Category Archives: Breaking News!!!

New Book News

I’m so thrilled to announce that my next book, A Wolf Called Wander, will be published by Anderson Press of the UK. It will be a fully illustrated middle grade novel inspired by the life of Oregon Wolf 7. The official announcement will be made when the publisher has selected and illustrator, and the book will be out sometime in 2019, but I couldn’t wait to share the news and thank the many people who helped me get here. My wonderful agent Fiona Kenshole of the Transatlantic Agency arranged the deal. My brilliant friends, Cheryl Coupe, Michael Gettle-Gilmartin, Barb Liles, and Cliff Lehman, have been with me every step of the way.

I’m particularly grateful for an opportunity at the Fishtrap Summer workshops to take a totally unique outdoor writer’s workshop on the absolutely gorgeous and extremely challenging Zumwalt Prairie. I learned and listened and walked and smelled and tasted and imagined my way into a wolf’s point of view in some of Oregon’s most spectacular wolf habitat. Nature writer Gary Ferguson (Land on Fire) was my mentor in that transformative week. Many thanks to him and to the Fishtrap organization who have been nurturing strong western writing for many years.  The pictures are Oregon Wolf 7 and his newest group of pups in their new home ground in the Rogue River watershed.

Grant money for OBOB

I’m a huge fan of Oregon’s Battle of the Books program and I’ve just learned of a great opportunity to get the books your school library needs to participate for free.

Due to an unique LSTA funding opportunity, public and private schools who are committed to participating in the 2017-18 Oregon Battle of the Books program, may apply between now and July 15, 2017 to receive OBOB grant books for their school libraries. July 15th is the cut-off date to complete the online OBOB Book Grant application.

Here is the link on the OBOB website for the OBOB book grant for the upcoming 2017-18 school year. Just hit the “Apply now” button!

http://www.oregonbattleofthebooks.org/registration/

Official Participant OBOB registration will open up in the Fall 2017 and will be posted on both the Oregon Battle of the Books website AND the Oregon Battle of the Books Facebook page

Returning Librarians to my School District

A few years ago my children’s school district faced a catastrophic shortfall in their budget. The cuts that followed were many and painful, among them the loss of every single certified teacher librarian in the largest school district in Oregon. Fortunately our funding crisis is over and we’re in the happy position of deciding how to expand services. After some very eloquent 5th graders testified to the frustration of going to the school library only to find the door locked, I added some observations as a former student, a parent, a 20 year volunteer, and a visiting author.

What I had to say may be applicable to your home school district so if you are fighting this battle in some other place, please feel free to borrow my words. If you are a parent or student in the Beaverton School District, you have one more chance to make your voice heard at a budget meeting at 6:30pm on the 20th of this month at school district headquarters.

Here are my thoughts on why my own school district needs a certified teacher-librarian in every school.

1.Teacher support

As a visiting author I am in hundreds of schools all over the country. I work with grade school, middle, and high school teachers to encourage reading and writing and generate excitement for literature. Everywhere I go I meet English and reading teachers who are genuinely excited to do the higher level reading work that new standards ask of them. They want to delve deeper into texts of all genres. They are excited to bring students the best and most current books. But not every book stands up to higher level reading. The Wimpy Kid franchise, for example, is not up to the task. In order to find the books that will bear greater scrutiny and model the best and most elegant use of language, you’d have to read several hundred books each year. It’s wildly impractical to ask every single English and reading teacher to do this every year.

A certified teacher librarian is the person well qualified to winnow the enormous variety of current books to the 30 or 40 strongest candidates so that each teacher can choose from among the best of the best. They are also the ones with the resources to help teachers find books available in translation, audio, and ebook to accommodate the needs of a diverse population.

2. Loss to private schools

There are dozens of private schools within Beaverton’s boundaries. All of them have full time teacher-librarians, and that is a huge draw. It was not always so. When my parents were choosing between public and parochial schools for me they looked at the options and saw, on the one hand, a parochial school that would see to my spiritual development and had significantly smaller class sizes, and on the other hand, a public school with a well funded library and a full time librarian. They chose public schools. The parochial schools in the area are expanding, and we stand to lose high achieving students and highly involved parents if we don’t provide school libraries. Having been in several Catholic schools over the last five years, I’ve seen relatively small libraries with limited technology. But they have a full time teacher librarian and children have full access to that smaller collection. The Beaverton school district libraries far exceed most private schools in the size and quality of the collection but that vital asset is currently behind a locked door.

3. Supporting growing diversity.

Our school district has recently become a majority non-white district. This coincides with a moment when publishers are highly motivated to publish titles with multicultural characters. Looks like a win-win situation. But if nobody is there to buy the books with non-white characters, publishers will stop making them. There is a huge need for kid’s books with non-white characters. At the moment, 90% of titles have a white protagonist. That’s a ridiculous figure and the only reason it’s true is that those books consistently sell. In order for an authentic body of literature to take root for the young readers we have today is for well funded school libraries to buy the books that reflect their populations, and make sure that kids find the books that mirror their own experience and speak to their own values. We could make a huge difference in providing a legacy of inclusive literature for children.

4. Supporting family literacy

One of the things I’ve seen in talking to immigrant students, not just in Oregon but all over, is that for many of them the school library is their only library. Whether the issue is transportation or fear of library fines or reluctance to register an address publicly, lots of kids only have access to free books through a school library. One of the strongest factors in predicting whether a child will read on grade level is access to books in the home. Our families no matter how poor or disadvantaged want to support their children’s reading. By keeping the school library behind a locked door, we deny them the number one tool in learning to read: books!

A fully funded and staffed school library supports literacy better and more efficiently by enabling the student and parent to do their share of the work. With English language learning families we have a golden opportunity in the years when parents are motivated to read aloud to their children. A teacher-librarian is in the position to put into the hands of these families the books and audio books that will, not only support the child, but lift the literacy of the parent. Then we have both higher performing students and more empowered and engaged parents–a win for the entire community.

Please consider testifying in support of fully funded and staffed libraries at the Beaverton School District Administration Center at 6:30 on Monday April 20th. 16550 SW Merlo Road, Beaverton, OR  97003.

If you are not in the Beaverton School District I hope you will consider advocating for school librarians in your home district.

 

What I did this summer

Today is my kid’s first day of school and I thought I’d celebrate by tackling my least favorite essay topic from school. I hated it simply because if something exciting happened it felt like bragging to write about it, and if nothing much happened, well, it’s a little depressing to call that to mind at the beginning of a school year.

The truth is I’ve had, by most standards, a very ordinary summer. We took a little trip to the mountains and a day trip to the beach. We did yard work. We made jam. But four things have stood out for me as making a difference in my writing. So I thought I’d say a little bit about all four.

1. A change of setting tends to lead to new work or at least new ideas.

View north from Harsin ButteIt was my great pleasure to participate in the Outpost Workshop of the Fishtrap Summer Gathering. I spent a week tenting out on the Zumwalt Prairie in northeastern Oregon. It was an astonishing landscape–outwardly empty, yet on closer inspection teeming with wildlife from bull elk to least weasel to all manner of song birds. The days got into the 100s with barely a scrap of shade and the nights dipped down into the 30s. The altitude was a challenging 5000 feet or so. Not the most conducive environment to productive writing, and yet I found myself flooded with story ideas, thinking for example, of what it would be like to homestead such a place with it’s punishing climate but rich resources.

2. New company tends to lead to new perspectives

I met a woman named Janet at the Outpost workshop who has worked on the Zumwalt and in the near by Wallowa Mountains and Snake River canyons for most of her life. She knew an incredible amount about the natural and human history of the area. She shared some of the history of the Joseph band of the Nez Perce who lived near Wallowa Lake up until the famous surrender of Chief Joseph in 1877.Unknown  You probably remember ‘From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.’ Its one of the most quoted bits of Native American writing ever. Janet gave the fuller version of his surrender and cast the story of Chief Joseph into an entirely different and far more interesting light. Whether the things I’ve learned become a story I write or not, it’s good to periodically revisit what I’ve learned as historical truth, and consider what that truth might look like from a different perspective.

3. World news is less distant than it seems

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Along with the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri and the ebola outbreak in Africa, one of the world events that has dominated the news this summer is the solo migration of children from Central America.  It would be easy to think of these events as comfortably distant and unrelated to me personally. However, I’ve been researching the famine-era migration of Irish children to the US and a shocking number of them came to this country alone at very young ages. It’s easy to mentally scold parents that would send their children into such danger and hardship and yet, just like Central America of the present day, the children of mid-1800s Ireland faced near certain death in their home country. I find it much easier to think through the issues about what to do with these migrant children knowing my own ancestors were in exactly the same position a mere 150 years ago. I read a great book from a migrant’s point of view called Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea.  It was so thoughtfully done and not at all the pedagogic thing I’d be tempted to write if I took on this topic directly myself. The topic of migrant children is a rich one but I think if I took it on I’d write about the famine-era Irish. I’ve been thinking about what books might help children process the information from the ebola epidemic and from the human rights demonstrations in Ferguson, but that is a post for another day.

4. Changing genres is good for the brain

I’ve been working on the same two novels for quite a long time and as much as I love both of the stories I was feeling a bit uninspired at the beginning of the summer. But I spent a little time being a workshop participant rather than a leader and I learned a bunch new things which lead me to try a non-fiction picture book and a screenplay. I managed to get through a whole draft of the non-fiction and part way through a screenplay, and I’m feeling more energized than I have in ages. Not a vacation exactly but definitely a change that did me good.

And all this changing up and refreshing has been perfect timing because one of those two novels I’ve been working on for such a long time is going to be published by Random House in 2016. I’ll do the final edits this fall and now after my summer break I’m 100% ready to dive into the revisions whole-heartedly. The new book will be called The Turn of the Tide. It’s a contemporary middle grade adventure story set in Astoria, Oregon and told in two voices. I’ll have lots more news about that in later posts.

How about you? Did you change things up in your summer routine? Gain an insight from a summer trip? How do you refresh yourself when you’re feeling stale?

Gratitude for Booksellers and Librarians

My parents first took me to Powells Bookstore clear back in 1972 or so when it was a tiny place tucked away in northwest Portland. I’ve been a fan of indy bookstores ever since. In fact the kind of books I write would not be possible without knowledgeable and passionate booksellers helping readers find just the right fit.

Written in Stone by Rosanne ParrySo I was elated today when I saw that the independent bookstore Andersons in the Chicago area had named WRITTEN IN STONE to it’s 2013 Mock Newbery list. The complete list of 25 contenders for the Newbery medal here at the Anderson’s website.

 

 

6-8 Poster

I am also very grateful to the librarian’s who have chosen Second Fiddle for this years Oregon Battle of the Books list for 6th to 8th graders. It’s a fabulous program where kids form teams, read a slate of 15 books, and answer questions about them in a quiz bowl format. It’s great fun and I’m proud to be on the same list as my friends Laurel Snyder with Bigger than a Breadbox, Operation Redwood by S. Terril French, and Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury. If your school does not know the joy of the book battle here’s where you can go for more information. 

So happy new school year to all you wonderful school librarians who do so much to help kids find books to grow on.

And a big thank you to the following independent bookstores who have invited me to come share my books. I’ll have a full list of bookstore appearances up on my calendar soon.

A Children’s Place Bookstore in Portland, OR

Waucoma Books in Hood River, OR

Klindt’s Bookstore in The Dalles, OR

Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise, ID

Aunties Books in Spokane, WA

Village Books in Bellingham, WA

Secret Garden Books in Seattle, WA

The Linden Tree Books in Los Altos, CA

Stay tuned for dates and times!