Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

OK, I'm starting the long 50K word trek tomorrow - actually staying up late tonight, so I'll do my first words in less than four hours. I've managed to eek out a win for the last four years (and even sold my second NaNo novel, PULL, to WestSide books.)  But this year, I don't have an outline or a plot.

For a confirmed plotter like me, that's a major disaster.

For the last week my email has been filled with volumes of pep-talks. Over the yearsI've joined the forums for many different areas. Not just my base - Chicago, but also places like Wisconsin, Anchorage - Alaska, that is, New York City, DC, Mexico, Canada, and even France - parle vous Francais? I wish I could have been at  l'Espace Culturel de la Ferme du Plateau for the Paris kickoff.  I'm even on the list for New Jersey. Yes, they are still going to do NaNo and meet through virtual chatrooms because they are a strong, kick-butt region.  If they can do it, certainly I can.

So with all the kick-off pep talks in my in basket, I just have to write.  And find a protagonist, antagonist, plot, setting, etc. No excuses, not even the conferences I am attending this November. (Gulp)

Wish me luck come midnight Central Time.

And if you are doing NaNo too, I am b-writer. Feel free to be my friend and give me a kick in the rear if my word count drops.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

YA Fiction and the Next Big Thing

I'm pumped to attend the 2012 YALSA Literature Symposium, titled: The Future of Young Adult Literature: Hit Me with the Next Big Thing.  The conference is being held in St. Louis, Mo., the proverbial "hop, step and jump" away from my home. (Am I dating myself with that reference?) YALSA stands for Young Adult Library Services Association.

While I am not presenting (that will be at the ALA convention next summer) I will be haunting the halls, attending presentation on YA Literature and Fan-Created Work, the Future of Review Guidance, the Future of Whiteness in Young Adult Literature, Contemporary Young Adult FictionWhat Will Guys Read Next, and, of course, a special presentation on  Trends, Fads, and the Next Big Thing in Publishing.

If you're hanging around and find YALSA Author B. A. Binns, hit me with the secret words (hint: All The Colors Of Love) to get a free copy of one of my books, either PULL or Die Trying.

Monday, October 22, 2012


 Yesterday our church held a mini-reenactment of life on the frontier, when the Methodist minister traveled among multiple congregations, and lived on the kindness of his flock.  The good-old-days, when men sat on one side, and women and children on the other. And men were considered to be in their underwear if they were around ladies without a coat. And we were all dressed much to casually.

Good old days - I don't know. I'm happy with the idea that we can come as we please, sit where we want, and have a regular minister who isn't exhausted from riding his horse around fifty different congregations a month. But it was food for thought, and maybe for a historical novel  I may someday write.

And I liked the family who played music for us. Quite refreshing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why is Teen Urban Lit considered dangerous

While at a librarian conference yesterday, I attended a session entitled Pushing the Envelope With Urban Literature.  I'm not sure what I expected, but what I got left me sad. The first assumption was that if it was "urban" YA literature, i.e. African-American, i.e. had black kids on the cover, then it was scary and needed to be kept away from middle school kids. Even though the speaker's school had a large percentage of minority students, the presenter told how  she separated out Teen books (7-8th grade) and YA and books (9-12) for the first time once she decided to "bite the bullet" and introduce Urban Lit to her collection. Before, 8th grade and had access to the YA books and 7th graders had something to look forward to.   But that was before she added Urban Lit to the collection, for fear those books would be dangerous for students.  BTW, the YA only list included some Sharon Draper titles of all things, along with the Kimani TRU titles.

I realize some books are not suited for younger teens and tweens.  But that should not be a general statement for an entire category, decided upon primarily because the protagonists happen to be African-American. She did say she was going to read some of the books, especially ones her 7th and 8th graders have been asking to read (she hadn't done that yet) and may decide to put a few into that Teen section.

Is it any wonder that publishers do not want to put African American faces on the covers of their books?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Multi Cultural Books

So what's your definition of multicultural? I talked to a number of librarians, teachers, authors and readers, and we didn't totally agree.  That's why my first step in the multicultural workshop at OELMA on Friday is to poll attendees. My former job taught me the value of what the bosses called "Level Setting."  Getting everyone on the same page.

Here's a definition I like:

The presence of a variety of cultures; including but not limited to ethnic, religions, sexual orientation, ability variances each of which has its own unique culture
But that's me.

Once the workshop attendees create their definition, I will see if I can give them what they need, information on effective ways to enhance library collections to help readers see that while there are "a variety of ways of living and being, but that at our core, we are all so very similar." 

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Attracting Reluctant Readers

On Thursday, 10-18-12, I will be presenting the first of two workshops at the Ohio Educational Library Media Association. I will be talking on a subject close to my heart, reaching out to reluctant readers. Advertisers and Marketeers know it’s easier and less costly to retain an existing customer than to win back a lost one. And young people are customers for reading and education.

Why do I care? 

 Because we as educators, librarians, concerned parents and as writers need to consider more than just the needs of the avid reader. I met a girl who informed me she reads a book a day. Maybe an exaggeration, but she’s the reader we all love. A member of her schools reading club, purchases lots of books, reads above grade level – a future leader. But what about others? We all develop at different rates, and reading at "grade level" may put too much pressure on some developing brains. And once a child gets behind, when they read one or two grades below their peers, reading aloud, in class can cause such fear and embarrassment that they turn away from books.

Try it yourself. Pick a language you don’t know and pick up a book and see how much joy you get out of stumbling through it. Get a feel for what it could mean to a struggling student when we say "Just try harder," or "Reading is fun," or the really great line, "Lose yourself in a book."

Is it really surprising so many struggling kids decide they hate reading? 

Human beings did not evolve for reading, the way we did for seeing and speaking. Instead, pars of the brain have learned to adapt and achieve that skill.  Sometimes things go wrong. We recognize that and call it a learning disability and work on strategies to help readers over come the problem. But sometimes things take a little longer, and our race to push and put every student at grade level or above can end up having a detrimental effect on someone who matures just a little bit more slowly. 

If we can catch them before they accept the label "Reluctant Reader," before they convince themselves they hate books, then we have a chance. And they have opportunity to achieve their potential.  If I take my car to work and someone else decides to ride their bike (GO GREEN!!) but we both get their on time, they don't fail going to work. I will be talking about ways to keep kids from feeling like failures just because they take a little longer to reach the goal of reading proficiently.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Joliet Regional Author Fair

Today I participated int he Joliet Regional Author Fair.  No, I'm not really part of the Joliet region, I live an hour north of the area, but I enjoyed the drive (in spite of the downpour), the day, and the people.

One of the best things about the day was meeting several of my fellow SCBWI members who also participated, or stopped by to visit. We've spent a lot of time on the Illinois email list, but it was great meeting them. This included Paula Morrow, who stopped by on her way to Indiana to see me and purchase an autographed copy of PULL for herself. In addition, she earned a coupon that allows her to download my new eBook of short stories, Die Trying, for free.

I also made a new fan, and met his family.

It was a great day, even with the rain and travel, and I'll do it again next year, when I have Being God (coming in November) available.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Woman's Work

I had my flu shot today and my right arm is already killing me, but I still have to keep typing. 

A woman's work is never done, especially for me because I never learned how to say no to people. You can see me over at Romancing The Genres to find more about the things I do to myself. And maybe offer me a little advice on how to get off the treadmill.  I would appreciate your stopping by, while I bury myself in paperwork. I'm heading back to finish preparing the speeches I need for not 1 but 2 presentations next week.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Intergenerational book club meeting

Our book club used the holiday to invite members of our local library's Teen Advisary Board to attend a meeting and discuss The Hunger Games.  Besides the pizza, which was awesome, we all discussed what we did, and didn't like about the book. We were divided on whether or not we would have children in such a society, but the majority of either age agreed they would take the chance and hope for a better tomorrow. Several people saw Haymitch as one of the more imortant and sympathetic characters, even viewing his alcoholism and like of children as his personal resonse to the situation (even without reading book two).  And one young man saw Katniss' mother as the most endearing character, outside of Katniss herself.

One thing all ages had in common. No, it's not great literature. Yes the story is empowering for girls. The teens were especially impressed with the parts about Katniss learning to defend herself.

Naturally talk turned to history and war, and to the current spate of reality programs (Survivor and The Amazing Race dominating). We also discussed politics and the need for personal stylists so you can look good and garner sponsors, ahem votes. The sad part was how the viewers in the capital were able to distance themselves from the idea they were watching real children be killed.  Just the way some of the adults and teens in our group admitted they could distance themselves from the all-too-real violence thy see on their TV screens.