Happy Thanksgiving from Team EPA!

This Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for all of our members. You inspire, energize, and encourage us.

May your turkeys be tender, your pants be stretchy, and your relatives behave!

giphy.gifhttps://giphy.com/embed/3oriO4iF2T0V30GDQYvia GIPHY

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Cafe Chat with Diana Rodriguez Wallach, by Lindsay Bandy

IDA

IDA Design

It’s our last interview before the big day….Fall Philly/PA Author Day is Sunday! And today, a familiar face is back. We’ve got a Cafe Chat 2.0 with Diana Rodriguez Wallach, giving us an update on the author life, post-hurricane Puerto Rico, and book #2 of Anastasia Phoenix!

diana
LB: Hi there, Diana, and welcome back to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! How about a drink and munchie?

DRW: Thank you! Since it’s Fall, I’ll have to go with a nonfat salted caramel mocha. Never been much of a pumpkin spice girl, though I do love the muffins.

LB: A lot has happened since last Fall Philly! PROOF OF LIES, Book One in the Anastasia Phoenix series, debuted and I know you’ve been busy developing your readership. We’re looking forward to hearing more about that in Philly, but can you tell us, what was one thing that surprised you in the process?

beatles_quote_2

DRW: To quote The Beatles, “You get by with a little help from your friends.” The most successful pieces of marketing to come out in support of PROOF OF LIES, came from my personal network—friends and colleagues who were willing to place the book in their magazine, on a major list, or simply on their blog. Don’t be afraid to ask the people around you for help with your marketing efforts, you never know who’s a friend of a friend of a friend with a connection to Star Magazine. (More on that during my Fall Philly speech!)

LB: If you go back in time to Fall Philly 2016, what would you tell yourself in preparation for the year to come?

eagles logoDRW: That the Eagles would win the game I was going to see at the Linc immediately following my talk. But seriously, take time to appreciate each little milestone as it happens—whether it’s the most mentions you’ve ever had on Twitter during your launch day, or seeing your book featured in your alumni magazine, or going to Barnes & Noble and showing your kid your book on the shelf for the first time.

We all have our moments, so enjoy them as they happen.

LB: Writers can sometimes feel like we’re waiting in the wings, daydreaming about that moment in the spotlight when our first book dazzles the world. But what can pre-published writers do right now to get ready for the challenges of marketing and growing their readership?

DRW: Build a following on social media. It’s not easy and there are tricks to hike those numbers, but ultimately you need time. So if you’re not published yet, or you’ve still got a year until your book comes out, get on Twitter and Instagram. Start carefully following people, craft posts that align with the trends, and be active. This way when you do get that book deal, you have an audience to cheer your accomplishment—and hopefully buy your book.

LB: I know you’ve also been busy helping out family and friends affected by the hurricane in Puerto Rico. How is everyone doing?

diana in pr.jpg

Photo credit: JORDAN WALLACH
Diana Rodriguez Wallach, during a previous visit to Puerto Ricio, with her cousin, Ventura Batista, in Utuado.

DRW: It’s been a month, and the island is pretty much as devastated today as it was the day after the hurricane. Outside of San Juan, running water is not available, electricity is non-existent, and communication is down—so if you need help, it’s nearly impossible to let anyone know. I recently wrote an Op Ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer about my family’s efforts to help our relatives there. Much like my book marketing experience above, our most successful efforts have come from our personal network—an alum from BU checked on my cousin, a colleague of my brother’s delivered a package of medicine and supplies, and a father in my daughter’s elementary school is working to send medical help to the town of Utuado. They say in times like these, it takes a village, which makes that the one positive of this disaster, my family got to see just how large our village is.

 

LB: Is there anything we here in Eastern PA can do to help?

DRW: Donate. There are several funds set up to help rebuild the island: the Hispanic Federation, United for Puerto Rico, and the Salvation Army’s disaster relief fund, to name a few. (The Salvation Army of Philadelphia has many people on the ground in PR, and personally, it has been the most willing to try to directly help us.) If you’d like to learn about the Rodriguez Family of Utuado, specifically, you can read about it here: https://www.youcaring.com/therodriguezfamilyofsanjuanandutuadopuertorico-961404.

 

LB:  When is Book 2 of Anastasia Phoenix set for release? Can you give us a little teaser about what’s next for Anastasia?

DRW: LIES THAT BIND, Book 2 in the series, comes out on March 6, 2018! I can’t wait. The story will take Anastasia to England and Rio de Janeiro, through a festival of fire to an elegant wedding. In addition to unraveling many of the mysteries surrounding her family, Anastasia will also have to decide what, and who, she’s willing to fight for, especially when she lands in a confrontation that quickly turns deadly.

 

 

Thanks so much for stopping by! We are looking forward to seeing you in a few days, Diana!

 

Posted in Fall Philly, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Interview with Christine Kendall, by Laura Parnum

Take a few minutes to get to know another one of our fabulous PA authors, Christine Kendall! She’ll be speaking at Fall Philly (on Sunday!!), and Laura Parnum took some time to chat with her about the process of researching her debut YA novel, riding chance. Take it away, Laura and Christine….

LP: Hi, Christine. Congratulations on the well-earned acclaim you have received from your debut novel, Riding Chance. I just finished reading your book, and in addition to finding it a heartwarming narrative full of hope and perseverance, I also enjoyed learning about the Work to Ride Program in Fairmount Park.

I understand that you were inspired to write this book when you heard about the Work to Ride Program in Philadelphia. Did you do a lot of research about the program up front, or did you delve into the plot and do your research along the way?

CK: I found a photo of a young boy from the Work to Ride Program on a polo pony in a Ralph Lauren Magazine that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was the most magnificent image I had ever seen. That photo inspired the story. So, in terms of the writing process, I started with a plot and then did research about horses and the game of polo.

LP: How much time did you spend with the Work to Ride Program? Did you spend a lot of time getting to know the program organizers and participants? And, of course, did you try mucking the stalls?

CK: I got up on a horse but, no, I didn’t muck any stalls. I actually didn’t spend any time with the Work to Ride program organizers or participants although I went to the stables to see what it looked like. I needed details about how stables smell, how horses respond to insects, etc. My goal was not to tell the story of the Work to Ride program. I was simply fascinated by an image and moved to create a character.

LP: To what extent did you try to keep the Work to Ride program true to life in the book, and how much of it was fictionalized?

CK: Basically everything was fictionalized. Work to Ride was just the source of my inspiration.

 LP: You’ve included a lot of details and terminology about horses and the game of polo. Did you speak with experts or did you mostly research these topics through books and other media?

 CK: I didn’t know anything about horses or polo when I began writing but I found people who were knowledgeable about one or both topics. Besides reading a ton of books and articles, I interviewed people who work with horses including a neighbor who gives horseback riding lessons. I also attended several polo matches and had the opportunity to speak with a polo player.

CK: What advice can you give aspiring authors about the process of researching for a novel?

 CK: I was extremely naive in that I didn’t realize how much research I would need to do, but I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. Research is much more than reading. It includes site visits, interviews, and maybe even re-enactments. I would advise aspiring authors to choose a topic that they’re really interested in so they can delight in the work. And after they’ve done all of their research, they’ll have to be very discerning about how much of what they’ve learned actually makes it into the book.

LP: Thanks so much, Christine. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Fall Philly/PA Author Day event.

 

Posted in Fall Philly, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cafe Chat with Rachel Skrlac Lo Ph.D, by Lindsay Bandy

IDA

IDA Design

This year at Fall Philly, we’re broadening our horizons by featuring an academic perspective on kidlit! Rachel Skrlac Lo is a professor of education at Villanova and an advocate for accurate and diverse representation in children’s literature. I asked her my burning questions about diversity, and she graciously answered them over a shiraz. I hope you’ll come to Fall Philly to learn even more about how YOU can contribute to an inclusive, sensitive, and positive environment in children’s literature!

And now, here’s Rachel!

s200_rachel.skrlac_lo

LB: Hi there, Rachel, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! As we settle into our comfy booth, what can we get you to drink?

RSL: A nice shiraz, thanks!
LB: And a little something to eat?

RSL: Surprise me.

LB: Surprise!! Our culinary experts say that dark chocolate and fruit are the perfect pairings for shiraz in the morning, particularly in donut form.
breakfast-buffet-1146249_960_720.jpg

LB: We’re really looking forward to having you speak at Fall Philly about family representation in children’s literature, and it will be awesome for our writers and illustrators to get the perspective of an educator-of-educators! Can you tell us a little bit about the classes you teach at Villanova?

villanovaRSL: Currently, I’m teaching graduate students Philosophy of Education. In this class, we think about how we think about education. We read historical texts by John Dewey. Many people know for the Dewey Decimal System in libraries, but he was a renowned philosopher of education and his work encourages educators to put the child at the center of learning. His work, for me, connects to children’s literature because children’s literature is all about creating engaging literary experiences for children. We read other scholars too and students are required to create their own philosophy of education. It’s so important to understand our own beliefs about childhood, education, and the social roles we adults play in children’s growth and development especially when our careers are intimately connected to children’s lives!

I’m also teaching an undergraduate course on literacy and English language learners. I love bringing foreign language and wordless picturebooks into this class and asking my students to imagine they are the language learner. My students plan to teach a range of subjects – math, science, social studies, Latin, Spanish, English – and for most this is the first time they think about teaching students who may not speak English fluently. We spend a lot of time exploring the connection between language and culture in order to welcome all learners into our classrooms.
LB: What is one misconception you come across regularly when it comes to diverse representation in children’s literature?

RSL: A frequent misconception is that diversity can be addressed simply by changing the color of the skin of a few characters. Diversity should mean acknowledging that our differences are more than skin deep. While I believe stories that celebrate universal experiences of the human condition have value, when they are the only stories, they tend to overlook, ignore, or misrepresent perspectives of those who do not make up the dominant group or majority.
diverse-hands-painting.jpg

LB: In a divisive political climate, how can writers and illustrators contribute to positivity and inclusiveness?

RSL: Wow, that’s a great question. There are a few things to do:

  1. If you write/draw a story that isn’t from your culture, do lots of research and then seek the advice of people from that culture. Be open to their critiques and learn from them. Also, if you can, pay them or show appropriate appreciation for their labor. Creating a story that is accurate is as important as creating one that is well written and beautifully illustrated.
  1. If your work, once published, is critiqued for its representation of diversity, then express appreciation for that feedback and learn from the experience. We all hate to receive criticism – but our work is always in progress. We grow by being open to new information. See the critique as an opportunity to do better next time. (And also recognize that even though the book may have passed over dozens of eyes at the publishing house, many publishing houses lack diverse staff, so they may not “catch” a problematic passage or image.)
  1. Don’t try to tell everyone’s story, but enjoy the story you are creating. We don’t all experience life the same way – imagine how boring the world would be if we did – so don’t worry about your story needing to have a checklist of diversity.

LB: In light of the #ownvoices movement, do you think there are any “rules” about who can or can’t write/illustrate underrepresented characters? I’ve had discussions with agents/editors who are saying that a white author can NEVER write a biracial or minority character, and that POC authors can ONLY write from the point of view of their own group. Others suggest sensitivity readers, combined with considerable experience with the group in question. There has been a lot of buzz about this, particularly amongst white writers who want to be a part of representing minorities in a positive and sensitive way.

RSL: I am torn on this. My answers above indicate that I think you can bring elements of different cultures into your writing but when you do, you must make sure you are doing it exceptionally well  (see #1, above). This is a little trickier if you are writing from a first person perspective or the central characters are not from your group. Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Chains and a white woman, did a lot of research and worked extensively with different experts to ensure her representations were accurate and fair. She recognized that while she could write the story, it wasn’t hers to tell alone. She was open to being told she was wrong and she was extremely conscientious about how she approached the work.

We all have to be sensitive about who gets to tell whose stories. Recent research by CCBC and Jason Low show that books continue to underrepresent all groups except white children and there is a lack of diversity of staff in publishing houses. This translates into a lack of opportunities for minoritized groups to enter the publishing industry. If our goal is to increase the number of diverse stories without considering the identities of the authors/illustrators, then author identity shouldn’t matter. But our goal should be broader and more inclusive than this in part because increasing diversity of storytellers means we have access to more stories and perspectives. This is good for everyone.

#weneeddiversebooksLB: What is your dream for the children’s literature of the future?

RSL: I love the work being done by #WeNeedDiverseBooks and their efforts to raise awareness of the diversity of human condition through books. I hope we can agree that children’s books can be fun, irreverent, and entertaining and safe places for all children to see the world as it really is.

LB: Okay, Rachel, it’s time for rapid-fire favorites! Take a deep breath and tell us your favorite….

Breakfast food:

Cereal and a smoothie

Quote about education: 

Too many to choose but one I used in class last night and related to which discourses we chose to engage in:

feminisms“The general refusal by male academics to engage with feminist theory, and to self-reflect on their own work from the perspective of a male reading of feminist critiques, seriously undermines whatever gender(ed) messages they claim to have for women about women.” Carmen Luke in Feminisms and Critical Pedagogy, 1992, p. 40

We need to be willing to read, listen to, and understand those who are unlike us if we claim to understand their perspective. Otherwise, we are silencing them.

Book you’ve read recently: 

the watchtower

The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower, an Australian author writing about two sisters in post WWII Sydney. Written in the 1966, this truly is a timeless tale about power, oppression, and how the oppressed can become complicit and codependent. Even though it is 50 years old, there are truths in the book that will haunt me for a long time.

Way to pass the summers as a kid:

Hanging out with my sister and friends. Road trips through northern British Columbia and Alberta.
Animal (real or fantastical) to tame as a pet:

My cats have tamed me.

Thank you so much for joining us today! We are looking forward to seeing you in Philly!

 

Posted in Fall Philly, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cafe Chat with Katherine Locke, by Lindsay Bandy

IDA

IDA Design

Good morning, Eastern PA! I am so excited to host PA author Katherine Locke at the EPP Cafe. Katherine will be joining us at Fall Philly/PA Author Day, and I really can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her YA debut, The Girl With The Red Balloon! You’re going to want to hear her talk about how to mix history and magic together, so go ahead and sign up for Fall Philly today.

Oh, the door is jangling! She’s here!!

katie-edit-1

dd029d12dceaf229d372e6a328c41c5f.jpgLB: Hi there, Katherine, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! Can we get you something to drink? 

KL: I love chai lattes so much they’re in my author bios. So I’ll have the largest chai latte you can get me!

 LB: Triple-extra-large chai latte coming right up! And please say you’ll have something to eat, because I’m starving! 

KL: A croissant please! 🙂

paperbackfront2_841x1190.pngLB: Viola! Soooo…congratulations on the release of your YA novel THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON! The reviews are fabulous, and I can’t wait to read what Kirkus calls “An absorbing blend of historical fiction, mystery, and magical realism.” Can you tell us a little bit about what got you started on this story? 

KL: Thank you! It’s been really exciting. I started writing The Girl with the Red Balloon in 2013, which feels like a lifetime ago. It was certainly a different world when I was writing it. Like most of my story ideas, TGWTRB came to me in a split second mental image of a girl floating over a wall holding onto a red balloon (99 Red Balloons was playing on the radio!). I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And chased my mind down the rabbit hole. What wall? Why was she floating over it? Why a balloon? What was she escaping? As soon as I got back to my computer, I sat down and started to write. I threw out almost everything from that first draft, but it’s remained the story about a girl, a red balloon, and the Berlin Wall.

 LB: I love that song, and the way it sparked a whole new story in your imagination. Your talk at Fall Philly will be an interview, including how you mixed history and magic together. What drew you to write historical fantasy?

KL: I wanted a way to think about identity and two times in European history that are connected, and hard, and full of oppression and darkness. Magic became a thread to tie them together and make it accessible for modern teen readers. To put it another way, the history I write about is a lot like the sun during a solar eclipse. It’s hard, or painful, to look directly at it. I want my books to be your eclipse glasses, a way to see this history clearly, and without losing anything or hurting marginalized people with ties to this history.

eclipse_1501449028546_10153847_ver1.0.jpg

LB: This is your first YA book, but I know you’ve written some New Adult romances, as well. What advice do you have for writers for older teens who are unsure of whether their story is YA or NA?

KL: I have a pretty quick and easy litmus test. I write my YA for 16 year old me. If I write a book, and it doesn’t feel like something 16yr old me would want to read and it feels like something 25 year old me would want to read, then it’s adult. That being said, NA really only took off in romance, and as a market NA romance has realllllly consolidated in the last two years, and I’m not sure if I’d market anything as NA right now. That’s just a marketing decision though.

 LB: Imagine that THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON is now a movie! (Yay! Popcorn!) What song would play in the background of the opening credits? 

KL: Have you heard Air & Simple Gifts? The music written for President Obama’s first inauguration? It’s one of my favorite pieces of music ever. And while it’s incredibly pretentious to pick this song because of its origins, in this fantasy world, I’m picking it. You can listen to/view it on YouTube here.

 LB: Omygosh, I love it! So beautiful, and not a smidge pretentious. Sky’s the limit around here!

Okay, Katherine, now it’s time for rapid-fire favorites! Tell us your favorite….

Book as a teen:

All four Alanna books by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce

One-liner of writing advice:

Allow yourself to be vulnerable on the page

photo(1)Spot to snuggle a feline:

Everywhere! I have two lap cats, so if I’m home, my lap is never empty.

Place to read:

In the bath. (Very carefully…)

Midnight snack:

Goldfish. The crackers, not the actual fish. (This is a West Wing reference, for those who don’t know!)

42znN99d.jpg

Thanks so much for joining us today, Katherine! Can’t wait to hear more about writing historical fantasy in Philly!

 

Posted in Fall Philly, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cafe Chat with Illustrator Anni Matsick, by Lindsay Bandy

Cafe Chat Cup

IDA Design

This gorgeous fall Friday we’re honored to host the wonderfully talented Anni Matsick, who will be one of our featured speakers at Fall Philly/PA Author Day! Anni has been a part of our annual February art and poetry show several times, now, and she’s a familiar face around EPA. Be sure to say hi to Anni in the comments, and sign up for Fall Philly today to hear her speak about When Pen Meets Brush: Author/Illustrator Relationships in Self-Publishing!

Anni_Matsick_headshot.jpegLB: Hi there, Anni, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! What drink can we get for you?

AM: OOOoooo, how about a root beer float?

RootBeerFloat

LB: You got it! And a snack?

AM: Thank you, but I’d better not talk with my mouth full.

LB: We are so excited to have you speak at our upcoming Fall Philly/PA Author Day! As a freelance illustrator, you’ve worked for a variety of publishers of picture books, magazines, readers, and educational materials. As a freelancer, how have you connected with clients to make a successful career?

AM: These days, it’s primarily through my website at annimatsick.com and online presence in several group galleries. I’ve been happy for 25 years working with a “rep” who got me a lot of educational work back in the days of big contracts (and later handled the sometimes complicated contracts with self publishers). And I had decades long runs with magazines that brought me steady work. Currently, I have a trade picture book released this year by a large publisher, and a second book in a series for a self publisher who has established a company for their sale along with related theme merchandise. Both were attracted by sample characters I showed on my website. My work is done traditionally, in watercolor on paper, and the realistic style is still sought by some clients.

MomsChoice_cover

 LB: Lots of our members are curious about the self-publishing process, and we’re excited to learn more about your journey at Fall Philly. What factors influenced your decision to sign on, most recently, with a self publishing author to produce the award-winning Dinosaurs Living in My Hair!?

AM: As I read the manuscript sent via email by the author, the images appeared instantly on my mental screen. I could “see” the story, and started sketching right away to get my ideas down. The rhyming tale of almost-six Sabrina, whose imagination goes wild at her mother’s suggestion that dinosaurs could be lurking in her uncombed locks, came to life in my head. It lent easily to a spreads format, so each turning of the page could open on another panoramic scene, allowing me to draw BIG—which I love to do. The writer, Jayne Rose-Vallee, had seen a sample in my portfolio showing the “attitude” she wanted for her spunky main character. It turned into a terrific relationship, and we really cut loose in book 2 collaborating on a lot of dino action! Check out the SCBWI Bookstop Launch Here!

dlimh2_cover.jpg

 

PrincessLB: I love the expressive children in your work! How do you manage to convey the range of emotion in their faces and body language?

 

AM: This ability seems to be an inner connection, a knack. It’s a major reason for attracting the commissions I get. I sketch the characters from imagination but sometimes look at snapshots for accuracy in details; like the hands, foreshortening, etc.

 

college anni

 

 LB: If you could go back in time to your college days and give advice to Carnegie Mellon painting major Anni, what would you tell her?

AM: I’d tell her that all the drawing classes she loaded up on would pay off someday!

 

LB: What’s the biggest misconception you’ve come across about self-publishing?

AM: That it’s always amateur level. The authors I’ve worked with sought professional illustration, hired art directors as well, and had solid marketing plans.

 LB: Okay, Anni, now it’s time for rapid-fire favorites! Take a deep breath and tell us your favorite….

Book to read aloud to kids:

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg. The mysterious tale is beautifully drawn in black and white.

garden

Color scheme to paint in: 

I love using complementary colors for dynamic contrast. Pink and green, lavender and orange are a couple of favorites you’ll see frequently in my work.

Place to sketch:

I practice my skills at a weekly figure drawing group on Thursday evenings.

Television Show:

Project Runway!

project

Type of shoe:

You’ll always find me in clogs.

LB: Thanks so much for joining us today, Anni! We can’t wait to learn more about you at Fall Philly/PA Author Day!

AM: And thank you, Lindsay, for letting me introduce myself in advance. See you there!

 

 

Posted in Fall Philly, Interviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Agent Caitlin McDonald on PERFECTING YOUR PITCH! with Lindsay Bandy

Today, we welcome Caitlin McDonald from Donald Maass Literary Agency! Caitlin is here to help you write your pitch, and to let you know what she’s looking for! Read below, then reserve your spot to pitch Caitlin at Fall Philly!

caitlin-mcdonald-photo-250x250LB: Hi Caitlin! Thanks for stopping by! Can you give us your best advice for crafting a strong pitch?

CM: Three things: one, focus on your characters and their goals; two, identify what is unique about your story; and three, have comp titles. These are the quickest ways to establish an emotional connection to your story, set it apart from existing books on the marketplace, and show you know your target audience. The first is especially key: too often people open their pitches by explaining the world’s complicated magic system, or events that happened twenty years prior to the book’s start. That’s all window dressing—we want to know what your book is about, at its heart, and that means characters.

LB: What are you looking for/not looking for right now?

CM: I’m always looking for diverse stories with strong voices, and my focus is on science-fiction, fantasy, or contemporary fiction with a geeky bent. I would love to find the next Tamora Pierce, Francis Hardinge or Franny Billingsly. For fantasy, I’m more interested in politics than quests, and for sci-fi, think less space opera and more near-future colonization. With any story, I want to see an awareness of how it’s informed by contemporary issues, and vice versa—what is your story saying about the world we live in? Lady knights, heists, and found families are always a bonus for me!

LB: Are you open to representing picture book authors and or illustrators?

CM: Sadly, no; I don’t handle anything younger than middle grade.

Thanks again, Caitlin! We’ll see you in Philly!

Posted in Fall Philly, Perfecting your pitch, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment