’d like. And it’s always great to listen to their opinions on books they’ve already read whether they like them or not.

Books my kids can’t get enough of include the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Naruto and Bleach manga series, the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, Maximum Ride series by James Patterson. Basically any series worth its salt can generate a healthy following.



TXS: Could you share some of your most rewarding experiences?
 
CH: There are so so so many! Okay, this may sound a little geeky but I’m really proud I introduced the British television series Doctor Who to my kids--they love it! I also get really pumped when they rush into the library to tell me about their day at school. When tell I *must* read a certain book. When they race each other to the computer to put a book on hold. When a preschooler I do storytime for comes into the library and whispers to their parent (‘That’s the library lady!’). When I have to kick kids out of my programs. When a little girl asks for me by name to tell me about a dream she had about me. When the preschool classes I read to remember the books I read to them a month before and request even older ones again. Giving a kid a book that makes their eyes light up. Helping a frustrated parent.

Yeah, this is a pretty sweet job.


TXS: What is your hope for libraries and books in the future?
 
CH: My hope is that we can make it clear to lawmakers and naysayers that libraries are dynamic places within the community. If books move, in a permanent way, to different formats that we will be able to continue adapting to those changes. And that we will always be able to offer information, privacy, and a welcoming environment that is free for all. And I think we can do it.



TXS: Thank you, Christina! We are so happy to feature you!

*****

Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nervous about Public Speaking?

Happy Monday from The Texas Sweethearts! With so many author visits recently, PJ decided to share a little bit of insight on how far she's come when it comes to public speaking.



Thank you for your support!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Do the Write Thing for Nashville

There is an amazing auction going on right now:


There are tons of great things to bid on, and the proceeds from the auction will benefit the flood victims of Nashville, TN. So even if you think you don't need anything, why not at least head over and see all the great things people have offered up for auction.

In their own words:


On May 1st and 2nd, Nashville, Tennessee received a record amount of rain—nearly 13.5 inches.  

By May 3rd, huge portions of our city were under water, including the The Grand Ole Opry, Opryland, The Nashville Symphony Hall, the downtown area, and countless homes.  Families, many of whom did not have flood insurance, have lost everything.  One of the hydro plants is flooded, which means we’re running short on water.  Many lives have been extinguished and more bodies are being recovered each day. 


Our city is drowning. Will you help us?


We're auctioning off critiques, signed books, and more from authors, agents, editors, and other industry professionals.  This is an amazing opportunity to have successful professionals take a look at your work and help someone out at the same time. 


Thanks so much for visiting.  Please spread the word and tell your friends. We're donating here:  http://www.cfmt.org/floodrelief/


*****

And have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

FEATURED SWEETHEART: Jennifer Hubbard

The Texas Sweethearts are super excited to feature Jennifer Hubbard as our newest Featured Sweetheart! Aside from being an amazing author (THE SECRET YEAR), Jennifer is also the brains behind the Library Loving Blog Challenge!

Bio: 
Jennifer R. Hubbard lives and writes near Philadelphia. She is a night person who believes that mornings were meant to be slept through, a chocolate lover, and a hiker. She has written short fiction as well as the contemporary young-adult novel The Secret Year.
http://www.jenniferhubbard.com/
http://writerjenn.livejournal.com/
@JennRHubbard on Twitter


*****


TXS: The Library Loving Blog Challenge was a massive undertaking, and you organized it so well and garnished such support. Can you please tell us a little bit about what the Library Loving Blog Challenge is and what your goal for it is?

JH: For the challenge, a blogger pledges money to a local library for each commenter on a designated blog post. The more bloggers who get involved, the more libraries we help. The more comments people leave on each blog, the more money each blogger donates to the libraries.

The challenge has a couple of purposes: helping libraries, and raising awareness about how much libraries give to our communities and how much support they need. I also find it to be a lot of fun; it’s wonderful to visit the participating blogs and share this positive energy.


TXS: What inspired you to start the Library Loving Blog Challenge, and how has your vision changed since its inception?

JH: I started the challenge in the spring of 2009. Here’s how I got the idea: Sarah Cross was giving away a copy of Sarah MacLean's THE SEASON, using blog comments as entries. If she got at least 50 entries in the contest, she would start reading Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE for the first time (and if she got 100 entries, she would promise to finish it). There was the first part of my idea: a blog-comment challenge in which the number of comments directed the blogger to take action.

The second part of the idea—donating to libraries—came because I was concerned about the impact the economic downturn was having on libraries. There have been drastic funding cuts across the country. I thought: Why not open up a blog post in which I promise to donate money per comment to my local libraries? It seemed like fun—just think, you get to help buy books with other people's money! just by leaving a blog comment! I knew that if someone else did this, I would happily comment. I figured I would open up a blog post and raise maybe $20 or $50 for my local libraries.

Then I thought: Maybe there are other bloggers out there who would like to host the same challenge. If not, I was still planning to do my own challenge, no matter how big or small it turned out to be. But I did have about 20 other people join in, and we raised more than $1600. Several of them suggested we repeat the challenge this year, so I did, and we had about 50 bloggers who raised more than $5000. (I’m compiling the final numbers as we speak!)



TXS: What is the biggest surprise you've had since you started the Library Loving Blog Challenge?

JH: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people I’ve never met were willing to jump in and do this.

My agent, Nathan Bransford, hosted a blog challenge for Heifer International in December 2009, and I joined in on that as a participant. I found out that it was much easier to host one individual challenge than it is to organize the whole event! I definitely try to make that true for the library challenge as well: I do the emailing, I write templates for the blog posts, I write press-release-type messages for people who are willing to spread the word. And I hope the challengers who participate find it a fun experience and relatively simple. But I’m still very, very grateful that they are willing to jump in and do the posts and count up the totals and donate their own money. I’m grateful to the people who make the rounds and comment on all the blogs; that’s the energy that drives the bus. It makes the donors feel like we’re supporting something that’s essential to our quality of life.

It’s especially nice when commenters include their own stories of why they love libraries. I posted several of these special stories on my blog!


TXS: How do you think reading for kids has changed over the years. People talk so much about kids needing to share their attention with texting, TV, and video games. Is the challenge greater now for getting kids to read?

JH: I don’t know. When I was growing up, TV, video games, and outdoor activities competed for our attention, but I still fell in love with reading and pursued it passionately. I think that the experience of building a world in your head from reading text is something that many people just love. Some of us like to do our own casting and set design; we like to decide for ourselves how the characters sound. There’s something about the reading experience that you don’t get from any other medium.


TXS: If you could make a wish for kids and reading in the future, what would it be?

JH: I hope that the experience I described in my last answer is something that people continue to value. I hope that story-telling through written text survives, no matter what other bells and whistles become available. Human beings have always told stories and we probably always will, although the vehicles for those stories change. I think the best society would be one in which a variety of media are available: not video instead of text, not movies instead of books, not online games instead of sports, (or vice versa), but all of those choices coexisting.


TXS: Thank you, Jennifer! We are thrilled to feature you!

*****

Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How Writers can be Green

Happy Monday from The Texas Sweethearts! With the recent Earth Day and all the green growing things around us, here is Jessica Lee Anderson to give writers some suggestions on how they can help protect Mother Earth.



Thank you for your support!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guess that Sweetheart!

So here's our first shot at a brand new game:

GUESS THAT SWEETHEART


It's simple...we give you three hints. You guess which sweetheart we're talking about. Easy! So let's go!

Hint 1: This Sweetheart was born in Phoenix, Arizona.

Hint 2: She cut her hair like Jo March in LITTLE WOMEN

Hint 3: She had a turtle named Dribble because of TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING

So which Sweetheart are we talking about?

Jessica Lee Anderson
PJ Hoover
Jo Whittemore

And have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

FEATURED SWEETHEART: Alison James

The Texas Sweethearts couldn’t be more pleased to announce that Alison James is our newest Featured Sweetheart! She’s incredibly personable, creative, and generous with her time!

Bio:
Alison James started writing and translating books for children in 1990, when her novel, Sing for a Gentle Rain came out. She has lived all over the world, most recently in Taiwan. Along with Mary Lee Donovan, Alison started Kindling Words in 1992, expanded the Winter Weekend in Vermont retreat to a week retreat in Taos in June. This year she is involved in writing four books, ranging from a YA novel to a book of poems about the cultural history of America. Her irreverent creativity finds her experimenting with raw wool felting, baking, tarot card reading, channeling existential spirits, and painting henna tattoos, as well as leading Enchantment Camps, summer adventures for young wizards with her husband Joplin.

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TXS: You're an author, translator, plus the founder and director of Kindling Words--how do you make time for your adventures and everything that needs to get done? What is your schedule like?

AJ: Oh I long for a sensible schedule. It would go something like this:
  • 6am wake up, stretch, meditate
  • 7am do yoga, enthusiastic, heart-warming, body-strengthening yoga
  • 8am Eat breakfast, granola and yoghurt while appreciating the beauty of the morning with a cup of tea and the comics
  • 8:30 start writing
  • 10:30 break for some almonds and chocolates, and a refill on the tea
  • 12:30 stop writing, eat lunch, go for a walk
  • 1:30 Social networking, email, facebook…
  • 3:00 stop working and take care of other things – paint, sing, clean house, bake bread, go have coffee with friends…
But my actual, honest schedule is more like this:
  • 6:30 struggle to get out of bed, wake up my daughter, get some breakfast and get my daughter to practice her cello, check email and facebook, get more tea, think I really ought to write, but I have to check the Kindling Words Budget, Get my Taxes Done, Send Thank-You Notes (insert myriad other things that take priority over writing), get daughter to do other schoolwork while grabbing almonds, somehow it’s 1pm and still nothing done!
This gets worse on those days when I have to get my daughter somewhere during the day. It got so bad, I even asked for angelic help, but the answer I got was “you gotta do it yourself.” That means, I have to sit down and actually write. Before I do anything else. Then it is a real job. And on the days that I do that, I feel authentic, and can actually breathe and think clearly to do the other things.



TXS: Could you tell us about Kindling Words? What prompted you to start this winter retreat for children's book authors, editors, and illustrators?

AJ: Oh great. You get me to spill the private laundry about my personal schedule all over the place and THEN ask me to be professional?! LOL.

I got my Master’s Degree from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature back when it was a pure ‘literature’ degree. It was fantastically indulgent, digging into the best of the best of children’s books to discover why they were so good. I felt challenged many times a day.

When it was all over, there was a moment when I was with my best friend Mary Lee Donovan, and we were like – “How can we ever have this again?” We decided that we would start a retreat where we could come together at least once a year to be intellectually challenged in our field. Other careers have regular professional development workshops; we wanted one for children’s literature.

Kindling Words evolved over time to what it is now, but the thing that has been consistent and powerful is the commitment to the belief that we all are in this together. There is no podium of awe upon which we place the icons of our field. We understand what it is like to be admired, and we’d much rather be equally respected. If someone has a big ego running, and feels the need for constant praise, they would be out of place at KW. Instead, everyone who comes has something to add to the conversation because everyone is in some way or another on the same path.

It’s particularly nice that children’s book editors can have these closed-door sessions where they feel safe to discuss those things that keep them up at night, from changes in the business structure to how to handle particularly tricky edits. And all of us, authors, illustrators, and editors, get together in the evenings and laugh, or sing, or tell stories until long after we should be asleep.

When KW got too crazily popular at the winter session, we decided to do a week-long retreat in Taos in June. Now that has taken on a life of its own. How incredible it is to sit in such beauty for an entire week, writing all day long and laughing (sometimes crying) with such close friends every night. When I think about it, West is when I am guaranteed to have my ideal schedule, only with double the writing time, for an entire week. ^_^


TXS: What have you gained from this experience?

AJ: Honestly? Everything. I have so many friends, so many beloved friends from Kindling Words. Year after year I see people, how their careers evolve, how they go from being a total newbie to winning the biggest award in the business (Go Rebecca!!) Or how they go from having one fantastically amazing book and the next one is not even accepted. It’s all there; it’s all part of the path. So being at KW makes me realize that my experience, though absurdly dramatic in isolation, is just par normal for the field. KW is my community, virtually all year long, and an actual, physical reality twice a year. I love it!


TXS: You've been writing for a long time--what keeps your imagination sparked?

AJ: I guess everyone has the things that cross wires in their head and make them ignite. For me, it is cultures, when someone has their assumptions stretched, and magic – where the limits to physical reality are stretched.

My first book was a time-travel in the southwest (because I wanted to challenge the notion that all good time-travel fiction had to be set in England where there was time to travel back to. We’ve got time too, I thought, just not Euro-Caucasian time.) My second book, Runa, still dealt with the echoes of archaic time on modern life, when a girl goes to Sweden and is involved in her ancestor’s sacrificial rites. My most successful book was a picture-book, The Drums of Noto Hanto, was about non-violent resistance in Japan. But my WIP is set in an alternate world, where I am able to do a lot more actual magic while having the feel of the book stay realistic.


TXS: Also, could you tell us about your experience translating children's books?

AJ: I’ve translated a lot of picture-books, over 150, including the wildly popular (if not wildly admired as literature) Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. I write in English, and speak a number of other languages badly. It is my ability to really see the heart of a book and re-imagine it in English that makes translation both fun and successful for me.

I’ve come to think of a book, not as a piece of artistic property owned by its author, but more like a pet, or even a child. The book is an energetic being that has its own story to tell, and that story can be told in various ways so it is best heard in a different culture.

So when you hear about a ‘lousy translation’ to me, that usually means that the translator was too careful to be close to the literal meaning of the book, and lost the spirit of the story in the attempt. Translations that are vibrant and alive – look at what Anthea Bell did with Cornelia Funke’s books! Those translations are true to the life of the book more than the printed word.

A perfect example are the translations of the poetry of Haifiz, a Sufi mystic, by Danial Ladinsky, who himself spent six years in a spiritual community in India. I can’t read the original Persian, but I’m sure Ladinsky has tapped into the soul of the poetry rather than the ink of the author.




TXS: Do you have any advice for children's book professionals to keep their creative energies fueled?

AJ: This morning, I was saying to my daughter, who is on a creative path as well, that if she is going to put this amount of time into practicing her cello, it is really good for her to get praise now and then. It’s nice when she can amaze a friend because she is so good. Because without that, the hours and hours, day after day, of working on etudes and getting the intonation just exactly right would be disheartening, and it would be easy to give up.

Same for me. I’m a little more mature, 48 instead of 13, but every once in a while, I need someone to say I’m amazing. If I have an editor and an agent, and I’m doing a book or so each year, I’m getting that feedback from the publishing industry and from readers. But if I don’t have that relationship established, I really need to hear it from people I trust and respect that I’m not wandering down the path of delusion.

I just heard a Frank Lloyd Wright quote that made me laugh: “ Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change.” I think that in this job of writing books, we need a good dose of honest arrogance, and a huge dose of humility. We’re doing divine work, the art of creation, but we are not divine. We have to believe that what we do is vital, or we’d never get that bic to write the wip. But when we start taking our work as precious and untouchable, we lose the connection to the soul of the work.

I love having more to learn. I love needing to work. I don’t even mind ditching an entire draft and starting from scratch. I just have to know it’s worth it. I want someone to tell me they can’t wait to read the next book, and it’s a bonus if that someone is a person I deeply respect.

So my advice is surround yourself in community – virtual or actual. Have a regular person or group to be responsible to: to give and receive responses. I’ll never really be good enough to write the way I dream of writing, but if I can make someone question an assumption, or feel validated, or experience a burst of joy, then I know I’m at least doing the right job.


TXS: Thank you, Alison! We are so happy to feature you!

*****

Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Looking Toward the Future—May 2010

Happy Monday from The Texas Sweethearts! We're excited it's the beginning of May!
Here in Austin, everything looks green, and the days are getting hot. And if you're curious what the three of us are looking forward to in the upcoming month, watch to find out!



Thank you for your support!