Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Interview with Gayle Jacobson-Huset Part II

Back again with Gayle from Stories for Children with a look at what this great e-zine is all about.

SFC is growing and fast. How does the team work together? I mean do you do most of your connecting online? Do you meet? If so about how often?

I must tell you, we have the most awesome magazine team in the world! All of us are "there" to help each other, especially when we get backlogged. Since I started at the magazine almost right at the very beginning, I did every job there is to do and helped teach others as they came aboard. We have team members "cross-trained" for some of our jobs so that if somebody is gone or sick, the magazine can continue forward without them. Since we are always on deadlines, this works out really well.

This may surprise you, but I've only met one of my co-workers in person. Ms. Angelika Lochner lives in Florida, and she came to Minnesota for a week to meet me, work on some SFC items, and then we attended a MN SCBWI Fall Conference together. I've "known" most of my co-workers for years, mainly through critique groups I've set up and they were members of, and from networking through SCBWI. By the time they became staff members at Stories for Children Magazine, I felt like my best friends in the world had joined together to help Virginia and I move SFC Magazine forward. And OH BOY, have they ever! We are truly bursting at the seams, and our future here looks great!

We are all scattered across the U.S. and Canada, and our "office" is a virtual one. Yet, it works! All of us communicate constantly online or by phone since we have our own phone system as well. We have phone conferences with the entire staff approximately once every two months to discuss the next direction we need to take, and discuss any problems we've encountered. We all hope to meet face-to-face some day in a central location, but if one of us is traveling to a co-workers' area, we make plans to meet and get to know one another a little better. It's awesome!

All of this sounds super-charged, Gayle. What a great job.

Tell us about the Grannies. What are they? How can a writer enter to win, or can s/he? Where do we find out who the winner is each year?

I dreamt up the idea of the Grannys, and I did so because we felt so bad that we weren't at the point yet where we could pay our loyal contributors for their awesome work. If we couldn't pay them with money, then Virginia and I decided to pay our contributors with "warm fuzzies". Since Hollywood had the GRAMMIES, then I thought SFC Magazine should have the GRANNYS! Since Wendy Dickson and I were brand new to the world of grandparenthood, that is how we came up with the name.
This award is based on the editors' PERSONAL FAVORITES in the following categories:
Cover Artwork

Stanley Bookman, our SFC Magazine Mascot, hosts the Granny Awards every April 1st. You can tune in and read/watch all about it on our website on April 1st. Each winner of the Granny receives a trophy with three lines engraved on it:
1st line-SFC Magazine Granny Award;
2nd line-what the award is for; and
3rd line-published title or artwork/cover art month.

The statues are really quite nice, and our winners have been thrilled to receive them.

The winners will be announced on April 1st, (SFC Magazine's Birthday!) but later in the month, we should have photos of all the winners up with their comments about winning.

The absolute neatest thing about the Grannys is that you don't have to do anything to enter. If your work was picked for publication at SFC Magazine during the year, then you are automatically entered to be considered for a Granny. This was a really tough year to choose winners for each category because we had so many excellent choices! Mark your calendar to check our website on April 1st to see who won!

April 1st is on my calendar. Hey! That's only a week away.

I know about your exciting plans to take Stories for Children Magazine into print at some point. Is there anything you can tell us about this project?

We still plan to move forward with our plans to become a print magazine AND a paying market. It all takes time, and at this point, we have had to slow down a bit because of the economy affecting our reader's ability to subscribe to our magazine. We will always have part of SFC Magazine for free for children everywhere, but we need to attract more advertising and sponsorship to move forward with print plans. We have all brainstormed on this, and every possible avenue to move us forward to print has been discussed and put into motion. Keep your fingers crossed it can be soon!

Now we have some quick and I hope fun choices to let the readers know who Gayle Jacobson-Huset really is—you know the person behind the smiling face on the website.

Smiling face? Lol – I think you mean Grimace! That photo was taken on hubby's and my 35th wedding anniversary at my daughter's house. We'd been helping out for two weeks after she had our grandson. Hubby and I were ready to collapse with extreme weariness since our granddaughter was two at the time and just FULL of spunk (for which we were not quite prepared for. Lol)

You can only choose one from each pair, Gayle!

Pie or cake?
CAKE (I want my cake and want to eat it, too!)

Snow or sunshine?
SNOW (I DO live in MN by choice, you know! The weather here keeps my imaginary penguins nice and cool!)

Forest or open plains?
Open Plains (That way, I can see the tornadoes coming and rush those slow-waddling penguins down to the basement!)

Writing or reading? (Not fair! Skip this one.)
I'll pick anyway – the answer is YES!

Early morning or late afternoon?
Early Morning before the Penguins start staring at me with their beady little eyes that challenge me to WRITE something!

Fluffy pets or exotic scaly ones?
Fluffy Stuffed Penguins

Blue or red?
Is this really a question? There ARE no RED penguins, but there are BLUE ones, so it's BLUE! LOL

Bustling city or quiet rural area?
Quiet small town where penguins can roam free.

Business suit or jeans and sweater? I've never worn jeans in my life!
Always looked like something stuffed out of a sausage factory, so I'd have to say comfortable clothes – my penguin pajamas with the built-in feet suffice when I'm in the office. But, for the Granny Awards, I may just don a penguin tuxedo minus the goofy bow tie!

That’s enough, FUN. Thanks for being a good sport.

Can you wrap this up with anything you’d like to share with readers, contributors or possible contributors?

Without our beloved contributors who have believed in us for the past two years and have donated their fantastic work, there would not BE a Stories for Children Magazine. We are all volunteers that run the magazine, and it has taken on a life of its own as we continue moving forward. I find that the generosity of my coworkers and our contributors to be outstanding in this modern day and time when nothing is "free" anymore. I'm very proud of SFC Magazine and what we stand for and how we are making a difference in the lives of children all across the globe, and how we are giving new authors and illustrators a chance at becoming published. There is so much talent out there, just waiting to be discovered. I just hope the magical combination that IS Stories for Children Magazine continues to entertain children and adults alike in the years ahead.

Thanks so much. I know you are a busy lady, but my father-in-law once told me, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I’ve always followed his advice.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Webpage Rocks

Thanks to Denise Biondo's brilliance, my website is super-charged. I'm so excited that I'm blogging!!!!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Interview with Cynthea Liu

The Great Call of China by Cynthea Liu is here!

About the Book:

Chinese-born Cece was adopted when she was two years old by her American parents. Living in Texas, she's bored of her ho-hum high school and dull job. So when she learns about the S.A.S.S. program to Xi'an, China, she jumps at the chance. She'll be able to learn about her passion—anthropology—and it will give her the opportunity to explore her roots. But when she arrives, she receives quite a culture shock. And the closer she comes to finding out about her birth parents, the more apprehensive she gets. Enter Will, the cute guy she first meets on the plane. He and Cece really connect during the program. But can he help her get accustomed to a culture she should already know about, or will she leave China without the answers she's been looking for?

About the Author:

Cynthea Liu spent her formative years in Oklahoma and Texas where she was a Whiz Quiz member, an Academic Decathloner, and a spelling bee champion. (Yes, she was very popular.) After attending college on the East coast, she worked at a corporate job where she mastered PowerPoint and racked up thousands of frequent flyer miles. Eventually, she traded in her suit for sweats to do the fun stuff–writing for children.

The Interview:

Cynthea, of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

I'm not sure I've read that book or maybe it's not something I think
about much. Usually, I find myself wishing I could write humor like
that person, do suspense like this other person. It would be nice to
be able to acquire the strengths of each author and be like this
super-author that does it all just right.

What fictional character do you wish you could be?

None of them. Fiction characters have it pretty bad, though they
usually get good endings. I like the real life just fine-- good things
happening all the time!

Ah, spoken like a well-adjusted artist. Does this have anything to do with your sidekick, Snoop? I'm thinking, yes.

After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

I don't get writer's block really. If I get stuck, I'm just "stuck."
Thinking of it that way may actually help prevent a real writer's
block from setting in for me. A long bath usually helps me get

What led you to write a story about a teen in search of her Chinese roots?

My agent asked if I wanted to write a book set in China for S.A.S.S.
series. I said, sure! In the publisher's concept letter there was a
small mention of possibly writing a book about a girl who returns to
China in search of her birth parents. That's what I used to start
writing the book.

Do you have any personal thoughts about the adoption of Chinese baby girls that you'd like to share with your readers?

I'm just really excited for adoptive families who are giving great
homes to girls (and boys) who need them. Not just abroad but within
the U.S. as well!

Cynthea is a go kind of person. Her websites are fabulous and her energy boundless. Kudos, Cynthea on your book and all that you do to inform authors and present new books to the public.

She'll be appearing for another interview tomorrow with Saundra Mitchell, so check it out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Interview with Heather Duffy-Stone

Last week I read This is What I Want to Tell You by Heather Duffy-Stone. I loved the dual point of view, the "right on" teen feelings. It was a well-paced, read-to-the-end book that had so many "Oh, yes" moments that I would recommend it for an older reader as well as a younger one. Go back to those moments when love first happened--the wrong kind, but love that turned you upside-down before you had your own compass.

Here's how the story begins: The stories people tell are always about the things we left behind, and about the things we wish we could do again. The real story isn't about what you know; it's about what you wish you knew then. When my brother and my best friend fell in love—that was the end of everything I knew.

Fraternal twins Nadio and Noelle share a close connection—and as Noelle's best friend since they were five, Keeley Shipley fit perfectly into their world. But everything changes after Keeley spends the summer before junior year at Oxford. When Keeley returns, Nadio falls in love with her. Noelle, ripped apart by resentment, sees her as an ungrateful rich girl. But Keeley has a painful story that she can't tell yet. As Nadio and Keeley hide their romance, Noelle dives into something of her own—a destructive affair with an older boy.

Heather Duffy-Stone writes stories and essays that are mostly inspired by high school—either her own or someone else’s. This Is What I Want to Tell You is her first novel. She has lived in Vermont, England, Los Angeles, rural New York and Rome, Italy. For now she cooks, sleeps, explores, writes and teaches in Brooklyn, New York.

Well, Heather, obviously I enjoyed your book. I've already blog about it and GoodReads has my review. Now it's a pleasure to get to know more about you as a person in this interview.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

Oh wow. I wish I could be inside Cormac McCarthy’s head (or. Maybe not). He is just, to me, absolutely genius. His landscapes, both emotional and physical, and the minds of his characters—I just think there are no books quite like his.

Who we admire (even fictional characters) often reveal a lot about who we are. So . . .what fictional character do you wish you could be?

I have always really loved Becky Sharp. Not that I would, by any means, want to be in her situation ever, but she is truly industrious. She’s sort of sneaky and funny and smart and looks around her and thinks, ok, this is what I need to do for the life I want. These are my options and this is what I can do—that strength and perseverance I absolutely love (and the costumes…)

Yes. Those costumes! I'd be forced to choose a character from the fin de si├Ęcle if costumes were part of the criteria. But now here's a truly revealing question, Heather. After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

Lately it’s been late night Thai food to fuel the writing sessions. Especially sweet mango sticky rice. SO good…

I'm with you on the mango sticky rice, Heather. It is fabulous. So let's talk a bit more about you and that great book of yours. When you started your book, did you already know you'd be using two points of view?

At the very early stages of this book, there were three narrators. Keeley, who is a very significant character, was a third narrator. I was very certain her voice needed to be in the story. But a writing group talked me out of this in the first draft and I am glad they did. There is still one scene that is in her voice though. It had to remain in her voice.

What was the hardest scene or chapter or whatever you had to write? The easiest?

There is a scene, I don’t want to give too much away, but where one of my narrators is just completely broken. She’s just out of her head and broken—and yet she is telling the story. So I needed her to have some clarity for the reader and at the same time show how absolutely just gone she was. It was really hard, and certainly draining, but also incredibly rewarding… the easiest was the last scene. It was the first I wrote and it just flowed. I knew exactly where my characters were going to end up. I just didn’t quite know how they’d get there.

You did a great job with that difficult scene. I was really with Noelle and scared for her and hoping she'd find a way out.

Do you have another project? Can you give us little glimpse of it or maybe an idea you're kicking around?

Yes, it’s about a graffiti artitst, the flawed immigration laws in this country, browing up, and getting to know a parent who is a virtual stranger… I’m really into it!

Let me know when it's on the way to the shelves. You've already captured my interest. Great talking to you.

Thank you so much!!!!

This is What I Want to Tell You is available at Amazon and bookstores. Buy it. Really. You'll have a wonderful reading experience.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crow Toes Quarterly

It's not news that we're up against hard economic times. Everyday we hear about more layoffs and company closures. Well here's another bit of not good news. Crow Toes Quarterly is in a bit financial trouble. In order to continue publishing its quality magazine they must raise some money.

Please help by joining THE BACK-ISSUE DRIVE TO KEEP THE CROW ALIVE. We need to keep good literature available for young readers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Interview with Neesha Meminger

In SHINE, COCONUT MOON Samar-a.k.a. Sam-is an Indian-American teenager whose mom has kept her away from her old-fashioned family. It's never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a demanding boyfriend. But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam's house-and turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam is eager, but when boys attack her uncle, chanting "Go back home, Osama!," Sam realizes she could be in danger-and also discovers how dangerous ignorance is.

The author,NEESHA MEMINGER, was born in India, grew up in Canada, and currently lives in New York City with her family. All of her writing explores the inner landscape of her characters, and how it merges or conflicts with the outer. She writes stories of women and girls defining themselves and shaping their own destinies within the confines of their day to day realities.

I feel so close to this book and this author because I was very fortunate to read it during its development. Right from the beginning I knew it was a winner, a book I'd tell friends to read. How much fun it has been to connect with NEESHA MEMINGER along her creative path to publication.

So trying to be as creative as Neesha, here's the interview I conducted. Already I wish I had oodles more time to do this. This writer bubbles over with enthusiasm and her responses only bring more questions to mind.

COCONUT MOON does Sammy's struggle for a big, loving family stem from your personal experience?

Yes and no. I had a pretty large extended family and a medium-sized immediate family. But we are an imperfect bunch and when I was in high school, I probably bought into the Hallmark commercials and television families and thought I wanted what was depicted. My poor, flawed, family didn't stand a chance next to those picture perfect ones :). So maybe that was part of the experience I drew upon when I wrote about Sammy's longing for a big, beautiful, perfect family.

Since your story is about such universal issues--search for love and belonging, family half-truths, breaking from tradition--I'm thinking a mom /dad/grandmother/grandfather would find it a fascinating read. Can you comment on this observation?

Actually, the relationship between mothers and daughters is what I initially wanted to explore when I began writing SHINE. That includes Sam's relationship with her mother, and her mother's relationship to her own mother. Then, of course, Sam's relationship with her grandmother. I loved being witness to the complexities in those relationships -- what made them work and what made them fragment. I also wanted to look closely at how these relationships and generational rifts fare when issues like immigration, displacement, and migration are thrown into the mix.

So, to answer your question, I think mothers, fathers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts would find this a terrific, perhaps insightful read :).

Okay, Neesha those were fabulous answers. Here are some sorta not so book-specific, but maybe a bit self-revealing questions, things your readers just might find fun to know about you.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler

That's an interesting choice, Neesha. Sci-Fi.

What fictional character do you wish you could be?

The main female character in Wild Seed -- I can't remember her name right now, but it became Emma toward the end of book two.

Was it Anyanwu? No wonder you couldn't remember it. I can barely spell it. But I did admire her power and her generousity in using it for the good. Says something about you Neesha.

After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

Cheese, or something creamy. Or caramel.

Yeah! My kind of writer.

Order your copy of Coconut Moon from Amazon, U.S or Amazon, Canada now, and visit Neesha at her website to see what's up with this writer-diva.

AND . . . there's more to come. Check out what Neesha and Cindy Pon talk about on March 31st.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

This Is What I Want to Tell You

I'm waiting and not very patiently for Heather Duffy-Stone's YA ARC, This Is What I Want to Tell You. Come on ARC!