Dog-Eared: March 2018

Publishers Weekly chats with author An Na about her latest book, The Place Between Breaths.

This book was ten years in the making, originating at the death of Na’s brother, who had schizophrenia.

Before his hospitalization, my family and I had no idea my brother suffered from mental illness. He was brilliant. He spoke three languages. He was studying to be an archeologist. We knew he had a drug problem, but now I know that drug addiction, used for coping, often masks mental illness.

After my brother’s death, I was filled with grief and I started asking questions. Why? Why him? Why not me?

[…]

I hope [readers] get a better understanding of what it means to suffer from mental illness. There is so much shame associated with the disease. People didn’t used to talk about it. We never talked about it in my family even though my grandmother suffered from it.

Author Rachel Hartman, whose latest Goreddi novel, Tess of the Road just came out, writes on her blog about fencing. The fun kind.

Friends, I have taken up fencing, and it is the greatest thing ever. My husband and I took it up together, in fact, because he’d read an article that said the happiest couples are the ones who try new things together. I think we can both attest: stabbing your spouse with an épée is fun and good for you.

There is even a video. I kid you not.

Our teacher is almost 80, and he was trained by (possibly) Aramis, Athos, and Porthos. We’re learning the old classical style — no fly-flicking or bounding around like caffeinated squirrels. Which is fine, because I am literally using every athletic bone in my body to produce these magnificently stodgy results.

[…]

There is no sword-fighting in TESS OF THE ROAD, alas — I’d finished writing that book before I took up fencing — but in book 4, the one I’m working on now? Oh hell yes.

In case you missed it, author-illustrator Grace Lin and author Karen Blumenthal have organized the perfect way to mark Women’s History Month (March):

by spotlighting on social media under the hashtag #kidlitwomen the social and gender inequities in the children’s literature community. Throughout the month of March, all members of the children’s book community are encouraged to not just celebrate authors and illustrators whose achievements have been previously overlooked, but also to consider solutions for eradicating social and gender inequality in the industry.

[…]

Kidlitwomen already has more than 2,500 Facebook followers, and there has been a steady stream of comments posted on Twitter with the hashtag, ranging from author Tom Angleberger urging other men to practice “less reply and more RT, dudes,” to a lively discussion of the racial/ethnic breakdown of Caldecott winners that was prompted by illustrator Christine Taylor-Butler’s blog in which she revealed that no woman of color has ever won the Caldecott. A number of prominent authors and illustrators are writing blogs that they are linking to #Kidlitwomen, with one by a different author or illustrator being published each day this month. ( – Publishers Weekly)

(Actually, more than one blog post is going up each day; so far, an average of four posts a day. Woo!) As part of the initiative, illustrator Mishka Jaeger is compiling each blog post on her website.

Related: Janet’s review of Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Nafiza’s review of Grace Lin’s When the Sea Turned to Silver.

Author, teacher, and slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo talks with Publishers Weekly about her verse novel, The Poet X: her writing process, revision, narrating the audiobook, and her experience as a teacher and poet.

How did your background in spoken word poetry prepare you to record the audio version of The Poet X?

I think I have a sense of how things need to sound, how to pull an audience in with tone, timing, and pacing. That affects a lot of my writing, too, being hyper aware of how an audience might read something. I want what’s happening on the page to mimic what my body would do on stage. A lot of that came out in the audiobook. I think I would have struggled to record the audiobook without having stage experience because it’s a lot of work to maintain that kind of performance voice.

A girl and her dog: classic children’s lit. In Rescue and Jessica, that relationship is all the more important because Rescue is a service dog, and Jessica has just had both her legs amputated. This forthcoming picturebook was written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Downes had one leg amputated and Jessica two as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing. Publishers Weekly speaks with the couple about writing based on their own story (minus the bombing), on working with illustrator Scott Magoon, who was also at the finish line —

Magoon conducted extensive research about amputees and prosthetics. He worked to develop an artistic style that would accurately represent both, without being so specific that it might become dated as medical treatments and devices change in the future.

— and on writing with a younger audience in mind.

“Colloquially we might say to someone, ‘I lost my leg,’ but when we actually wrote that and read it back we realized how confusing that could be for a kid because we’re using figurative language as opposed to literal,” said Downes. “Kids lose things all the time, like lunchboxes and t-shirts and whatever. It was too casual of a way to depict it.” Instead, they wrote that the doctor said that the leg was unhealthy.

The book will come out next month.

The 2018 Green Book Festival has issued a call for submissions for its annual literary competition. They accept traditionally and self-publish works from a variety of genres published in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese or Italian. The committee is looking for works that support “greater understanding, respect for and positive action on the changing worldwide environment”, and the grand prize “is an appearance fee and transportation to our awards in San Francisco in May OR an equivalent amount donated in your name to the environmental charity of your choice.” Check out their website for more details.