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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Diversity Means

To close out diversity month, I've received a poem from a 14 yr. old who has beautifully articulated what diversity means.
Since I (we) write for children and young adults, it's very encouraging to see that our young people have the right perspective. Now, all we need to do is add more color to our literary worlds and let our writing reflect the many different types of people in the world. If you don't feel comfortable or authentic enough writing your main character with major differences from you, perhaps you can make secondary characters more diverse. Not that I want to marginalize different types of people but I feel it's better to have them represented in some manner than ignored altogether. For me, it's easier to focus on the similarities between characters than to write from the unique perspective of someone who's grown up in a different culture than my own.
Now, I'll leave you with Chloe's wonderful poem.
Thank you so much for sharing with us, Chloe!

Diversity Means
By: Chloe Rinkel 

When I hear the word “diversity,” I think…

Diversity means individuality,
Different nationalities,
And opposite personalities.

Diversity means pride,
Differences set aside,
And friendships magnified.

Diversity means different specialities,
Different mentalities
With different functionalities.

Diversity means multiplied
With differences glorified
And people who are unified.

“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common.”-Anonymous

Monday, February 13, 2012

Laura Ellen Interview

Laura Ellen is a fellow Michigan writer I've had the pleasure of meeting thanks to SCBWI.  She is a talented and fascinating individual, but she tells her story better than I do, so you can find out more below.  But I did want to say her debut novel, BLIND SPOT, sounds incredible and I can't wait to read it. I hope you'll check it out too.
I asked her to do a guest post for my diversity month because diversity in literature isn't just about race and ethnicity.  Laura and her amazing book have a unique protagonist.  But read what Laura has to say.  She's far more eloquent on the subject than me. Thank you so much, Laura!  I wish you smashing success with BLIND SPOT!

Isn't this cover just gorgeous?
My book BLIND SPOT, which debuts in October, is a YA thriller about sixteen year old Roswell Hart who is legally blind and desperate to prove she is  just like everyone else. When her special education classmate Tricia Farni is found dead six months after the night she disappeared – the night Roz fought with her. The night Roz can’t remember – Roz finds herself in a desperate race to clear her name and find a murderer. 

When I first started writing BLIND SPOT, I knew I wanted to write about a teen struggling to be ‘normal’ when the world around her is treating her like she’s not. People always say “write what you know” and boy did I know exactly how that felt. As a teen, I was diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration and even though my eyesight hadn’t changed from that morning to the second the eye doctor diagnosed me that afternoon – people immediately started treating me differently. As my eyes did get worse, so did their reactions and interactions with me. Looking back, I know I was as much a part of that problem as others were because I didn’t know how to interact and react to people and their attitudes and questions either. But still, it was extremely difficult as an adolescent to deal with and I wanted to bring that struggle for survival that I went through into a book.
In wanting to write BLIND SPOT, however, I also knew I did NOT want it to be an issue book. I did not want it to be about a girl who was dealing with a visual impairment, how she lives, how she does things differently . . .  Nor did I want her to just have a visual impairment, like a character has red hair or blue eyes, and never deal with all the baggage that comes with having a visual impairment. Too often I have seen both kinds of books, and I knew I did not want BLIND SPOT to be either.
I wanted to write a story that was first and foremost a thriller (because that’s what I love to write) in which the main character was deep in the middle of dealing with identity issues due to her impairment. I wanted that struggle to be the reason she got into whatever mess I was going to get her into. I wanted her to be so worried about proving she wasn’t ‘blind’ that she ended up being blind to everything going on around her.
As I began writing, though, I quickly realized something else too. My target audience was not the teen who knew nothing about disabilities; the teen who would read this book and see how someone different from her deals with life. No, I realized pretty darn quick that my target audience was the teen who DID know what it was like to be impaired in some way.
See, while yes, readers do enjoy reading about settings and characters that are different from their own lives, readers also like to read books that they can find themselves in. As fun as it is to read about the streets of Paris, it is even more fun to see places where you live or have traveled to before.  Similarly, as intriguing as it is to read about a girl who lives in a palace on a remote island with eighty servants and a barn full of horses, many readers crave to find that book where, like themselves, a girl lives in a two bedroom apartment with four siblings and a grandmother in a partially condemned building with no heat.  Readers need to find themselves in the books they read; it is how they legitimize who they are. Imagine if you read book after book and never found a character even remotely like you. You would start to think you are not interesting, not normal.
So rather than write a book that would teach others what it is like to have a disability, I wanted to write a book that would reach out to the girl who already knew what it’s like . The girl who could relate to Roswell. The girl who, while sitting on the edge of her seat dying to know what happens next, is also rolling her eyes or shaking her head and muttering,  “yeah. I know how that goes.”  
I really hope BLIND SPOT finds that girl.

Laura's gorgeous too, inside and out.

 Laura Ellen writes YA mysteries and thrillers. Her debut novel BLIND SPOT will be released in October, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Although she lives now in Ann Arbor, MI with her husband, three kids and a dog, Laura was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Laura earned a MA in Children’s Literature from Eastern Michigan University and is a former Language Arts teacher and special education aide for middle and high school students. She is represented by Jill Corcoran of The Herman Agency. Visit her website at www.lauraellenbooks.com.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A new video post from yours truly!

I decided to delve into iMovie.  I apologize for the crapiness quotient of this video, but it is my first attempt and the content is somewhat time sensitive so here it is for you to laugh at. 

However, in explanation, I entered a pitch contest + first 150 words.  See here for more info. on that.  My pitch for Dream Girl, as well as the first 150 words will appear on that website, or one of the two other affiliated sites, in the next few days with an assessment of what works and what doesn't.  Since I'm going to open myself up to public criticism like that, why not go whole hog? Thus, cobbling together this video for the (new) first 150 words for your amusement.  So, tell me what you think.  (about the words, I already know the video is crap). 

Thanks for watching!  Hope your eyes aren't bleeding.  I know your ears aren't because that song I used is ridiculously catchy, don't you think?  Check it out for yourself here or on Itunes. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A contest just in time for diversity month!

I stumbled across a contest that fits perfectly with my diversity theme this month.  The contest involves promotion for a new book, which happens to be this:

"THE MARIA PARADOX, written by Drs. Rosa Gil and Carmen Vazquez, is a unique self-help guide for Hispanic women and the men who love them.

The authors challenge the machismo-reinforcing idea of “marianismo,” a centuries-old belief system that in effect tells Latinas: "Don't forget a woman's subservient place; never put your own needs first; sex is for making babies.”

Filled with self-help exercises, this clearly written manual offers practical advice on how to build support networks, overcome passivity, forge career paths, change or get out of abusive relationships and increase sexual fulfillment.

Filled with real-life success stories and wise, compassionate advice, THE MARIA PARADOX details how Latinas can enjoy the best of both worlds.

The book can be purchased from all major online retailers. The authors can also be found on Twitter and on Facebook."

The contest portion of this gives me a chance to win a query critique, 30pg. critique, and a 20 min. Skype call with a real, live (and successful) literary agent.  All I have to do is share this book info. with you, my wonderful readers.  And since the topic of the book fits with my theme this month, naturally, I have concluded that I'm destined to win.  And I could definitely use some advice from an agent right about now.  However, should you desire to knock me down and get your own shot at this fabulous prize, you can find the contest info. here.  We all know, the year of the writer means seizing such wonderful opportunities.  

On a side note, I would love for you to comment on the effectiveness of such marketing campaigns.  With social media being touted as the place for authors to be, do you really see a lot of sales because of it?  For example, sharing a FB page for a book in order to win a contest.  Do you really care about the book page or just the prize?  Do you even look at the book page?  I would love to know your thoughts on social media marketing.