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Kimberley Griffiths Little: book cover reveal and a NINE book giveaway

Jun. 6th, 2012 | 03:05 pm

Kimberley Griffiths Little reveals her book cover for When the Butterflies Came on her blog. 
She is also having a drawing where she will give away nine books.  Here is the link:


Be sure to drop by her blog, see her gorgeous cover, and leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. The deadline is mid–June.

If you want to read an interview I did with Kimberley last fall you can find it here.
She tells wonderful stories and her writing is awesome. So if you haven't read any of her books, be sure to get your hands on one.

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The Art of Revision—The Rainbow Manuscript technique

Dec. 12th, 2011 | 05:24 pm

Art of Revision—The Rainbow Manuscript technique
I started using colorful fonts when revising after Martine Leavitt, my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts asked me to make all my changes in red. 
My manuscript was bleeding after I was done: 

Screenshots of my novel, River at 10% zoom. Shown
are the beginning (top), middle, and end (bottom.)
Yes, I made that many changes; the changes represent a deep revision.
As I worked I grew to love red font!
Because all red words are better words, better sentences, and even new scenes at times, I have grown to think of red as a positive writing color, instead of the color that marks all my mistakes.
Later revision of River
 Using another font color lets me see what I’m doing, or what I recently changed.  In some cases it is helpful when I read through my novel the next time, as I can see what I changed.  Other times, the red font was just for the process, and I switch the font all back to black before I work on it again.. 
Also, if I work for several hours or a couple days and feel I didn’t make much headway, I can look at the colorful font, and realize, yes, I did make good progress.
I don’t use colored font with every draft. It’s not useful to me in early drafts. 
Occasionally, if I need to both be aware of the last changes I made and need to track my current changes as I take an additional revision pass, I’ll add another color, like blue. If I move a substantial passage, I may mark those sentences with another font color for those passages. 
By the end of the revision pass, at least temporarily, I have a rainbow manuscript.

Screenshot of my novel, Crossings-a late revision at 10% zoom

Cross-posted from my Explorations blog.

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Check out Cynsations interview (and chance at critique) Note: Last Day to enter

Oct. 24th, 2011 | 07:55 am

I wanted to make sure you saw this on Cynsations:

Comment for a chance of a 10 page critique by the awesome editor Stacy Whitman. (Editorial director of Tu books, an imprint at Lee and Low.)
Here's the link: http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2011/10/author-interview-editor-critique.html

Today's the last day, so head on over to read the great interview and leave a comment.

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Writing and teaching-interview with Uma Krishnaswami (link, not the actual interview)

May. 25th, 2011 | 09:36 pm

I interviewed Uma Krishnaswami about how her writing and teaching interact on my Explorations Blog.
If you want to read the interview you can find it here.

Uma was one of my advisors (teacher and mentor) at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an incredible teacher, is brilliant and super nice, and she has a huge influence on both my writing and the way I revise and think about story.

We started working on this interview a couple months ago, but decided to post it as part of her fascinating blog tour which is celebrating the release of her middle grade novel, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. It is a delightful, humorous novel, and I now want to visit India and taste its chocolate.
(The Grand Plan has received some starred reviews too--from Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly.)
If you want to hear Uma read an excerpt, head on over to Kathi Appelt's video blog. (I always love to hear author read from their own work.)

Happy writing, everyone.

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Museum--Porsche Tractor

May. 3rd, 2011 | 07:22 pm

Porsche tractor!

I think it is cool that Porsche made tractors in their early years. (In addition to cars.)
I took this photo in the Porsche museum in Stuttgart. (Which had mostly men visitors.)

Perhaps it is a little like some authors--their early works are tractors and later works are sports cars.

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Celtic ruins

Apr. 11th, 2011 | 01:54 pm

I've had a hard time accessing LJ the last few months. Often it won't come up at all for me and after trying several times and waiting 5 minutes I give up. I wonder why.

Other things that are going on:
I am now a member of Through the Tollbooth (a group blog) and posted about a week ago (including a cool interview with a translator) so if you want to check out my posts, you can see one of them HERE and get to the others easily.

I also blog some on my more formal blog, Explorations. (I've posted more often there because LJ has not cooperated with me.)
If you want to see some photos of our hike up a mountain, Alt Konig, and Celtic ruins from 400 BC, it can be found here. (I've found it is much easier to upload photos to blogger, than LJ.)

Here is one photo.  Check out my longer post if you want to see others.

This is a section of one of the outer ring walls. Cities and farms can be seen in the distance.

We thought we were going to Roman ruins. There are many very close to where we live and to this mountain. It is odd to try to see Roman ruins and end up seeing Celtic (much older!) ruins or to try to see one castle, but then unknowingly take a wrong turn and find another, much better castle.
Life is fun.


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The description of the MFA lecture that I'll give at VCFA

Oct. 26th, 2010 | 01:20 pm

I've been focused on revising my YA novel, doing deep revisions.  My current YA novel is will be my focus during this next month as I finish it up for my thesis. The revision process is enjoyable and I'm learning a lot from Martine about writing and revising a novel, but I'm excited to finish it, as I have written about 1/3 of my next novel, a fun MG. I want to finish drafting that so it can sit and rest before I revise it. Also, I want to take one more revision pass on my pre-VCFA YA fantasy novel, Crossings, applying all I've learned during my MFA program and get it ready for submission.

In addition to my critical thesis (like a normal Master's thesis) and my creative thesis (several finished PBs and a novel), I need to give a lecture at VCFA to graduate. Lots of pressure here--award winning writers, the faculty attend; I get "graded" on my lecture-- a one page write up about how I did that goes into my permanent transcript; the quality of the lectures is very, very high and both graduating students and faculty put tons of time into their lectures. This is almost equivalent to the critical thesis in time required.

Here is the description which I'm sending in next week so they can include it on the residency lecture list and schedule.



 Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle!” exclaims Alice in Wonderland. How does the writer answer the vital question of “Who am I?” when developing characters? I’ll explore how writers can use both internal and external aspects of identity on the page and in the story. I’ll also discuss roles, not stereotypical or archetypical roles, but the everyday, down to earth, nitty-gritty multiplicity of roles and look at how we use roles to influence action and plot when we craft story.

Titles discussed will include Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard, Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, and of course, Alice in Wonderland.

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Castle Hunting

Sep. 24th, 2010 | 12:38 pm

For months I have wanted to "find" this castle:

The castle ruin in Konigstein.

I have seen this castle in the distance, on a hill, when driving from my kids' orthodontist to their school. Last Saturday we went "castle hunting" and wandered until we found it. We did not know what it was called or even for sure what town it was until we got there. What a great ruin. I found the fine detailed herringbone pattern in one outer wall intriguing and wondered why the workers took the effort, as I've never seen that before.
It is fun to imagine the castle and its inhabitants hundreds of years ago.
Another photo: I saw the waterfall and red autumn colors reflecting in a small lake in Palmengarten, a private botanical garden, near where I live.

It was sunny earlier this week and I took my Mac and sat at a table overlooking this view and wrote. It has many large tropicariums (large greenhouse type buildings with plants) in addition to the large grounds with numerous gardens.

My stories are influenced by places I've lived or visited. I "feel" the place, or a combination or places, (or my memory of the place) when I'm writing and it imbues a type of emotional sensibility into the setting.
None of my stories are set at a specific place I know, but the essences of those places enter my stories.
Do you use real places in your stories? Or parts of real places?

Well, back to revising my novel/thesis.
Happy writing.

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Warriors in the Crossfire-- how to maintain cultural accuracy in a novel

Apr. 14th, 2010 | 11:48 am

It is a privilege to host Nancy Bo Flood on her blog tour. She is an award winning author of Navajo Year, Walk Through Many Seasons, and Sand to Stone, the Life Cycle of Sandstone. Nancy is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her newest book, Warriors in the Crossfire is a wonderful historical novel which allows the reader to enter a story about another culture and time.
(All photos courtesy of Nancy Bo Flood.)
Kathi Appelt said, "Nancy Bo Flood's novel casts a bright light on one of the forgotten shadows of World War II, the near total devastation of Saipan and the native people who lived there. Joseph's story forces us to pay attention, to see war itself as an event that affects more than the opposing forces and illuminates its darkest corners.
I'll be telling everyone I know about it . . .”

I asked Nancy several questions related to writing about a different culture. She also shares a couple photos of her favorite places on Saipan.

Q: Warriors in the Crossfire is a great example of how a writer can accurately portray a foreign culture. What resources did you use to insure accuracy as you show the culture on Saipan?

A: Research begins with books and libraries but it is more than reading. You need to experience the culture. Listen, observe, feel the pace and rhythm of the culture…taste their foods, and when appropriate, ask questions.

We lived on Saipan for many years. I swam with the turtles – and the sharks. I paddled out across the reef, got scared to death as sharks circled our kayak. I slipped out of my kayak in the deep sea beyond the reef and was terrified. That’s what Kento felt and it was no fun. Having the shadow of a shark slide over you is terrifying. It was also part of my research, though not one I had planned.

I sat with people on the beach, watched the waves as we talked, watched people catch octopus and bite off their sharp beaks and share the fresh delicacy. We sat, shared food and shared stories. They told me about surviving the war, about their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers who did not survive. They told me about the terrible thirst, the confusion, the smells – the horrid stink of war.

I helped Filipe and Joe Ruak with the dance group, which often mean driving around in a bumpy old jeep or pick-up truck and picking up dancers from school sports. I watched as young boys put down their cell phones and i-pods and transformed from contemporary to traditional as they picked up their warrior sticks and began to chant, faster and faster, hitting their sticks, twirling and leaping, with the skill, strength and dexterity of a fine athlete. I hiked with kids up the rugged volcanic slopes, bloodied my knees, walked into sticky spider webs, and paused to watch a kingfisher snatch a gecko and swallow it whole. That was research too.

I spent hours in the archives of the Saipan library, read books written about their island, their people, their culture. I watched archived footage of the invasion, talked with veterans, both Japanese and American. I learned every time I helped at the Senior Citizen Center. I spent time sitting with women as they cooked, watched children, or studied for a chemistry test. We spent even more hours at the archives and museums on Guam and the Bishop Museum in Hawaii. The old manuscripts of the Germans and Spanish were very helpful.

Read it, live it, ask it. Then listen, listen, listen. Keep collecting images, sounds, smells, ideas, information.

Q: At the end of the book in the historical note you include both a quote from a memorial at the Suicide Cliffs: “May we live together in peace” and one of your poems, titled, “To See, Peace.” Your story deals with two cultures which are at odds with each other during a time of war and occupation: the island natives and the Japanese. Did writing about two foreign cultures create additional challenges with either your research or writing?

A: As a college student I had lived and studied in Japan, first becoming somewhat fluent in the language. I am an admirer of Japanese art, visual and literary. On Saipan I enjoyed a renewal of hearing the Japanese language for many of my students were Japanese as well as local Chamorro and Carolinian. I tried to show in Warriors that there are no good guys or bad guys, but people doing what they need to do, or are ordered to do, to survive. I tried to show the contrast in cultural values that became a threat to the boys’ friendship. In our multicultural world we live with a plethora of cultural values and it is our challenge to respect and to learn from differences, not hang on to what we know and understand.

Q: Saipan is a place that many readers will not have heard of before reading your book. The setting is vivid and specific with details including descriptions of many landscapes, in particular the lagoon, the caves and the cliffs. How long did you live in Saipan? Which settings in the book have you visited? Were any of the places in the book favorite places of yours to visit?

A: Our family first traveled to Saipan to work for one year but stayed for ten. I loved the ocean. We swam and kayaked and scuba-dove in the lagoon, we climbed the cliffs and looked for “war stuff.” Evidence of the War is everywhere -- rusting tanks, canteens, sake bottles. We explored dark and smelly caves. I guess we experienced everything we could, even the sharks.

My favorites?? A small island in the lagoon, Managaha Island - the kind of island kids imagine - tiny, surrounded by beach, full of coconut palms. And also full of old bunkers and a very large destroyed Japanese gun. This island is special to the Carolinian people as the traditional burial site of their first great chief. When canoes from those islands visit Saipan, they stop on Managaha first to pay respect.

Another favorite was Forbidden Island, a place…forbidden to the faint of heart….a hard to find place on the rugged coast where a small hidden cave gave us a secret view of the ocean.

Q: The story includes a scene where characters are forced to dance for the Japanese, which brings up the importance of showing respect for cultural traditions. What aspects of the culture in this story are still alive and can be seen today?

A: Most of the cultural traditions described still exist. The families living on Satawal (one of the outer islands of Yap) and Polowat (one of the outer islands of Chuuk) are the close relatives of those living on Saipan today. Frequent traditional canoe voyages bring clan members the 500+ miles from these islands to Saipan and back. Stick dance, language, clothes, clan traditions, foods -- all are still similar to what you read in the story. The Carolinian cultures, both Rafalawasch ( “inside the reef”, those from the main islands of Yap) and Rapaganoor (from the outer islands, literally “beyond the reef”) are still intact and thriving. While those living on Saipan appear more “Westernized”, they are still very proud of their culture.

Q: A fun question. Food shows up at various times in the story: coconuts, breadfruit, bananas, boiled rice inside banana leaves, crab, octopus and more. I miss food from each country I’ve lived in. What food do you miss from Saipan?

Mangoes! Sweet, ripe mangoes. We would bring an armful of mangoes to the beach, peel and eat. Nothing like sitting in the sand, listening to the surf, licking my lips and then diving head first into a wave.

Finger bananas or we called them juicy-lucy bananas. They are the size of fat fingers and taste s like a tangy mix of peach and tangerine.

Soft young coconut. What is that? We think of coconut as dry and flaky but the hard white meat is only one stage in the maturing of the meat inside a coconut. In a green coconut the layer of “meat” is soft white “jelly” that is sweet and slimey. This is a good food for young infants. In a mature old coconut this meat has dried up and look like an “egg.” This egg is the seed and food for a new coconut to grow. It is also a delicious treat, something like a salad.

Q: Why did you write this story?

A: Sarah, this question has continued to haunt me. A tough question, it has been an important one for me to think, think, think about.

First there is the joy of discovery. Yes, like a kid finding a special rock, I want to share my delight. Writing my earlier book, Sand to Stone, was an expression of this delight. Look world, rocks are amazing! I have learned so much from rocks.

Perhaps the deeper reason I write, especially why I wrote this book, is the sorrow and sadness I saw. From loss. From war. Often those who are in the middle of loss have also lost “their voice of protest.”

My own loss began when I was a child. My younger sister died when I was seven. I lost my family to grief for a long time, but then we returned. How does a person return from sorrow to healing and hope?

When I arrived on Saipan I saw this beautiful island and I also saw the tanks rusting in the lagoon. As part of my work there, I assisted in developing resources for families whose children had disabilities. One cause was from the continued contamination of chemicals left over from the war. Our war. We did not even clean up our mess.

War destroys. Many stories tell of the heroism and courage, and yes, the compassion and kindness, that soldiers and citizens show during times of war. But war destroys – it takes families, childhoods, communities and even futures. I did not describe the fire-bombing or the flame-throwing, the caves where school girls hid, were afraid to come out, and were burned. I did not describe the mothers who hung themselves in despair because all their children had died.

I also wanted to express how people continue to survive, continue to forgive and to heal, to rebuild. What I think I learned was that for the soul to survive loss, the traditions of family, community and all that is part of culture – food, art, weaving, dance, singing, and a connection with our past, our ancestors - is essential. In this story, Joseph survives war because of what his father has given him. One gift was the gift of dance, and through dance a connection to his history.

We learn through story. With accuracy and respect, sensitivity and compassion, I hope to share stories that open windows and hearts. I love that quote that is inscribed on a memorial at Saipan’s Suicide Cliff: “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Books can light that candle.

Other stops on Nancy's blog tour include interviews with the editor, publisher, cover designer, and a Saipan stick dancer, in addition to more interviews with Nancy Bo Flood.

I’ll add the direct links each day when they are posted.

April 11 Debbie Gonzales posts a review on Simple Saturday

April 12 Diane White who interviews Stephen Roxburgh, publisher and founder of Namelos.

April 13 Diane White also posts a wonder interview with Joseph Ruak, about Saipan and the Talabwogh Men Stick dances.

April 14 This interview on Explorations

April 15 Jacket Knack and their interview with the cover designer.
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Books that accurately depict culture

Mar. 18th, 2010 | 12:13 pm

My stories usually deal with multiple cultures, so I'm always looking for books that honestly show authentic cultures.

I recently read two incredible books that stunned me with how well they capture the culture of the characters on the page.

The two books I read are Blessing's Bead by Debby Dahl Edwardson and Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan. (Khan blogs at Khanversations.)

Blessing's Bead is set in Alaska in the Inupiaq culture and Wanting Mor is set in Afghanistan. Both liberally sprinkle foreign words in the text, but the reader will never be confused. Both books let me experience culture and life I am unfamiliar with.

Writers often talk about setting. Culture includes setting and characters and action. It is vitally important to get the culture correct, as readers will believe that details inside fictional stories are fact.

In both of these books, each author is very familiar with the culture depicted and has lived either within the culture or has much of the same cultural background. Both authors asked those who live inside the culture they depict to read their stories so everything would be accurate. (Mentioned on their acknowledgment pages.)

I strongly recommend both of these books. They are extremely well crafted, and tell good stories about realistic characters.

I have lived in six very different cultures, ranging from Brazil to Finland to China. Because of my experiences I appreciate books that accurately deal with a variety of cultures, books that allow readers to travel somewhere they can't go in real life.

Next week I'll be in Bologna at the book fair.
One thing I look forward to is seeing books from all over the world that show so many cultures.

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