Sunday, January 23, 2011

Michael L. Printz Award Winners Announced

Looking for a good book? Look no further -- the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award Winners have been announced! This award was first given in 2000 and recognizes "literary excellence in young adult literature." It is named to honor Michael L. Printz, a school librarian from Topeka, Kansas who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association.

This year's winner is Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Near a drowned New Orleans ravaged by hurricanes and global warming, Nailer and his young crew eke out a meager existence by scavenging materials on the ship-littered coast.

“This taut, suspenseful novel is a relentless adventure story featuring nuanced characters in thought-provoking conflicts. Bacigalupi artfully intertwines themes of loyalty, family, friendship, trust and love.” -- Printz Award Committee Chair Erin Downey Howerton.

Four Printz Honor Books were also named:

Stolen by Lucy Christopher 

The rugged Australian outback becomes Gemma’s prison after she is drugged and abducted by a handsome, obsessed stranger in a first novel filled with searing imagery and archetypal characters.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Vera Dietz wants to be ignored, but the ghost of her ex-best friend won’t leave her alone in this dark comedy that examines relationships, identity, grief and flowcharts.

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

In Sedgwick’s grim, chilling story set in the Arctic Circle, Sig finds his father’s frozen corpse as human predator Wolff arrives seeking retribution and a hidden Gold Rush treasure.

Nothing by Janne Teller

Pierre Anthon’s nihilism causes his classmates to begin a search for life’s meaning in this bold, unsettling parable translated from Danish. 

Learn more at:

You can order the books here:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with YA Author Evelyn Krieger

Evelyn Krieger, the oldest of six children, grew up in Detroit, Michigan. As a child, she entertained her friends with imaginative stories and dance performances. In fact, she says, the inspiration for her first poem came in the middle of the night when she was just eight years old. Evelyn has been writing ever since, and her essays and stories have won numerous awards. After studying ballet seriously, and earning her master's degree from Harvard, Evelyn worked as a reading teacher and private tutor. Today, she is a writer, learning specialist, and a homeschooling mom. Evelyn lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children. She was kind enough to drop by the blog today to answer some questions about her new novel from YM Publishing, One is Not a Lonely Number, which recently won a Sydney Taylor Honor Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries. Congrats, Evelyn!

What was your inspiration for One Is Not A Lonely Number?

I've worked as a teacher for many years, both in the classroom and privately. I watched so many kids struggle with math that it got me wondering about the best way to help kids not only get it but like it. I wanted my main character to have a friendly and interesting relationship to numbers. I am also the eldest of six kids, so I sometimes wondered what it would be like to be an only child, like Talia, the book's narrator. The story really unfolded from my imagination, though I did draw things from my life such as dance, Jewish culture, and an adopted Chinese girl (my beautiful niece.)

How did you first get started writing?

As a young child, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep. So I'd lay there making up stories and poems. Eventually I started writing them down and sharing them with my parents and friends. My mother is a natural storyteller and I think I inherited that gene. I told the best ghost stories at sleepover parties. My mother wrote poetry and articles for newspapers. That was my introduction to writing as a business. Today, I still have trouble sleeping and often get my best ideas in the middle of the night.

How do you balance everything in your life?

I am a juggler. I always have about five balls in the air and this makes life both interesting and a bit chaotic. For example, I homeschool my seventh-grade daughter, work part-time as a reading specialist, teach a weekly adult ballet class, help my teen daughter manage her magazine business, in addition to writing. Whew! I always have been a person who does too much, but I never know what I can cut out. Writing is my passion, though, and I hope to bring that in the forefront of my life.

What is your writing process like? Do you write on a computer? In a spiral notebook? Do you draw illustrations?

I can no longer write in a notebook, although I love to buy pretty ones for brainstorming and list making. My hands can't keep up with my thoughts, so a computer is a must. (I type very fast.) I love my laptop. Once I have an idea, I let it roam around in my mind. I begin to hear snippets of dialogue. I can actually write parts of the story in my head. Sometimes, it even feels like I'm in a trance! (This probably explains why I often miss exits while driving on highways.) Once I start writing, I have to force myself to let the story unfold. Since I get frustrated when something doesn't sound right and I start rewriting. I think it's really essential to allow yourself to create a messy, imperfect first draft, even though I don't always practice that. I like to let my first draft sit for a few days and then I come back to it with fresh eyes. I do several rewrites, even many months later on stories or essays I thought were finished.

I used to need a lot of quiet to write, but more recently I find I work better sitting in Barnes & Nobles or a coffee shop. I write Sunday afternoons, some evenings, and during my daughter Audrey's ballet lessons.

I read that you have had years of serious ballet study. How have other art forms, such as dance, influenced your writing?

I used to be a very shy child. That's why my mother first enrolled me in ballet. Turns out, I had a natural talent and I grew to love it. Ballet study develops discipline which is essential to being a writer. It isn't enough to just want to be a writer, you have to put the time in. You have to show up at your writing space and get to work. My mother was a singer and gifted pianist. I grew up with all types of music playing in the house -- gypsy songs, Broadway, classical. I also studied piano, which like dance and writing, takes regular practice for you to get good at it. I am very affected by music. I sometimes use it to evoke a certain mood in my writing. When I was working on One Is Not A Lonely Number, I had a particular song that I listened to during a pivotal scene. Dance and music are woven into the book's plot.

What did you learn from writing One Is Not A Lonely Number?

I learned that I had the ability to actually finish a novel! When you have three unfinished novels on your computer, you get discouraged. For some reason, I found writing for young people more freeing. I took it chapter by chapter, without letting myself get overwhelmed by the idea of writing a WHOLE book.

What are you working on now?

I'm a big contest fan. I like entering writing competitions because they give me a specific goal to work towards... and a deadline! I also love a challenge. When I am not busy promoting One Is Not A Lonely Number, I am working on essays and short story contests, and pitching article ideas to magazines. However, I will reveal, and your blog will be the first to know, that I have a new novel growing in my head -- a contemporary story for adults. I'm very excited by the idea, but also frustrated because I really don't have the time to pursue it right now. I'm sure looking forward to the summer when I can let the characters out to play.

Thank you so much for sharing the news about your next novel -- how exciting! What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?

Write them down. Something powerful happens when you commit your dreams to paper. Then, list steps that you need to take to make them come true. Review your dreams on your birthday each year.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?

I'd love to hear from readers! Are you an Only? A dancer? A "mathlete"? Write to me. Please check out the publisher's website for an excerpt, reviews, and more. My very talented teen daughter created it.

Below is the book trailer for One is Not a Lonely Number:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sticking With Your New Year's Goals

So it's two weeks into a glorious new year. How is 2011 going for you so far? How are those new year's goals and resolutions holding up?

To really make a new habit stick, I've heard that you need to do it consistently for three weeks, and then it much more likely to be a permanent part of your routine.

But, as we all know, new habits set with the best of intentions can be difficult to stick to. Especially in the hectic weeks of a new year after coming back from a holiday break. Especially in the frigid January snow. Especially when there are so many other, important things clamoring for your attention.

I'm a big believer in daily goals, and I'm also a big believer in baby steps. Break down something that seems huge into small steps you can take every day. Just do a little bit every day. Consistently. Baby steps add up to huge accomplishments.

Here's a motivation tool I found, courtesy of the wonderful positive-news site Gimundo, that has been helping me with my goal of writing a certain number of words every day: Joe's Goals. It's supposedly inspired by a motivation concept of Jerry Seinfeld, with the simple idea: Don't break the chain. You enter a goal you want to do consistently -- every day, three times a week, etc -- and it is marked down on this calendar for you. Every day, if you do the goal, you get to check it off. Your checks soon become a chain of happy green check marks, and the last thing you want to do is "break the chain" and have to start all over again! It sounds simple, but it has really helped me stay on top of my writing goal so far.

Case in point: last night, I got home late, and I hadn't written enough yet for my word count goal, so I plunked down in front of my computer and wrote some before I went to bed. All so I could truthfully have that little green check mark. If not for that website, I very likely would have thought, I'll just write more tomorrow. But, as my role model Coach Wooden used to say, "You can't do anything about yesterday, and the only way to improve tomorrow is by what you do right now. We kid ourselves: 'I'll buckle down tomorrow and work twice as hard.' No. If you can work twice as hard tomorrow, it means you're holding something back today. I want 100% today. And tomorrow."

Of course, it requires that you be honest with yourself, but I think that is a requirement no matter how you are going after your goals.

Good luck! I'm rooting for you!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Guest Post by Mark Davies

3 Ways to Fall in Love With Your Writing

I’m one of those people who stumbled into the writing business serendipitously, so when people ask me for tips and pointers on how to write, I’m stumped. In my book, writing is a skill that you either have or don’t, just like painting, drawing and other creative arts. However, if you have the basic skills, it’s easy enough to learn how to hone your writing and make it better.

Do you need a little help to fine-tune your style and iron out the creases in your writing? Here are some tips to help you truly fall in love with your writing:

Continue to write. The best way to become a better writer is to keep at it; the more you write, the more you develop as a writer. I look at what I’ve written a few years ago, and I find myself poking holes in my style, finding fault with my flow, and picking out mistakes that my eyes did not see when I was writing them. I realized that one way to grow as a writer is to keep writing, about the things that you’re really passionate about and about any topic that takes your fancy. Writing does not have to be novel-length or even article-length; even a few paragraphs are enough if you do it on a consistent basis.

Read as much as you can. I was and still am a voracious reader; books are my best friends, and I’m never seen without one. When old friends learn that I write for a living, they’re not surprised – they say that it’s an apt profession for me considering how much of a bookworm I was growing up. So if you want to become a better writer, read as much as you can -- different genres, different authors, and different styles. You’ll soon find that you develop a style of your own, one that is a blend of all that you’ve read, but which is unique to you.

Pay attention to spelling and grammar. Most people don’t think too much about spelling and grammar as long as they’re able to think creatively and put down their thoughts on paper. However, when you read copy that’s riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes, you tend to get immediately turned off. So work on polishing your spelling and grammar skills, and don’t depend too much on spellcheckers to see you through – they only alert you if a spelling is completely wrong, not when you’ve misspelled a word and ended up with another word that is correct, but out of context in your writing. For example, if you mean to write “tear” and instead type out “bear,” your spellchecker is going to completely miss catching the error. So go over your copy with a fine-tooth comb, and if you find that spelling and grammar are not your strong points, work on brushing up your skills or find a good editor to polish your copy and make it presentable.

Good writing is all about appealing to the reader and holding their attention from the first word till the last. If you want readers to fall in love with your writing, first of all you should fall in love with it!

By-line: This guest post is contributed by Mark Davies, who writes on the topic of Masters Degree Online. He welcomes your comments at his email:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holiday Book Drive a Great Success!!

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." – Garrison Keillor

Even in the midst of these difficult financial times, generous individuals responded to our call for books with enthusiasm and compassion. The final donation tally for 2010 was 623 new books, bringing our grand total to nearly 12,000 books! In Ventura, these beautiful new books were distributed to children through the Boys & Girls Clubs on Johnson and Olive streets and Casa Pacifica.

Special thanks to Linda Brug at Ventura High School, Lynne & Clyde Hoffland at Cabrillo Middle School, Rima Muna, Shiela Strayer, Raeanne Alliapoulos, and Positive Imaging publishing company for their donations of beautiful new books.

There is a common adage: "Life is an echo. What you send out, you get back." For the ninth year in a row, we made a big difference by sending out comfort, compassion and hope to underprivileged children. Each new book donated is a seed of learning that helps brighten a life. Indeed, together we changed many lives this holiday season — lives that, I have no doubt, will in turn send out beautiful echoes to others.

 Books loaded in the back of my car, on their way to excited, grateful kids!