the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog

J. L. Powers and BROKEN CIRCLE!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Dec 05, 2017 @ 08:12 AM

Today, our souls are prepared to talk with J. L. Powers about Broken Circle, her new YA fantasy, out now from Akashic Books!

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Adam wants nothing more than to be a “normal” teen. But: His mother died when he was only four. His father is an assassin, a voodoo god, the reincarnation of Buddha—or something even stranger. And his grandfather insists that people are out to kill the entire family.

But maybe Grandpa’s not all that nuts. You see, Adam is set to collide with a world that hovers between life and death, where entities charged with shepherding souls of the newly dead compete to control lucrative territories known as Limbo.

“Adam can’t even grow a man beard yet, but he can do something his friends can’t do—go to Limbo and back. Prepare to root for him as he makes new friends, discovers who he is, and saves a few souls in the process. This is a fast-paced, page-turning story!” —Skila Brown, author of Caminar

“With a perfect balance of real-world and mythical, Adam’s story explores life, death, and everything in between. Anyone looking for a thoughtful take on life’s big questions will find it here, paired with fresh details, a fast-moving story, and bold world building.” —Amy Rose Capetta, author of Entangled

Welcome, J. L. Powers! So, tell us . . .

What was the spark that ignited this book?

I co-wrote this book with my brother. He called me up from Maine one day, which he was visiting with his wife, a pediatrician, who was interviewing for a job. He said, “I was sitting here at a coffee shop, thinking about death.” (My family is sort of weird, we do things like this.) “And I started thinking what if you had a kid who thinks he’s just living a normal life, and his father’s been keeping it secret all these years that he’s actually the Grim Reaper? Want to write this book?”

You betcha I did.

My brother and I grew up in a religious family, and we were confronted with the question of our eternal souls—where we were going after we die?—at a very young age. Like, two years old young! Death is something I’ve always thought about—I don’t know how to NOT think about it—and it’s interesting to me that it’s a topic we avoid talking about in western society, until we have to. And we have all sorts of euphemisms to avoid talking about it. I was reading somebody’s facebook post just the other day, and his partner is facing a terminal illness, and he was so angry that the doctor skirted the question and didn’t outright tell him, “Look, spend every waking moment you can with your loved one because you are nearing the end.” We are so scared of death—and yet it’s something we ALL do! Wouldn’t it be nice to be better prepared and to understand it as a normal part of life, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist until it does….? To not be afraid? Yes, it is an unknown, and we become attached to our lives here, and we all fear the possible nothingness. But since everybody dies, perhaps we should begin to see it as a natural process—and prepare ourselves better for it.

So our book is sort of funny, sort of creepy, and sort of philosophical. And I never would have written this exact book, which is the start of a series, without my brother.

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You have set a high bar for author pic fashion!

Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Do you have an agent? Were there a lot of revisions along the way?

I do have an agent and she is a lovely person and somebody I’m very grateful to for the partner she’s been all these years. But actually, she did not sell this book. Somewhere in the process of writing and revising, I came to realize that perhaps this particular book wasn’t her “cup of tea.” There’s nothing wrong with that because it isn’t the same kind of book I’ve ever written, in fact, it’s distinctly different from anything I’ve done before. But I felt like perhaps I should be in charge of selling this one myself.

In addition, in the last number of years, I’ve become outspoken about my love for independent presses and my dedication to supporting them. I work for Cinco Puntos Press, one of the most important publishing companies out there if you care about “diverse” books, and this past year, I launched my own publishing company, Catalyst Press, and I’m publishing African writers and African-based literature. In fact, I’m politicized on this issue. Authors of all kinds need to support the critical and important work done by independent presses. So I sort of knew I wanted to direct this book towards an independent press. Cinco Puntos and Akashic are friends and allies, and it was very natural for me to see if Akashic wanted to publish this book. I couldn’t be prouder that they did!

What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

Sara Zarr once told me that she re-types her manuscripts when she revises them. That has turned out to be brilliant advice. When you start off with a blank page, none of the words seem sacred. Everything is up for grabs. You cease to be afraid of changing things, and even vast, complicated revisions don’t seem as complicated when you aren’t cutting and pasting etc but rather re-typing. It might seem daunting to many, but fortunately, I’m a very fast typer…

What was it like watching the cover come together?

Akashic Books really works with their authors to create a cover that makes everybody happy. I’ve been published by many publishers, and the small independent publishers have been much more accommodating in this regard. For this one, Akashic asked us for our ideas on the cover.

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What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?

My brother and I actually suggested cuddly throw pillows, manifesting your favorite personification of death. But maybe most people don’t want to sleep with the Grim Reaper tucked under their head….

Ha! I would totally buy one.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?

Since I only went for two semesters before I had a baby and that sort of derailed my MFA at Vermont (I already had an MFA in writing from the University of Texas-El Paso, so I didn’t feel the need to complete the degree), I had just two advisors—Alan Cumyn and Sarah Ellis. Both of them are such lovely people with kind and generous spirits, and I’m grateful for both. Although I didn’t work with them, I also really enjoyed creating relationships with Tim Wynne Jones, Kathi Appelt, and Cynthia Leitich-Smith, among others. I did the picture book seminar with Sarah Ellis and that really stretched me. I had never spent a lot of time reading picture books before that, and I didn’t yet have my own child. (I do now and I “get” the picture book genre like never before!)

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

“Favorite” might be stretching it a bit but my goodness, the food offered in the dorm could be—let’s just say “interesting”! And when I was pregnant, it was doubly interesting. Sometimes offerings were amazing and other times completely inedible.

Mirroring our own amazing/indedible offerings, ha ha. What was special about your VCFA graduating class?

I was part of the Keepers of the Dancing Stars class. I’m sure everybody feels like their class is special, and I certainly can’t deny that they all are—but my class was extremely warm-hearted and supportive, and as we say, “keepers for life.”

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

I teach college writing and creative writing and the two semesters I was at Vermont, I was teaching online classes while there. I didn’t have a choice as the semesters overlapped. But it was extremely difficult to work (particularly in the summer, when I was getting roughly 60-70 new essays every other day) and do the program. I know I didn’t get to attend as many lectures as would have been nice, or participate fully in campus life while there. I’m not the only student who has faced these kinds of issues. I saw other students come with their families and rent a house, etc, and I know they, too, didn’t get to participate fully in campus life. If you can leave behind work and family obligations while you’re there, that really, truly is best. You’ll be able to take advantage of everything you can while there….

Thanks so much for stopping by, J. L. Powers! Welcome to the mortal realm, Broken Circle!

Jessica author photo small.jpgJ.L. Powers is the award-winning author of three young adult novels, The Confessional, This Thing Called the Future, and Amina. She is also the editor of two collections of essays and author of a picture book, Colors of the Wind, the story of blind artist and champion runner George Mendoza. She works as an editor/publicist for Cinco Puntos Press, and is founder and editor of the online blog The Pirate Tree: Social Justice and Children’s Literature. She teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Skyline College in California’s Bay Area, and she served as a jurist for the 2014 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.

Visit her online at www.jlpowers.net and www.powerssquared.com.

Topics: young adult, 2017 release, JL Powers, Akashic Books, fantasy

Mary E. Lambert and FAMILY GAME NIGHT AND OTHER CATASTROPHES!

Posted by Adi Rule on Thu, Nov 09, 2017 @ 08:11 AM

We're thrilled that Mary E. Lambert's middle grade novel Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes is out now from Scholastic. She stopped by to give us the scoop!

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Annabelle has a secret…a secret so big she won't allow friends within five miles of her home. Her mom collects things. Their house is overflowing with stuff. It gives Annabelle's sister nightmares, her brother spends as much time as he can at friends' houses, and her dad buries himself in his work.

So when a stack of newspapers falls on Annabelle's sister, it sparks a catastrophic fight between their parents—one that might tear them all apart—and Annabelle starts to think that things at home finally need to change.

Is it possible for her to clean up the family's mess? Or are they really, truly broken?

Welcome, Mary! Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Do you have an agent?

After graduation, one of my VCFA classmates, Linda Camacho, became an agent. She read my creative thesis, which was a contemporary middle grade novel, and offered to represent me. Linda put my manuscript into the hands of an editor at Scholastic. A few weeks later, I was teaching an eighth grade class when my cell phone rang. Usually, I silence my phone, but when I saw it was my agent, I answered it. Linda was calling to let me know that my book had sold! I started dancing, and so, of course, I had to explain to my students what was going on. They burst into applause when they heard my news.

Love these pics of your launch party!

Launch Party 1.jpgWhat nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

Finish a project.

Like many writers, I always have new ideas. New ideas are fresh and exciting and seem much better than whatever old idea I have in front of me. Other than attending VCFA, the best thing I ever did as a writer was forcing myself to complete a manuscript. I learned so much from the process of writing an entire novel from start to finish.

Launch Party 2.jpgWhat’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

I wish I kept a record of this. I've Googled so many bizarre things for my writing. A few of the stranger things I've Googled include…

What color is spider blood?

What to do if a bear attacks you?

What does it feel like to get shot?

How to shoplift?

Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does a family member read your early drafts?

VCFA provided me with such a wonderful community of writers. It was the first time I felt I really had permission to take myself seriously as an author.

Since graduation, I have found a great group of middle grade and young adult writers in the Phoenix area. They have formed a truly supportive community of like-minded authors who promote and encourage one another.

I am also in a small critique group called The Charglings. We read one another's first drafts and give feedback. In addition to their valuable insight, meeting with The Charglings helps me stay productive. We meet every other week, which means I need to have fresh pages for them at least that often.

Launch Party 3.jpgWho were your advisors at VCFA?

I had such a fantastic experience with every single one of my advisors! I worked with Tom Birdseye my first semester, and he taught me to look for humor in my writing. Next I was paired with Shelley Tanaka who helped me gain confidence as a writer and taught me the questions I should ask myself about a work-in-progress. Martine Leavitt was my third semester advisor, and she taught me to really explore my characters' inner-lives and emotional development. In my final semester, my advisor was Sarah Ellis. She showed me how to revise, which is something I really struggled with before working with her.

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

One of my favorite VCFA memories is when the Allies in Wonderland revealed our class name. My classmates turned our name reveal into a choreographed, interpretive dance, which corresponded to a video. We had elaborate costumes, and I had a ton of fun that day!

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

Attending VCFA is a huge commitment in terms of money, time, and emotion. For me, it was worth every bit of it. I loved the residencies, the lectures, the friendships, and the walks into town. My advisors were amazing. I learned and grew as a writer, and so much of my success is because of my decision to attend this school.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Welcome to the world, Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes!

Author Photo.jpgWhen Mary E. Lambert was eight years old, her grandma told her that she should be a writer. Mary said, “No.” She thought she’d rather be a teacher. Mary started teaching middle school in 2006, but not long after that, she realized there was no avoiding one of her grandmother’s pronouncements. So she started writing novels. Mary lives in Tempe, Arizona where she spends her days explaining to students that five paragraph essays really do have five paragraphs. Most evenings she can be found writing in local coffee shops and consuming truly lamentable quantities of caffeine.

Mary is a member of the class of summer 2014, Allies in Wonderland. Visit her online at maryelambert.com, and find her on Twitter @MaryUncontrary.

Topics: Scholastic, middle grade, 2017 release, Mary E. Lambert

Jane Kurtz and PLANET JUPITER!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Nov 07, 2017 @ 07:11 AM

We're delighted that this orbit around the sun has brought a new middle grade novel from Jane Kurtz. It's Planet Jupiter!

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Everything has gone all wobbly for Jupiter. She comes from a spirited, loving family of buskers—musicians who move from place to place and make a living playing on street corners and at fairs—and she revels in her wandering life. But now her mother has rented an actual house (Jupiter prefers to live in their van) and she is pretty sure that her brother is deserting the family and their musical act just like her dad, the Prince of Adventure, did a while ago. To top it off, some cousin from Ethiopia who Jupiter never even knew existed is coming to live with them, and Jupiter is in charge of watching her. Seriously? Not fair!

Jupiter is not in the mood to appreciate her new house, hew new neighborhood, the bees and bridges of Portland, or her newly discovered cousin. How will she get back on the road, rid herself of the wobbles, and orbit the sun happily once again? Clearly what Jupiter needs is a Grand Plan…

Welcome, Jane Kurtz! So, tell us . . .

What was the spark that ignited this book?

I was listening to an NPR program about young musicians when I heard an interview with a girl who was the spark for Jupiter—living an alternative kind of life centered around music and street performances. Although I didn’t grow up as a busker, I do sing with my sisters every week. And I first moved (from Portland to Ethiopia) when I was two years old. And I did recently discover soil and bees and bugs in a whole new way in Portland. So I immediately connected with the love of adventure/traveling vs. the pull to cultivate roots in a specific place.

Photo: Cousins in Jane's family meeting for the first time.

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What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?

I keep trying to write a simple plot line, so I re-read middle grade such as Because of Winn Dixie and Liar and Spy to see how other people do it. I love Sarah Plain and Tall for its lyrical sentences and character emotions that are not spelled out but vivid (and moving) on the page.

What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

I’m constantly learning new craft skills. When I was revising Planet Jupiter, it was the concept of microtension (including the book The Fire in Fiction) that handed out some great advice about how to make the reader uneasy and curious.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

How (and why) to eat a bug.

What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?

A cute and compelling guide to saving the bees and a mini cookbook about eating bugs.

Photo: Oxalis from Jane's Backyard Habitat, where she learns about roots and soil.

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How does teaching at VCFA affect your writing life?

I learn so much about the craft of writing fiction and creative nonfiction every single bingle residency. At this point, I like to have some work in progress open on my computer and force myself to practice—on the page—one thing I’m hearing from each lecture. Otherwise it’s too easy to nod and say “uh-huh, uh-huh” without actually getting the insight from my brain through my fingers and into my work.

Great idea! What is your favorite VCFA memory?

While I was part of the Bath, England residency, I was doing a final big revision of Planet Jupiter. The work we did together to mine our innards and our outer world added some details to my manuscript in a compelling and fresh way. I have a powerful memory of the day we all gathered something from outside—and created poems in invented language to describe them. Wow! What a blast of a sensory experience!

Bonus Bath pic: Here are Cate Berry, Jane Kurtz, and Margaret Mayo McGlynn. Jane says the three of them used to sing in 3-part harmony at residencies! It helped set the stage when she read from WIP Planet Jupiter.

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What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

The first time I had an intensive workshop with a published author, I read everything I could get my hands on that she had written, so that I could ask her specific questions about craft decisions in her picture books and novels. I’m always surprised that more VCFA students don’t take advantage of residency time to learn from their fellow writers who are faculty but still trying daily to solve craft problems in our own work.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Welcome to the universe, Planet Jupiter!

Jane Kurtz has taught at VCFA MFA in Children’s and YA Literature since 2006. She was born in Portland, Oregon, but grew up in Ethiopia and has written about the joy and pain of cultural connections in many different ways. She also helped start the nonprofit Ethiopia Reads and is using her volunteer time to develop local language ready-to-read books for Ethiopia—when she’s not teaching, writing, and cultivating her Backyard Habitat.

Visit Jane online at www.janekurtz.com and at janekurtz.wordpress.com. Learn about Jane and her sister Caroline's Open Hearts Big Dreams book project at http://openheartsbigdreams.org/book-project/.

Topics: middle grade, HarperCollins, Greenwillow, 2017 release, Jane Kurtz

April Pulley Sayre and FULL OF FALL!

Posted by Adi Rule on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 @ 07:10 AM

Pour yourself a mug of cocoa and slip on your woolly socks. We're celebrating the release of April Pulley Sayre's latest picture book, Full of Fall (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster)!

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So long summer, Fall is here . . .

Welcome, April Pulley Sayre!
 
What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?
Fall is such a beautiful season that it was very hard to choose which photos to use. As always with these books, there were many photos I loved as a photographer but which did not serve the trajectory of the book and design. As with writing, in photo illustration you have to set aside your ego and do what is best for the book.
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What's your writing superpower?
My writing superpower is flexible thinking in terms of wordplay.  For some reason I’m unusually good at coming up with titles and poetic and alliterative language. I think it’s like a muscle, though, and improves with use. Despite my early signs of talent in this area, it also helps that I just goof around and have done this work for over twenty years.
 
What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?
I’ve now photo illustrated nine of my books with photos so I’m deeply involved in the illustrations from the start. It’s an exciting process and yet has an intense amount of struggle and stress at points, handling the competing demands of text and illustration. The advantage is that because I am responsible for both sides of the book, I can decide  to chuck words or illustrations at any point when the book is not flowing well. All this occurs without bothering another person. Only my writing ego or professional photographer ego is bruised. Still ouchy, though, to discard words and photos I love! But then, when you feel it all come together with better pacing, it is worth it.
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How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?
Attending VCFA took me from being a very isolated full time writer to being more a member of the writing community. It connected me with colleagues who are still my friends to this day. They have supported me through many decisions and pathways both in the career and in life itself. VCFA is so valuable in support of career and quality of life as an artist/writer. VCFA stretches you in the best way possible.
 
What’s next in your career? 
Well, it’s been a wildly busy year in terms of book production for my 2019 photo books, Warbler Wave and Thank You, Earth. My husband and I traveled 5,500 miles to CA and back to photograph landmarks and wildflower bloom for these and other upcoming books.  And I’ve been stepping outside the usual with some books that mix nonfiction text with fiction illustration, such as my 2019 book Did You Burp: How to Ask Questions (Or Not). Between this work, and conference talk travel, this career keeps me on my toes.
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Thanks so much for stopping by the Launchpad, April. Welcome to the world, Full of Fall!
Visit April Pulley Sayre online at www.aprilsayre.com and at her Simon & Schuster page.

Topics: nonfiction, picture book, Simon & Schuster, Beach Lane Books, 2017 release, April Pulley Sayre

Lynda Graham-Barber and COOKIE'S FORTUNE!

Posted by Adi Rule on Mon, Oct 23, 2017 @ 09:10 AM
We're paws-itively thrilled to celebrate the launch of Lynda Graham-Barber's new picture book, Cookie's Fortune, illustrated by Nancy Lane and out now from The Gryphon Press!
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In Cookie’s Fortune, lyrical language and expressive illustrations bring to life the heartwarming story of a small stray dog who simply wants to find a place that smells "like home." Young animal lovers will be on the edge of their seats until they experience Cookie’s ultimate good fortune. And families will feel educated and empowered to take concrete steps that bring hope to the lives of the many other homeless "Cookies" who wander our streets.
 
Welcome, Lynda!
What was the spark that ignited this book?
Observing the resilience and fortitude of a dog near death and asking myself, How did it happen? Every dog story deserves a happy ending.
Thanks for sharing these amazing before and after pictures of the dog who inspired it all: 1) The little dog with a big mange problem who Lynda and her husband found in a Brooklyn subway. 2) Lynda and her husband with the same dog, complete with a new name -- Metro! -- and a new lease on life.
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What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?
Invest in a microscope and a good pair of scissors.
What’s your writing superpower?
Our 160 acres of woods—and the pond, where skinny dipping provokes thought, especially when the kingfisher rattles and the great blue surprises in silence.
Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.
A quote:  I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  -- G.K. Chesterton
Who were your advisors at VCFA?
M. T. Anderson, Julie Larios, Shelley Tanaka
How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?
It made me realize that being clever or nimble with language does not a writer make.
What is your favorite VCFA memory?
Dancing with a stationary column during a party our class threw for those graduating and getting a hug from Julie Larios when I needed it most.
What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?
Keep your antennae up and be full of wonder.
Thanks, Lynda! Our antennae are up and our tails are wagging. Welcome to the world, Cookie's Fortune!
Learn more about Cookie's Fortune at The Gryphon Press and Amazon.
Watch the trailer below, or on YouTube.

Topics: picture book, 2017 release, Lynda Graham-Barber, The Gryphon Press, Nancy Lane

Lyn Miller-Lachmann Talks Translation!

Posted by Adi Rule on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 @ 08:10 AM

Olá! Today we're celebrating three recent picture book releases and a special topic. Lyn Miller-Lachmann, a member of VCFA's Secret Gardeners, sat down with the Launchpad's Amanda Lewis to talk about translation!

Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha, illustrated by Madalena Matoso, translated from Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Enchanted Lion).

A wide-eyed child looks out at the world with curiosity and pleasure, finding it endlessly surprising. But there is mystery too, as in the puzzling pictures he sees, made up of elusive lines and squiggles. When Pedro starts school, his great curiosity grows even greater with each letter he learns. Suddenly his world is changing, as the lines and squiggles become letters and words.


The Queen of the Frogs by Davide Cali, illustrated by Marco Somà, translated from Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).

When a mysterious crown falls into a pond, the little frog who finds it is instantly pronounced the queen. But when her royal subjects start to question her authority, she must prove she’s fit to rule — if she can.


Three Balls of Wool (Can Change the World) by Henriqueta Cristina, illustrated by Yara Kono, translated from Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Enchanted Lion).

A family escapes the dictatorship in Portugal in the late 1960s, seeking freedom and a better life. Their journey takes them to Communist Czechoslovakia, where “all children go to school.” But while the children go to school, people don’t have freedom of choice or the right to speak their minds. Refusing to accept a life without freedom, the mother gets to work, turning a bleak reality inside out and upside down. In the end, these refugees spark a movement for change in their community.

Welcome, Lyn! How do you approach translation? What differences are there between translation and writing?

With translation, I’m responsible for the words in English, but not the characters, plot, and other story elements. As a result, I can focus exclusively on the language, trying to capture the voice and intent of the original author while making the work accessible and appealing to English-language readers.

You translate books from both Portuguese and Spanish. When did you learn these languages? Is there any difference between your approach to a Portuguese book and a Spanish book?

I learned Spanish in middle and high school and had the opportunity to live in various Spanish-speaking countries. When I was in library school in the late 1980s, I took classes and served an internship as a bilingual children’s librarian. I currently live in a neighborhood in New York City where Spanish is spoken almost as much as English.

Being fluent in Spanish helped me to learn Portuguese more quickly when my husband and I moved to Lisbon for six months after I graduated from VCFA in July 2012. While I was there, I took a class in Portuguese for immigrants. Since then, we’ve spent around two months of each year in Portugal so I can refresh my language skills and acquire new books to read and translate.

As far as approaching books in Spanish vs. books in Portuguese: As a translator, there isn’t much difference in the process. The only difference is that I’m more likely to work with a publisher on a book in Portuguese because there are a lot of translators who work with Spanish but much fewer with Portuguese.

Does translating a book bring you into a relationship with the author?

Most of the time translators don’t meet the author. For instance, when my own novel Gringolandia was translated into Italian, I never met the translator. However, of the five books I’ve translated from Portuguese, I’ve met the author of two – Isabel Minhós Martins (The World in a Second) and Henriqueta Cristina (Three Balls of Wool). In June 2016 I traveled to Coimbra with my VCFA classmate and friend Sandra Nickel to meet Kuki, as Henriqueta is known to her friends, and we were treated to an inside tour of the UNESCO Heritage Site led by her husband, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Coimbra who directed the restoration. You can read about our trip here: http://www.lynmillerlachmann.com/what-to-do-when-your-column-cracks-and-other-thoughts-on-restoration/ 

Tell us about the business side of translation. Were you approached to do these books, or did you approach the publisher with the idea of translation? Do you have an agent?

For the most part, publishers approach me. Enchanted Lion Books has a relationship with the Portuguese publisher Planeta Tangerina, and several of the books I’ve worked on come from this innovative small press located outside Lisbon. Other books have come through agents who specialize in marketing international books. I’ve brought proposals for books in both Portuguese and Spanish to editors who I work with, but so far, none of the proposals has led to a contract. I’m still trying, though.

I do have an agent, but she handles the books I write myself, not ones I translate. All of my translation work has come from editors I know or via references from editors with whom I’ve worked. Most translators I know aren’t represented by agents.

What was the editorial process? Did it differ from the author/editor relationship? Were there a lot of revisions?

The editorial process can be as involved as an author/editor relationship, especially if the editor wants to “Americanize” or otherwise change a text. Portuguese is a wordy language, and most of my translations have resulted in a text that’s about a third shorter than the original. I will say that my editor at Enchanted Lion likes crisp prose, and we’ve made more changes in the course of translation, than my editor at Eerdmans, who wanted to keep the flowery language of the original.

One of your books has been published as part of an endorsement from Amnesty International. What is it like to work with a nonprofit organization on a book of social significance? Are there differences from “regular” publishing? Is your personal focus primarily on work of political or social relevance?

I am honored to have translated Three Balls of Wool (Can Change the World), a book about a refugee family from Portugal in the 1960s that connects so much with the present day. Amnesty International was particularly interested in this book because the organization’s founder became involved in the cause of human rights when he learned of several students at the University of Coimbra who had been jailed in 1961 for protesting the dictatorship.

Amnesty International signed on after I’d already translated the book. They contributed a preface and the International Declaration of Human Rights at the end. Now that the book is out, I’ll be working with them on a teachers guide and school events.

Three Balls of Wool touches on many of the themes of my own writing. My debut YA novel, Gringolandia, portrays a refugee family from the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. When Claudia Bedrick at Enchanted Lion asked me to translate Three Balls of Wool, I was in the middle of writing my own YA novel set in Portugal in 1966, about a teenager who follows a popular fado singer and her own younger brother into an underground resistance movement against the Salazar regime.

Who were your advisors at VCFA?
An Na, Jane Kurtz, Sarah Ellis, Coe Booth, Shelley Tanaka. I did a PG semester with Shelley that focused on translation.

How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?

Working on the packets every month made me more disciplined, and I learned to read like a writer, using the books I read as mentor texts. I do that with translations as well, particularly looking at how the translator deals with cultural differences that English-language readers may have difficulty bridging.

Thank you for stopping by, Lyn!

In addition to translating children’s books from Portuguese and Spanish to English, Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of three young adult novels: Gringolandia (Curbstone Press/Northwestern University Press, 2009), Rogue (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2013), and Surviving Santiago (Running Press, 2015).

Visit her online at www.lynmillerlachmann.com.

Topics: picture book, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, 2016 release, 2017 release, Enchanted Lion, Davide Cali, Marco Soma, Henriqueta Cristina, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Madalena Matoso, Ruth Rocha, Yara Kono

Carrie Jones and ENHANCED!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 @ 10:10 AM

It's launch day for Carrie Jones's new young adult science fiction/fantasy novel, Enhanced (Tor Teen)! And we are howling with enhanced excitement because everybody's favorite canine journalist is back -- welcome, Carrie Jones and Spartacus!

31702754.jpg

Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn't done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she's in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she's actually leaving town. And her mom's hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana's texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

They all know the alien threat won't stay quiet for long. It's up to Mana to fight her way back in.

IMG_6571.jpgHello. This is Spartacus, Carrie’s dog of awesome bacon-loving happiness. In exchange for scratching the top of my tail, I have agreed to interview the human once again for the Launch Pad, which is basically the only place that would put up with this sort of dog-loving shenanigans.

Yes. I can still type. Don’t worry about that today. Let’s just say that some dogs are magic and I am one of those dogs.

Spartacus: Let’s start with the most important question. There is a dog in this book, am I right?

Carrie: Yes.

Spartacus: Good! This means you can continue to be my human.

Carrie: I know. You threatened me about not being your human if I didn’t give a dog a significant role in this book series. So I did.

Spartacus: I have trained you well.

Carrie:

Spartacus: That’s a compliment.

Carrie: It doesn’t feel like one, honestly.

13501976_10154349897204073_460166726311376845_n.jpgSpartacus: That is because you are a human and not a dog and have a different set of moral codes and ideals to aspire to. Believe me. It’s a compliment. So, back to the interview. Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Carrie: The dog.

Spartacus: You don’t have to say that.

Carrie: I kind of feel I do.

Spartacus: And why was the dog your favorite?

Carrie: Well, other than the fact that it is A DOG, it also made me nostalgic for fifth-grade Carrie who won multiple author of the month contests with a serialized story about a girl who joins the Army, finds an alien/dog named ABBA that she falls in love with and they save the world while singing a lot of 1980s songs.

Spartacus: You haven’t really evolved much since then, have you?

Carrie: As a writer or as a human? No. Probably not. I still like unicorns, too.

20476335_10155677301544073_4546833284556388133_n.jpgSpartacus: Hold on. I need some therapy. Bring me some bacon. . . . Thank you. So what was the spark that ignited this book?

Carrie: I was a volunteer firefighter and a restaurant burnt down in our small town.

Spartacus: The Portside Grill? I LOVED walking by that restaurant. They cooked a lot of meat. It smelled delicious.

Carrie: Yes! That one. So, um…. when I was looking at the flames, I thought I saw something hovering above the restaurant, something unidentified. It was really pretty hot and I was super dehydrated at the time so I was probably hallucinating. Maybe. Yeah. But if you read Enhanced, you’ll totally recognize this in one of the scenes.

Spartacus: HUMAN! I WORRY ABOUT YOU!

Carrie: I know… buddy. I know.

Spartacus: I’m going to forget that the way I forget who the postal worker is despite the fact that he comes to the house every day at the same exact time and is never an actual threat and move on to the next question. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Carrie: ARE DOGS REALLY ALIENS?

IMG_6573.jpgSpartacus: NO! YOU DIDN’T!

Carrie: Yep.

Spartacus: Human! Nobody is supposed to know.

Carrie:

Spartacus:

Carrie: You’re teasing me, right?


Spartacus (Coughs): Of course. Here. I’m going to end this interview before you get into any more trouble. Who were your advisors at VCFA and what’s your favorite VCFA memory?

Carrie: I feel like I shouldn’t out my advisors like that, but they were Tim Wynne Jones, Kathi Appelt, Sharon Darrow and Rita Williams Garcia was stuck with me my final semester. And my favorite memory? That’s super hard. I think it was going to this Thai restaurant with all my classmates and watching them argue about how to split the bill. It was this awesome PHD-quality study about writer group dynamics and inability to do math.

Spartacus: Dogs don’t pay for food, you know. We beg for it.

Carrie: In this way, writers and dogs are a lot alike.

1978535_10152709544989073_9063394704384246924_o-1.jpgThanks for stopping by, Carrie Jones and Spartacus! We wish you tail wags and extra bacon as Enhanced blasts off into the galaxy!

Carrie Jones is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Need series, Time Stoppers series for middle grade readers, Flying series, as well as After Obsession with Steven E. Wedel. She is also the co-editor of the teen anthology, Dear Bully. A distinguished alum of Vermont College's MFA Program, Carrie is a volunteer firefighter in Maine because … um… firefighting!  In her spare time, she likes to pet dogs, fight polio with Rotary International, and make children’s literacy festivals.

Visit her online at www.carriejonesbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @carriejonesbook, Facebook at carriejonesbooks, and Instagram @carriejonesbooks.

Topics: young adult, 2017 release, Carrie Jones, Tor, Tor Teen

Liz Garton Scanlon and BOB, NOT BOB!

Posted by Adi Rule on Thu, Oct 12, 2017 @ 08:10 AM

Ah-CHOO! We're sneezing with joy over Bob, Not Bob, a picture book co-authored by VCFA faculty member Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, out now from Disney/Hyperion!

Bob cover.jpg

Little Louie has the worst cold ever. All he wants is his mom, but every time he calls for her, slobbery Bob the dog comes running instead.

Welcome, Liz! So, tell us . . .

How did you and Audrey Vernick become interested in working together?

Audrey and I share an agent -- Erin Murphy -- and she starting musing about what would happen if the two of us had a "book baby" together. So we did!

Which came first — the idea to collaborate, or the idea for the book?

It sort of happened in tandem because Audrey had a bad cold at the exact moment Erin nudged us. Turns out it was contagious!

Bob, Not Bob is a single voice rather than, say, alternating POVs split between authors. What was that process like?

Our collaborative process is THE MOST FUN either of us has. (Kind of not kidding.) We've replicated it many times now (we have a few more upcoming books together) and we kind of can't believe how well it works. We start with an idea and then one of us launches the storytelling. Then, we send a Word doc back and forth, back and forth -- adding as we see fit, deleting as we see fit, with no track changes. We each behave as if the manuscript belongs to us alone -- until that beautiful moment when it doesn't!

IMG_5398ac.jpgWhat advice would you have for someone who’s interested in collaboration?

Like and trust the person you want to collaborate with, and truly deeply admire their work.

Tell us about how you sold this book.

We were thrilled to sell this book, in part because the co-writing process had been such a lark. It was like we couldn't quite believe we were being paid to have that much fun! (Don't tell the publishers I said that.) Kevin Lewis, who was an editor for Disney/Hyperion back then, made the offer, walked us through some really thoughtful and intuitive revisions, and convinced Matt Cordell to illustrate. Rotem Moscovich took over as editor when Kevin left and brought the whole thing home. We couldn't believe our luck all the way along.

Tell us about your writing community.

Community fits so well in the context of a Bob, Not Bob discussion. As writing makes its way through the publishing process, it necessarily becomes a collaborative art, with editors and book designers putting their creative stamps on the project. This is doubly so for picture books that marry text and illustration. But what I've come to understand and appreciate more and more is how collaborative the writing life is -- beyond the writing process of any single book. Audrey and I met through our agency's annual retreat. Being part of that community led us to become, first, critique partners and then co-authors, but most importantly, friends. I've also got an Austin-based critique group (coincidentally made up entirely of VCFA alums and faculty), not to mention the very vibrant Austin chapter of SCBWI and, now, the larger VCFA community (lucky me). Plus, there's the writing world that is alive and well online -- my poetry group, my facebook friends. It honestly isn't possible anymore for me to imagine what I would do without the inspiration, energy, commiseration, support, education or love all of these people bring to my life and, credit where credit is due, to my work.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

For this book, I googled "things that sound funny when you have a cold," which of course led me to the world's best "sick memes" as well as YouTube videos of cats with strange meows. Naturally.

Okay, so I couldn't resist . . .

 

 

What's your writing superpower?

Apparently choosing good co-authors! :)

What unusual swag do you wish you could make for this book?

I'm not usually much of a swag gal -- mostly I've just printed up bookmarks -- but for Bob we had little tissue packets and hand sanitizers made, with the cover image of the book. Elementary school librarians seemed to find them particularly useful!

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of numerous beloved books for young people, including the highly acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, and her debut novel for middle grade readers, The Great Good Summer. Other titles include In the Canyon, A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, The Good-Pie Party, and more. Liz is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a frequent and popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.

Visit Liz Garton Scanlon at lizgartonscanlon.com, Audrey Vernick at audreyvernick.com, and Matthew Cordell at matthewcordell.com.

Topics: picture book, Disney-Hyperion, 2017 release, Liz Garton Scanlon, Disney, Audrey Vernick, Matthew Cordell, Hyperion

Amy Rose Capetta and ECHO AFTER ECHO!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 @ 09:10 AM

HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO!

It's opening night launch day for Amy Rose Capetta's new YA novel, Echo After Echo (Candlewick)!

27258116.jpgDebuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared — for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; or for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater — and then another — especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole — and cast lantern light on two young women, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Visit Amy Rose Capetta online at amyrosecapetta.com. Welcome to the world, Echo After Echo!

Topics: young adult, Candlewick Press, Amy Rose Capetta, 2017 release

Liz Garton Scanlon and ANOTHER WAY TO CLIMB A TREE!

Posted by Adi Rule on Thu, Oct 05, 2017 @ 07:10 AM

What do I see from my perch in the high branches? It's Liz Garton Scanlon's Another Way to Climb a Tree, illustrated by Hadley Hooper and out now from Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan!

tree-cover.jpgWhen Lulu's well, she climbs every tree in sight, especially the tallest ones, the ones with the widest branches, the one with the stickiest sap. When Lulu's sick, she's not allowed outside. She wonders if the trees are lonely without her. Maybe the birds are too. Now, nobody climbs the trees but the sun... until clever Lulu finds her own way to climb her favorite tree... indoors!

Welcome, Liz!

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

I think that Lulu, my scrappy, dreamy protagonist in Another Way to Climb a Tree, might be the most favorite character I've ever created -- or at least the most heartfelt and familiar. Lulu is, in many ways, me, in that the two things that keep her heart beating and her head straight are the natural world and her imagination. I can relate.

What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?

In picture books, I adore Cynthia Rylant's sentences, Pat Zietlow Miller's plots, and Marla Frazee's characters -- both in text and art.

What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?

"Kill your darlings." I was trained as a journalist, so I became adept at saying a lot within a limited number of column inches. Pretty words for pretty's sake became a lot less precious to me. As a picture book author, I am constantly looking to trim and tighten -- not to make a text shorter necessarily, but more perfect and more potent.

Do you write in silence? If not, what’s your soundtrack?

Utter silence except for my dog barking at the UPS man. 

DSCF8970 (1).jpgTell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.

I have a piece of art from almost every picture book I've ever published. The cover of A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, a pencil sketch from Happy Birthday, Bunny, my favorite spread from In the Canyon, the final page of All the World. Together, they serve as daily inspiration to me -- they set a nearly impossibly high bar that I just keep trying to live up to -- and I cannot look at them without counting my blessings.

What was it like watching the illustrations/cover come together?

Talk about counting my blessings! I knew Hadley Hooper's work through The Iridescence of Birds, a picture book biography about Matisse. It was written by Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley illustrated it and I loved it! So when she agreed to do this book, I was thrilled. And she exceeded any possible expectations -- the palette, the little surprises everywhere -- birds! binoculars! -- and the very timeless little tree-climber who is Lulu herself. I love the art in this book completely.

How does teaching at VCFA affect your writing life?

It appears to be upping my efficiency game in a big way. It's amazing how I can buckle down when I know that the packets are coming again, and soon! Also, perhaps it could go without saying, but I am pretty much constantly awash in admiration these days -- for my students and colleagues alike. And that is both humbling and wildly inspiring.

What's special about the VCFA-WCYA program?

You've never met more people who care so deeply about the same thing but who are still, somehow, wildly unique and devoted to telling their own wildly unique stories. They make the place what it is; they give it integrity.

What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

If you're serious about this desire -- this calling -- to write for children, this is your place. Yes, it's like hurling yourself into the deep end of a swimming pool, but there are lifeguards on duty who will help you develop your own strong and beautiful stroke.

What do you wish you had known before you first set foot on the VCFA campus?

I wish I'd known JUST HOW SPECIAL it is. I would've tried to get here sooner.

IMG_5335ac.jpgWe are so fortunate you're here now! Thanks for stopping by the Launchpad. Welcome to the forest, Another Way to Climb a Tree!

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of numerous beloved books for young people, including the highly acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, and her debut novel for middle grade readers, The Great Good Summer. Other titles include In the Canyon, A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, The Good-Pie Party, and more. Liz is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a frequent and popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.

Visit her online at lizgartonscanlon.com.

And stop by the Launchpad next week for Part Two of Liz Garton Scanlon's interview, when she'll discuss Bob, Not Bob, a picture book co-authored with Audrey Vernick!

Topics: Macmillan, picture book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017 release, Neal Porter, Liz Garton Scanlon, Neal Porter Books, Hadley Hooper

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