Q & A with Trina St. Jean: BLANK

Trina StJean BLANK BOOK COVERToday I welcome Trina St. Jean to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults.

What is the title of your book? The pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group?

Blank. April 1, 2015. Orca Book Publishers. Contemporary Fiction. Young adult (12+).

Where is it set?

On a bison ranch in northern Alberta, Canada.

Link to a review

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

I grew up in northern Alberta, in a very small community much like the one in the novel. When I was an adult, my parents had a herd of about 100 head of bison so when I visited I got to spend time admiring the noble beasts.

What inspired you to write this story?

I have a degree in psychology and as I learned more about the brain I became fascinated with how the physical aspects of its function tie into the development of personality. Over the years, I read many stories of brain injury and memory loss, and I wanted to explore how a person can go about rebuilding their life when a large part of it has been erased.

Trina StJean AUTHOR PHOTOWhat kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

The novel I am working on now also takes place in northern Alberta. The main character gets a job cleaning trailers at a logging camp in the wilderness.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

I remember being profoundly moved by both Bridge to Terabithia and Tuck Everlasting.

Where can readers go to learn more information?

Web page

Facebook

Twitter

Thank you Trina St. Jean for joining us at World Reads!

 

Q & A with Shenaaz G. Nanji: CHILD OF DANDELIONS

Shenaaz G Nanji CHILD OF DANDELIONS. Book cover for USAToday I welcome Shenaaz G. Nanji to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults.

What is the title of your book? The pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group?

Child of Dandelions by Front Street in 2008 in USA and Second Story Press in Canada.

It is fiction based on real life events in Uganda.

The story is geared for Young Adults.

Unknown-1Where is it set?

The story unfolds in Uganda in East Africa during the military reign of General Idi Amin in 1972. You may have watched the film The Last King of Scotland that takes place in this period.

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

Child of Dandelions is told through the eyes of 15 year-old Sabine. Born in Uganda, she loves her country, but being of Indian descent, the color of her skin makes her outcast.

Her family is ‘weeded out’ and expelled in 90 days though the Indian community has lived there for four generations.

As Sabine navigates the exodus she undergoes a journey of self-discovery reminiscent of Anne Frank’s personal trauma.

Links to reviews or blurbs you wish to share:

YOUR LIBRARY 

LIBRARY BY DAY

PROFESSIONALLY SPEAKING

GUIDEBOOK

BOOK REVIEW 

KIRKUS REVIEW

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

The maternal side of my family was Ugandans. My Bapa-grandfather owned four farms in Uganda–coffee, tea, sugar- cane and dairy that I visited every year during school-holidays until the expulsion in 1972.

Initially my parents too lived in Uganda. Later they moved next-door to Kenya where I was born.

In fact during one of my visits in Kampala I recall waving the Uganda flag at Kololo airport cheering for Idi Amin when he took power in a coup-de-ta. At that time, people said Idi Amin was a hero who will save Uganda from communism.

During the 90-day expulsion one of my uncle’s was found dead.

What inspired you to write this story?

When my children were teens in Canada I tried to explain to them the expulsion of the Indian community from Uganda, and found to my astonishment that I didn’t really understand why it happened? Why was the world silent? Why were there no books on this? I decided to write the story.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

Initially, I wrote from the first person point of view but the story was biased towards the Indian community. One of my advisors at Vermont College in the MFA program suggested I re-write from the 3rd person point of view. Reluctantly, I changed the first few chapters. I was sure it was a fruitless, time-consuming exercise, but my advisor pressed on. To my utter astonishment, a new story began to emerge gradually, one that was fair and balanced that represented both the Indians as well as the Africans. The final judgment was left to the readers.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

Presently I am working a story on a teenage boy who is determined to restore honor to his ‘shamed’ family in India. He accepts a dream job in the Middle East, but is trapped in the desert where he is forced to train young camel slave-jockeys who must win camel races for the Sheikh.

What else would you like us to know about you or your story?

What intrigues me both in life and in stories is the resilience of the human spirit-how much must one fight fate to obtain his/her own goal or accept what has happened.

In the early Greek version of the fable, The Oak and the Reed – the mighty oak fights the storm and is blown over but the reed bends with the wind and so survives.

Some people survive a situation but their spirit is broken and they merely exist; others survive both in body and spirits.

UnknownCan you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

Some of my first books I ripped through page by page were by an English writer, Enid Blyton. I read the Secret Seven adventure series, Famous Five, and Noddy series. I imagined I belonged to a secret society that solved mysteries. I craved for ginger beer and imagined getting lost in secret caves in the smugglers hideouts.

Where can readers go to learn more information?

Web page

My new website is under construction at this time.

Facebook

Thank you Shenaaz for joining us at World Reads!

Book Review: PLAYING A PART by Daria Wilke

 

шутовской колпак written by Daria Wilke

шутовской колпак written by Daria Wilke.

It is rare that I write a book review on my blog, World Reads. To make the cut, I have to either really LOVE a book and want to spread the word about the book or the author must no longer be with us to give me an author interview. In the case of Playing a Part, I was first introduced to it in its Russian version (шутовской колпак ) by Arthur A. Levine who asked me to read and report on it as he was considering its acquisition, translation, and publication in the United States.

And this is how my report to him started: WOW and double WOW!

I very much enjoyed reading Playing a Part not just because of its timeliness given the homophobic-oriented laws Putin is enacting in Russia and the jail-term risk the author, Daria Wilke, might experience on her next visit home, but because Playing a Part is well written and well told. So while the “hype” and “market press” might draw attention to the book and increase sales, it’s the writing and the story that will stay with readers long after they’ve read Grisha’s story. And my guess is that it might just change how some people think along the way or at least make a dent on those sitting on the fence who view gays as “different” or not “normal”.

Daria Wilke, author of PLAYING A PART

Daria Wilke, author of PLAYING A PART

I could tell from the very first page that Playing a Part would be a winner and it did not disappoint on many levels. For one, there’s a complete story arc both in terms of plot and internal character growth that would be satisfying to an American audience. Second, the writing is literary and gorgeous from beginning to end. Third, the author, Daria Wilke inserts Russian humor that will easily cross our borders and make American readers laugh out loud. Fourth, the setting is magical and like no other I’ve seen in children’s literature in that the Moscow puppet theater is described in such intricate detail, it makes you feel like you’re part of the setting. Fifth, Grisha, our main character is not only likeable, he feels as real as any boy dealing with issues of friendship, loss, and the struggles of self-realization. And sixth, unlike many other Russian children’s books I’ve read, Playing a Part is a story that will not feel foreign or Russian to American readers. It offers sensibilities that anyone with a human heart will relate to, understand, and feel.

This is exactly the kind of book I would have wanted to read as a kid. It’s written from someone who knows Russia and can reveal her intimate knowledge and view of Russia through the details, yet write it such that it shares our sensibilities too and not make us feel lost in the details or overwhelmed by them. In other words, you don’t have to be Russian or know Russia to appreciate the story. Nor do you have to be gay. Wilke grounds us in the character and place so well, you could almost come from Mars and still follow along. All one needs to bring into the reading is an open or curious heart to become fully engaged by Grisha’s journey of self-realization.

51TGFEK2bfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_So many books written by Americans that are set in far-away lands—whether historical or not—lack the kind of authentic details that make a story come alive where the characters feel so real they could walk off the page and where the details are so perfectly accurate you might think the writer had written it in “real” time, standing in the very spot she’s just described or scene she’s just created. So many times, I’ve experienced books set in places where I’ve lived where the kind of details I’m talking about were not only absent or spare, but sometimes completely wrong. And it’s no wonder, with a little digging, you can quickly unveil that the author has never been to the place she’s describing or writing about and simply did her research on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, a good writer can still tell a good story set abroad, but it’s the writer who’s lived, breathed, and absorbed the culture of that place into their veins that produces the kind of details that separate a good story from a great one. And Playing a Part is a great story from that aspect.

BOOK-COVER-HIGH-RES-LarasGift

LARA’S GIFT by Annemarie O’Brien

I appreciate accurate details and know how hard they are to incorporate into a story from my own experience writing Lara’s Gift, set in Imperial Russia. I also understand that not every book written and published outside of the United States is suitable for our market due to different cultural sensibilities. That is not the case with Playing a Part. Wilke goes into such lovely details about the puppet theater, puppet making, Russian weather, and Moscow life in general, readers will not only learn how to make a puppet, but will walk away with vivid images of the setting and a compelling character’s struggle to be himself. Because of these wonderful details Wilke draws from her own Russian culture, she creates similes that will be fresh to an American reader.

I give Marian Schwartz a thumb’s up for her translation of Playing a Part! And thank you Arthur Levine and Emily Clement for bringing Playing a Part to an American audience. Bringing foreign books across borders is just as important as publishing diverse books.

Playing a Part will be released on March 31, 2015 and can be purchased anywhere you can buy books.

Daria Wilke, a graduate of the Faculty of Psychology and Pedagogy of Moscow State Pedagogical University, is a referent at the Institute of Slavic studies at the University of Vienna and a teacher of the Russian language. She started writing prose at thirty-one and her first essay Die Seiltänzergeneration was published in the German anthology Mächte. For her prose, including her children’s literature, Wilke has been shortlisted for many prestigious literary awards, such as the Manuscript of the Year Award 2011, Krapivin International Literary Prize 2011 and Voloshin International Literary Award 2011. The same year Wilke won the Russkaya Premiya Literary Award for her novel-meditation Interseason.

 

 

 

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH STACY NYIKOS: WAGGERS

Stacy Nyikos WAGGERS BOOK COVERToday I welcome Stacy Nyikos, fellow VCFA alum, to Dog Reads to talk about her new picture book, WAGGERS (Dec 2014: Sky Pony Press) illustrated by Tamara Anegon and appropriate for kids aged 3-8.

Who is your key dog character(s) and what kind of dog is he/she? 

Waggers is a Razortail Whippet. The famed Razortail Whippet isn’t actually a breed recognized by the Westminster Kennel Club, but that might be because I made it up. Waggers needed his very own category. His tail is that unique. I have a feeling there are a lot of un-identified Razortail Whippets out there just waiting for Westminster Kennel Club to recognize them, too.

Aside from his destructo-tail, Waggers is really a sweet little man, who loves to do anything Moni and Michael want and will stop at nothing to protect their house from the most evil of all villains, the Sciuridae, also known as the squirrel.

I think you’re onto something, Stacy and the WKC should consider the Razortail Whippet as a new breed! 

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

Moni and Michael are so excited to adopt Waggers. Waggers is too. His tail goes crazy. He can’t stop it. Moni and Michael don’t mind. Waggers is so sweet, and it’s just a tail. How much harm can it do?

Stacy Nyikos DESI PUPPY PHOTOWhat inspired you to write this story?

Waggers was inspired by our most recent family member, Desi, a German Shepherd/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix we adopted from the pound. She has got a tail on her that literally clears tables and pounds cracks in walls. It’s amazing it took me more than a week to realize she was the perfect protagonist for a story.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle to this story was to take reality and fictionalize it such that it works as story, not fictionalized reality. That must sound weird, but it’s sort of like the difference between a person trying to act vs. someone acting, or, say, pretending to be excited about a present vs. being skin-tinglingly excited.

Stacy Nyikos DESI PHOTOWhat other YA/MG books have you written? Do any of them feature a key dog character? If so, which ones? What are these stories about?

This is my seventh book. Five of the seven are aquatic picture books. The sixth is a middle grade fiction with dragons. This is my first dog book, and it has been so much fun. I want to write about dogs all the time now. Maybe it’s because of Desi, or maybe it’s because writing this story has been so much fun. Either way, I think Waggers is the beginning of a new trend.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it about a dog? If so, what is it about?

My next story is a picture book called Tour de Trike, and it’s about a tricycle race. There are no dogs, not yet anyway. The YA I’m working on is set in a drowning world. There are no dogs in it either. However, I have the outline for a new MG called Dogspell. Tada!! It’s about a dog and a girl who swap places. Literally.

Stacy Nyikos STACY and DESI PHOTOWhat else would you like us to know about you or your story?

Hmmm…how about that that adopting a dog—which is what Waggers is all about—is one of the most exciting, most fun, most rewarding experiences, but it can be hard too. After all, a dog is a new family member. You have to get to know them and vice versa. There might be days when walking the dog is a drag (or you’re dragged). Don’t give up! It will get better. Or, you’ll fall in love with your dog and not care as much. Maybe a little of both. Desi’s tail has gotten better. She still clears a coffee table every once in a while, but I’ve seen her actually slow her tail when walking by one. And I’ve learned to put things up a little higher. But most of all, she’s become a part of our family. I can’t imagine a day without her.

Good advice, Stacy. Taking care of a new puppy or dog requires a lot of time and work.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

Gosh, that’s a tough one. I’ve been reading since I was three. Go Dog Go was my most favorite book then. It was the book that taught me to read, the one I memorized, the one I took with me when I ran away from home at the age of 3 to go to school. I followed our neighbor to the high school around the corner, found my way to the principal’s office. He said I’d have to be able to read to go to his school. I proudly whipped out Go Dog Go and read it cover to cover. I got a tour of the school after that, and I was in preschool the next week. Go Dog Go!

Thats’ a great story and why am I not surprised that you’d want to start at high school?

Stacy Nyikos AUTHOR PHOTOWhat advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Everybody’s road to publication is different. Don’t be afraid to try anything, no matter how crazy, in your writing. And don’t give up. It can get hard, really hard some days. But the people who make it are the ones who stick with it. That advice has stuck with me through some pretty bleak moments, and gotten me through them.

I agree a 100%. It’s the writers who stick with it and struggle through the tougher times that finally see a contract.

Where can readers go to find out more information about you and/or your books?

My website is a great place to start. If they don’t find enough there, or on FBTwitter, or my blog, drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you!

You can also learn more about Stacy and her books on Goodreads and Oklahoma Children’s Authors and Illustrators.

Thank you Stacy for joining us at Dog Reads! We wish you all of the success possible and hope to see more dog books from you. 

AN INTERVIEW WITH SHERI S. LEVY: SEVEN DAYS TO GOODBYE

510x765-Goodbye-275x413Today I welcome Sheri S. Levy to Dog Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a canine story for kids or young adults.
My YA novel is Seven Days to Goodbye. It was published by Barking Rain Press in Vancouver, WA, August 26th. The story characters are thirteen and fourteen, and targets ages 9-14. The illustrator, Stephanie Flint, created an amazing cover and my editor, Cindy Koepp, helped polish the story.
AOB: Who is your key dog character(s) and what kind of dog is he/she? Feel free to list as many different breeds or mixes as necessary. Tell us a little more about him/her.
Sydney, a six month old, red-merle Australian Shepherd with warm amber eyes, is Trina’s first service dog. After one year of training with Trina, Sydney, must be returned to his kennel to be matched with his forever companion. While on his first beach trip, he loves playing Frisbee, swimming, and chasing Darby, a black and white, Springer Spaniel. Sydney not only becomes a water dog, but makes a magical connection with a young boy with autism and educates the boy’s parents about service dogs.
AOB: In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.
Thirteen-year-old, Trina, vacations on Edisto Beach, S.C., with her best friend, Sarah, and her dog, Darby. Trina becomes conflicted over Sarah’s new personality, and giving-up her first service dog, Sydney, in seven days. During the week, Sydney makes a magical connection with Logan, a young boy with autism, and brings the girls and Logan’s older brothers together. This story combines humor, growing pains, and plenty of puppy-love-of both varieties.
photo(7)AOB: What inspired you to write this story?
After retiring, I longed to write and keep my dogs’ memories alive. I brainstormed on unique plots, familiar settings, and experiences in special education, and added autism and service dogs.
AOB: What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?
My story had been revised many times and received positive critiques, but no one felt it was the right story for them. With everything so subjective, I had to find the confidence to keep sending queries and not give up. With the support of my critique group, and because I loved writing, I continued to pursue my dream. I have motivational phrases around my office reminding me, If you give up it will never happen!
AOB: What other YA/MG books have you written? Do any of them feature a key dog character? If so, which ones?
What are these stories about?
While researching service dogs, I met a young boy with a diabetic alert dog. I interviewed him and sent his story to Clubhouse Magazine. It was printed in July, 2010, and can be read on my website. The story won n the General Interest category and was nominated for a Maxwell Award in the Dog Writers Association’s contest. Those positive events inspired me to continue writing.
While working on Seven Days to Goodbye, I put it aside for a while and wrote about a very difficult and troubled, dog I rescued. Since I had taught special education, I used the same techniques to train him. My first draft of A Stranger in our House has been written as a comparison on how I worked with a special needs children and a special needs dog. Maybe one day I’ll polish it! It was great therapy writing it…
AOB: What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it about a dog? If so, what is it about?
My next story is called Starting Over. If I say too much, it will give away the ending of Seven Days to Goodbye. This is a sequel, has horseback riding, and there is a dog!
AOB: What else would you like us to know about you or your story?
While researching service dogs, I found an organization, PAALS, close by and became involved with their training. It is 100% charitable. I am pleased to be a part of helping them raise money for service dogs by donating 10% of my net from each book sold. It takes thousands of dollars to raise one dog and the need grows every day. PAALS trains dogs for mobility, autism and PTSD. Veterans and other service related jobs receive their dog for free.
I also enjoy tutoring students in reading and writing, and getting their honest input on my stories before they are completed. Doing author visits, gives me a new method to motivate students of the importance of reading and writing, and of pursuing a dream and to never give up!
024AOB: Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?
As a child, I was an avid reader. We went to the library often and I brought home loads of books, and read under the covers with a flashlight. I can’t say which book influenced me more, for every book engaged my imagination.
AOB: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
 
If you love to write, make time for it every day, but take time to enjoy life, and friends. For me, walking my dogs gives me time to think, observe nature, and get revitalized. By staying involved, and trying new things, I gain new experiences for my stories.
Readers can find out more information about Sheri on her webpage.
Thank you Sheri S. Levy for joining us at Dog Reads!
All materials © 2015 Annemarie O'Brien. Web site by Websy Daisy. Illustration © 2013 by Tim Jessell