Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Holidays and 2010

Happy Holidays to everyone -- I hope you recieved what you wanted, both in goods, well wishes, inspiration, good will and love.  Here's to a bright 2010, which brings to all good health, success and a healthy measure of fun.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Books for Charity

In August of 2009, 86% of fundraisers at charitable organizations surveyed said that the economy was having a negative or very negative impact on their fundraising abilities.

It's the holiday season! Think of giving.... books of course... charities that giveaway books? Even better.

I stumbled across this ad for the the The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. The organization was established to address the underfunding of Canadian school libraries and the literacy crisis. Love of Reading provides grants for the purchase of new books and education resources to high-needs elementary schools.

And boy, the ad is REALLY cute.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Burka Barbie

Barbie has had more than 80 careers -- everything from a rock star to a paleontologist to a presidential candidate.

A friend forwarded me a recent article – Muslim Wold: Barbie’s 50th Anniversary Islamic Makeover. According to the article:

“Wearing the traditional Islamic dress with a mesh eyehole, she went under the hammer along with 500 other Barbie dolls dressed in unique outfits at an auction in Florence, Italy, at the renowned auction house Sotheby’s to raise funds for Save the Children. The auction, held in late November, was part of the celebrations put on for Barbie this year as she celebrated her 50th anniversary. In her new look, Barbie also appeared in a line of stylish turquoise, lime-green, orange-colored burkas and regular head-covering Muslim veil, known as hijab. The set of multicultural Barbies, including the burka-clad one, was dressed by the Italian designer Eliana Lorena in a project backed by Barbie's owner, Mattel.“
I paused to collect my thoughts – so many were running through my brain – both about Barbies and Burkas. Barbie is actually a central character in my novel, SHOOTING KABUL. She is the beloved doll of Mariam, my protagonist, Fadi’s, younger sister. Mariam, like me, grew up playing with Barbie, impervious to all the body image controversies she is associated with. Part of the fun was dressing her up. Now the burka -- The whole subject of women covering is a loaded issue – it is seen as a sign of oppression, especially by those in the west. (Though on the counter side, Naomi Wolf would argue that women in the West are oppressed by body images as well – it isn’t easy being told you need to be a size zero and in a bikini.) But for me, at the end of the day, it is about CHOICE. Plain and simple. Women should have a choice to do what they want with their bodies – cover it up or wear a bikini. If Barbie wants to wear a bikini, she should, and if she feels the need to conserve her modesty, the burka should be her choice of fashion.
Of course, the auction drew controversy – sigh, wasn’t that expected?
Pro: Fan Angela Ellis, who has a collection of more than 250 Barbie dolls, thought it was a good idea to introduce a veiled Barbie. That way, children living in conservative Islamic countries would have a doll they could identify with. “Bring it on, Burka Barbie," Britain’s the Sun newspaper quoted her as saying. "This is really important for girls, wherever they are from, they should have the opportunity to play with a Barbie that they feel represents them.”
Con: Critics such as Barbara Kay in Canada slammed Barbie’s Muslim dress as a “symbol of oppression” and ripped Ellis’ commentary in an article recently published in Canada’s the National Post newspaper.
Barbie’s choice is at issue, and at the end of the day, she should be able to wear whatever she wants to…. Oh, and Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Final Week of 2K9 Grad Contest!

It’s the Final Week to Celebrate the Graduation of the Class of 2K9!
(And the final chance for you to win one of their great books in the 2K10 giveaway!)

WATERSMEET by Ellen Jensen Abbott
SHRINKING VIOLET by Danielle Joseph
CRASH INTO ME by Albert Borris
INITIATION by Susan Fine
GIVE UP THE GHOST by Megan Crewe
MY INVENTED LIFE by Lauren Bjorkman
NOTHING LIKE YOU by Lauren Strasnic

Contest Rules: For a chance to win one of the featured books, post a comment at the end of this blog:
(please include an email address so we can contact you for a mailing address, or check back next week for winners). To enter multiple times, simply tweet, blog, or Facebook about this post, and include a link in your comment. Winners will be chosen at random. You must be at least 13 to enter. The contest will be open until midnight Saturday. Winners will be announced one week from today.

Good luck!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pencil to Paper

Pencils didn't have erasers on them until 100 years ago because teachers felt they would encourage children to make mistakes.

Ask a writer when they started writing and most will pause a moment, slightly confused and cross eyed. You can see their mind whir and churn, travelling back to the moment they were compelled to pick up a pencil and put it to paper– it could have been a poem, an essay, a story, or diary entry. For the most part, most writers have, well, written, since they were kids. Once my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Hackworth, introduced me to reading, I was addicted to the written word, and soon after I was also writing shorts stories and poetry. We were lucky to have a writing competition at our school, Jubail Academy, and over the years I won quite a few of the prizes. In the 9th grade, our language arts teachers, Mrs. Cochrane started a novel writing club and six eager students (including moi) struggled with our literary masterpieces. It taught us that if we were organized and perseverant, we could actually write a book.

Many writers have a folded stapled sheaf of dog-eared pages – their first book, lying around somewhere. I wrote mine in the 3rd grade and it is titled “The Home Work Machine”, accompanied by crayon illustrations. Thankfully, I realized early on that drawing was not my strong suite. So the writing bug catches early, and for many it is an affliction of a lifetime. Unfortunately (or fortunately) there is no known cure…

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bell Tolls for Kirkus

Asking a writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamp post how it feels about dogs - Ann Landers

Reviews... the word sends a chill down an author's spine (okay, I exaggerate a little) We authors, no matter how nonchalant, can't help but notice what others are saying about our book. You can ignore most, but it's hard to ignore professional reviews that appear in the media -- they have the power to affect  book sales and perhaps, even your career as a writer.   Interestingly, a paper titled "Is Any Publicity Good Publicity? A Note On the Impact of Book Reviews", by Alan T. Sorensen, a business school professor at Stanford university, shed some light on the topic.
The paper used detailed weekly data on sales of hardcover fiction books to evaluate the impact of New York Times book reviews on sales. In order to weigh the relative propensity of reviews to inform and to persuade, the analysis utilized a measure of review opinion obtained through a systematic reading of each review. The estimates indicated that in the case of bookreviews, any publicity is good publicity: even negative reviews lead to increases in sales.These findings were interpreted as evidence that book reviews serve largely to inform consumers about books’ content and characteristics (including the books’ existence). However, positive reviews can have a larger impact on sales than negative reviews, suggesting that reviews also have a persuasive effect.

So, there we have it -- reviews, good or bad can help boost sales! So it is with great sadness that I note that one of the venerable reviewers in the book industry, Kikus, is shutting down. Founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus, it is currently scheduled to cease publication at the end of calendar year 2009. Both, Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews, two venerable chronicles of the newspaper and book publishing industries, are closing as their owner, Nielsen Business Media, gets out of the trade publication business.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Contest Continues!

The Class of 2K10 continues it graduation party for the Class of 2K9 by givng away another round of books:

OPERATION REDWOOD by S. Terrell French
WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS by Fran Cannon Slayton
ROAD TO TATER HILL by Edith M. Hemingway
HAVEN by Beverly Patt
FREAKED by J.T. Dutton
BREATHING by Cheryl Renée Herbsman

The contest will be open until midnight Saturday, December 12 and winners will be announced about one week from today. For a chance to win one of the featured books, post a comment at the the 2K10 Blog --
Please include an email address so we can contact you for a mailing address. To enter multiple times, simply tweet, blog, or Facebook about this post, and include a link in your comment. Winners will be chosen at random. You must be at least 13 to enter. The contest will be open until midnight Saturday, December 12. Winners will be announced about one week from today.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

ARCs Have Landed

The largest publisher in the United States is The U. S. Government Printing Office.

Yesterday was a momentous day for me -- my ARCs, or advance reader copies, of SHOOTING KABUL showed up in the mail.  With my heart hammerring in the vicinity of my throat, I opened the box and pulled out a copy. Words really can't describe how amazing it is to see your mss in book format... so I won't used any. I'll let a picture show instead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Making Librarians Cry

Library, Here is where people, One frequently finds, Lower their voices, And raise their minds — Light Armour McGraw-Hill, 1954, Richard Armour

I confess – in the last few months, I've made my school librarians cry. But let me back up and explain -- the back-story, so to speak.
Growing up in Saudi Arabia, part of an international expat community, our school, Jubail Academy was the center of our childhood universe. It was more than just a school – it was where we had our boy/girl scout meetings, sporting events, photo-club meetings, reading challenges, knowledge bowl sessions…. You get the picture. It was a beehive of activity, one supported and encouraged by the wonderful teachers and staff. A hub within the school was the two libraries, one serving the elementary school, the other junior high (the more racy stuff was on the junior high side – sweet valley high anyone?)

I, as Neil Gaiman said in his Newberry acceptance speech, was also a “feral child raised among the stacks.” I lived in the library, before and after school and during lunch. Although libraries are not child care facilities (and Neil says) our librarians were nurturing beings – always there with a smile, encouragement and good advice. Mrs. Hackworth, the librarian on the elementary side, taught me the mysteries of the Dewey Decimal system and let me help catalog books. It was here I discovered Roald Dahl, Beverley Cleary and Judy Blume. Mrs. Murray manned the junior high section and introduced me to books I would never have picked up on my own. She helped me do research for projects and questioned me when I needed questioning. Both embedded in me the passion for the written word and set me on the path to becoming a writer.

I met Mrs. Murray again at our Jubail Academy reunion, held this past summer in San Francisco. Her husband had been my algebra teacher and when I told them I’d written a children’s book and dedicated it to her, she cried. I didn’t mean for her to, it just happened. I later emailed Mrs. Hackworth a copy of the manuscript and told her she too was in my dedication. These past few days she read the book out loud to her husband, who was my reading teacher in the 5th grade. Her email mentioned how she took “emotion breaks” while reading – one of the greatest compliments a writer can receive. So thank you both for being the best librarians we could have.
Librarians are amazing – go hug yours today.