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YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart

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September 2016

Learning Through Books For All Ages

Rita Goldner - Learning - Young Adult Auhor RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

A friend recently shared with me this quote, from T. H. White, The Once and Future King:  “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

My friend meant it as a general “life-advice” thing, but since I am an obsessed author/illustrator I interpret it in the context of my writing, reading, researching, publishing and marketing world. My current opportunity, shared with all my fellow authors, is to present that remedy for “being sad”, the “thing that never fails” to our reading audience. Before anyone assumes that the learning has to be sophisticated and profound, be aware that in my case, the audience is 5-8 years old. This group, usually with an adult reading to them, seems fascinated with dinosaurs, construction equipment, and underpants.  I recently bought the trifecta to read to my grandson: a picture book about dinosaurs, in their underpants, operating cranes and bulldozers. Needless to say, a big hit.

In my own reading escapes, I’m only looking for entertainment, but the unintended byproduct is learning “why the world wags and what wags it”. I never liked history or geography presented academically in school, but since I’m a fan of James A Michener, I couldn’t help but learn about Hawaii, Texas, Colorado (Centennial) Chesapeake Bay (Chesapeake) and Israel (The Source).

Since I’m now immersed in researching children’s literature, I’ve come to realize that for the little ones,  the learning isn’t just about the subject matter, it’s about the power of communication, the whole palette of adventures they can explore, how the world works, and even their own self-worth.  It’s a humbling and very exciting challenge for me!


Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

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1984 and Little Brother: A Comparison

1984 by george orwell young adult author rendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

This was a difficult post to write. It’s been on the to-do list for months while I ruminated. And hedged. And procrastinated.

1984 is one of the big boys in the dystopian genre. I assume that most of you have read it, or are at least familiar with its theme.

1984 by George Orwell (1949) and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2008) are inextricably linked by their subject matter. Both serve as warnings. Both have the power to mesmerize and horrify the reader. Both should make us think. But today, I’m asking you to read Little Brother and think long and hard about what it has to say.

1984 is a classic cry against totalitarian government. It’s easy to assume that Orwell was railing against the post-World War II spread of communism, but he was also warning countries like England and the United States against believing that they could save freedom and democracy by continuing an arms race to find a stable “deterrent.” Orwell asserts that freedom cannot continue to exist in a world preparing for nuclear war.

In a world punctuated by war, oppression, deprivation, loneliness, paranoia, and despair, Winston reaches out for truth and love. And pays a terrible cost.

Little Brother relays an updated message: freedom cannot exist in a world that has given in to little brother by cory doctrow young adult author rendezvousthe fear of terrorism. Marcus Yallow (online handle W1n5t0n) is a hacker and a gamer who loves to outsmart surveillance technology. While skipping school one afternoon, he finds himself near the epicenter of a terrorist attack on San Francisco’s rapid transit system. Within minutes of the attack, Marcus and his three friends are taken prisoner by “military looking guys in coveralls.”

“Hey,” I said to the soldiers. “Hey, listen! We’re just high school students. I wanted to flag you down because my friend was bleeding. Someone stabbed him.” I had no idea how much of this was making it through the muffling bag. I kept talking. “Listen—this is some kind of misunderstanding. We’ve got to get my friend to a hospital—“

Someone went upside my head again. It felt like they used a baton or something—it was harder than anyone had ever hit me in the head before. My eyes swam and watered and I literally couldn’t breathe through the pain. A moment later, I caught my breath, but I didn’t say anything. I’d learned my lesson.

Who were these clowns? They weren’t wearing insignia. Maybe they were the terrorists! I’d never really believed in terrorists before—I mean I knew that in the abstract there were terrorists somewhere in the world, but they didn’t really represent any risk to me. There were millions of ways that the world could kill me—starting with getting run down by a drunk burning his way down Valencia—that were infinitely more likely and immediate than terrorists. Terrorists kill a lot fewer people than bathroom falls and accidental electrocutions. Worrying about them always struck me as about as useful as worrying about getting hit by lightning.

Marcus soon learns he’s been detained by the Department of Homeland Security as a person of interest in the terrorist attack.

“You think I’m a terrorist? I’m seventeen years old!”

Just the right age—Al Qaeda loves recruiting impressionable, idealistic kids. We googled you, you know. You’ve posted a lot of very ugly stuff on the public Internet.”

”I’d like to speak to an attorney.”

Severe haircut lady looked at me like I was a bug. “You’re under the mistaken impression that you’ve been picked up by the police for a crime. You need to get past that. You are being detained as a potential enemy combatant by the government of the United States. If I were you, I’d be thinking very hard about how to convince us that you are not an enemy combatant.”

Despite the threats made by his captors, Marcus refuses to unlock and uncrypt his cell phone, or give any information to them. He feels that he is a citizen who loves freedom, which makes him the patriot and his captors the traitors. He is detained for five days, and released when he agrees to sign papers that declared he had been held for voluntary questioning. He is then released and told to say nothing of what has happened to him to anyone, even his parents. He is told that he will be under constant surveillance.

When he returns to school the following week, he finds things have changed since the terrorist attack. The school board has installed closed circuit televisions in every classroom for the students’ protection.

Why did we have cameras in our classrooms now? Terrorists. Of course. Because by blowing up a bridge, terrorists had indicated that schools were next. Somehow that was the conclusion the Board had reached anyway.

I stuck my hand up.

”Yes, Marcus?”

“Ms. Galvez, about this note?”

“Yes, Marcus.”

“Isn’t the point of terrorism to make us afraid? That’s why it’s called terrorism, right?”

”I suppose so.” The class was staring at me. I wasn’t the best student in school, but I did like a good in-class debate. They were waiting to hear what I’d say next.

“So aren’t we doing what the terrorists want from us? Don’t they win if we act all afraid and put cameras in the classrooms and all of that?”

There was some nervous tittering. One of the others put his hand up. It was Charles. Ms. Galvez called on him.

“Putting cameras in makes us safe, which makes us less afraid.”

”Safe from what?” I asked, without waiting to be called on.

“Terrorism,” Charles said. The others were nodding their heads.

“How do they do that? If a suicide bomber rushed in here and blew us all up—“

“Ms. Galvez, Marcus is violating school policy. We’re not supposed to make jokes about terrorist attacks—“

“Who’s making jokes?”

“Thank you, both of you,” Ms. Galvez said. She looked really unhappy.

Marcus is watched and followed in the days to come. When he finally tells his parents what really happened to him, they are horrified at his ordeal, contact an investigative reporter, and from that moment on, Marcus is in danger. He organizes an event that will bring the overreaching arm of the DHS into the public eye, and things go horribly wrong, causing Marcus’ worst fears to be realized.

Both 1984 and Little Brother serve as warnings. In the Afterword to Little Brother, Andrew Huang asks whether the terrorists have already won:

“Have we given in to fear, such that artists, hobbyists, hackers, iconoclasts or perhaps a group of kids playing Harajuku Fun Madness could be so trivially implicated as terrorists?” He goes on to say that “technology is no cure for paranoia. Coercing millions of people to strip off their outer garments and walk barefoot through metal detectors everyday is no solution, either. It only serves to remind the population that they have a reason to be afraid, while in practice providing only a flimsy barrier to a determined adversary.”

We are fond of slogans like “Freedom isn’t Free.” We must remember that we win freedom by having the courage to live every day as free people—no matter how big the threats on the horizon.

Please don’t give in to fear and paranoia. Don’t forget to be brave. Don’t believe that the things the government does to take away our freedoms are merely a small price to pay for our safety.

http://cg68doc.newsvine.com/_news/2013/08/06/19885640-exclusive-us-directs-agents-to-cover-up-program-used-to-investigate-americans

Tracy’s original post can be read here.

Kickstarter for Authors

Rita Goldner - Kickstarter - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

At a recent meetup for Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing, a few people were interested in my experience with Kickstarter, a crowdfunding company I used to fund printing for the children’s picture book I wrote and illustrated, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. I’m blogging my own personal journey here, not the framework of Kickstarter, because that can be easily researched at https://www.kickstarter.com/

My publisher suggested Kickstarter to me at an early planning meeting. Dancing Dakini Press, a small but well-established entity, had used this method previously to fund printing of their award-winning books, and promised to guide me through their steps. I was reticent, not fully understanding the “how”.

My only exposure to crowdfunding had been a few projects I had seen online, for GoFundMe. I later learned the agenda of GoFundMe, as explained on their website, is to help raise money for  “medical expenses, education costs, volunteer programs, youth sports, funerals & memorials – even animals & pets.”  It’s obviously not appropriate for us in the book business.

The perfect fit for authors is Kickstarter. Their mission statement welcomes entrepreneurs in the fields of art, music, theater, journalism, publishing and technology. Their rules exclude any charity, focusing instead on projects for “creating something and sharing it with the world”. In my opinion, an author must think of the work as bigger than him/herself, and that it will make the world a little better, raising the bar for literary excellence, and/or showcasing an important concept, which in my case was an endangered species.  My biggest supporter was my son-in-law, who owns a search engine optimization business, and knows a lot more about marketing than I do. He endorsed my plan, saying that it was vital to have followers sharing the adventure and being part of the success.

My publisher recommended that I build my followers list to a minimum of 1 person for every $10 (800 followers for $8000). For me the list comprised Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, and a business Facebook page I started, named after the book title. On the business page, one can’t “friend” people, so I increased my list by posting the book illustrations on non-profit organizations’ pages about rainforests, orangutan rescue, etc. Then I asked people to “like” my business page to see more illustrations. I also occasionally posted a short question on these pages, to elicit a response, and then asked the responders to “like” my business page. One of my questions was “Do you think education or penalties are more effective in stopping wildlife habitat destruction?” I was thrilled to see I got a response from Jane Goodall (my hero) on that one. I started this follower-building two months before the Kickstarter launch. I posted an illustration and/or a comment every other day on the business page, and shared it with all the other social media. I also bought two ads, for 6 days each, $5.00 per day, but I have no way of knowing if the followers were coming from the ads or the posts. Once I launched the campaign, I emailed almost everyone I knew, and posted frequent updates on social media.

The prizes for backers have to be something personal, from you. The obvious prize is an autographed book, but I also used notecards and color print enlargements, too. Some authors give lessons for prizes, on plot or character development, pacing, climax, conflict resolution, or any tricks of the trade they’ve learned along the way. It was an exciting (although sometimes bumpy) ride, and I have not only the money to show for it, but a group of interested followers who share my passion.

You can see Rita’s campaign here.


Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

Miss last week’s post? Check it out here!

In need of a new and exciting read? New Releases!

Are you a teenager or know a few who love to write? Our Flash fiction contest is now open. Find out how to enter to win some great prizes. Contest details.

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Lord of the Flies and Gone: A Comparison

Lord of the Flies - Tracy Lawson - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson.

Lord of the Flies (1954) and Gone (2008) share a common theme: that the human impulse toward civilization is not as deeply rooted as the human impulse toward savagery.  Both novels explore what happens when children are left without any adult supervision.

In Lord of the Flies, a planeload of English schoolboys crashes on an uninhabited tropical island. All the adults are killed in the crash, and the boys attempt to govern themselves while they wait for rescue.

In Gone, everyone fifteen and older in Perdido Beach, California mysteriously vanishes one morning, leaving the young teens, children, and babies trapped inside a mysterious, impenetrable force field with no adult supervision, no working technology, and no way to get help.

In my last post, I suggested that teens that had read Matched by Ally Condie would be familiar with the themes of censorship and oppressive societal organization, and therefore well-prepared to recognize those themes in classic dystopian novels like Fahrenheit 451.

Gone is more than just a warm-up read to prepare for the themes in Lord of the Flies. A Voice of Youth Advocates review of Gone suggested “if Stephen King had written Lord of the Flies, it might have been a little like this.”  Be warned. Gone is scary.  Gone has its tender moments and the occasional laugh, but it’s every bit as scary as Lord of the Flies—and perhaps more so, as today’s teens would be more likely to identify with Sam, the reluctant leader who teams up with Astrid, the brainy and unattainable girl in his class at school, than they would with Ralph, Piggy, Jack and the other prep school boys who are stranded on the island.

Lord of the Flies uses the children’s fear of the Beast, a supernatural being that they believe haunts the island, as a metaphor for the evil that lurks within each of us, but the supernatural force in Gone is not merely symbolic. Perdido Beach was struck by an asteroid fifteen years before, and now freaky things are happening. Some of the characters develop unusual powers, and are hunted, used, and persecuted for their dangerous, deadly talents.

The boys in Lord of the Flies immediately set up a hierarchy—they elect Ralph leader, and place Jack in charge of hunting and keeping the signal fire going. The older boys fail to keep watch over the youngest children, the “littleuns,” who run naked and wild through the woods. The hunters let the signal fire go out and miss an opportunity for rescue. Soon most of the boys shirk their responsibilities, revert to superstition and ritual, and lose their civilized selves.

They eventually revert to their basest selves, and, in a moment of superstitious terror, murder their classmate, Simon, by tearing him to pieces with their hands and teeth. Even Ralph, who has struggled to maintain their civilization, takes part in the ritual killing of Simon, who was goodness and innocence, now lost.

The kids in Gone are stranded in their home town, but still flounder without the technology and the authority figures that defined and controlled their society. They push Sam to be their leader, and right away Sam realizes he’ll have trouble from a group of bullies. The teens set up a plan for caring for the youngest children (called the prees) and distributing food. Astrid wonders why they see no soldiers, or scientists, or news crews on the other side of the barrier.

Many of the girls in Perdido Beach assume the roles of healer, mother, teacher, and even love interest— perhaps that is why their society functions longer, and at a higher level, than the one in Lord of the Flies.  But the girls are not all stuck in traditional roles—some of them are spies and warriors, too, when the time comes.

Astrid’s autistic brother, Little Pete, lives in his own world, though Astrid is able to reach him sometimes, through rituals they developed during their life with their parents. Little Pete is a symbol of innocence, yet he wields a power that might just eclipse all the others’.

Soon another threat becomes apparent. The rich kids from Coates Academy, the private school on the hill, roll in to town in a convoy of expensive cars. They say they want to team up with the Perdido Beach kids until help arrives, but that turns out to be far from the truth.

In both Lord of the Flies and Gone, the antagonists are bullies whose attacks escalate until very few remain strong enough to resist them, and the final conflicts are battles to the death.

The naval officers who rescue Ralph and the other survivors in Lord of the Flies are symbols of civilization, of good. They cannot be blamed for abandoning the boys.

The adults in Gone have all vanished. Where are they? Have they died? If not, could they help what happened to them? The children wish to be reunited with their family members, but they also fear the unknown. As Sam nears his own 15th birthday, he learns that adults are not all-knowing, and are not to be blindly trusted.

Lord of the Flies is complete in one volume, but Gone is the first in a series of five novels, so be forewarned–you must read on to learn what happens to Sam, Astrid, and the others.

I found my husband’s bookmark in my copy of Gone this morning, and I remembered that he’d stopped reading the book because it upset him too much. I think he could’ve powered through and enjoyed it. I hope he’ll try again.


Tracy’s original post can be read here.

Miss last week’s post? Check it out here!

In need of a new and exciting read? New Releases!

Are you a teenager or know a few who love to write? Our Flash fiction contest is now open. Find out how to enter to win some great prizes. Contest details.

Save

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