Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We Have the Sibert!

In SLJ's Extra, the Mock Newbery Blog discussed whether nonfiction was often left out of the discussion due to the Sibert award. Is a nonfiction title overlooked because the committee can say, 'leave it for the Sibert." I don't know if that is consciously the case but it may be subconsciously. After all ,how can a committee weed through such a huge variety of applicants. Just as picture books may be subconsciously set aside for the Caldecott, or YA the Printz, all of those nonfiction titles must be dealt with somehow. It makes me wonder why the Newbery is not catagorized in the first place.

Every year we will have this discussion, because the Newbery is a contest that compares apples, oranges, kumquats, and watermelons. An impossible task that will never satisfy everyone. I, for one, never expect a nonfiction title to win the Newbery, and applaud the fact that the Sibert was created to give nonfiction the proper assessment, representation and honor that it deserves. I know my title, Farmer George Plants a Nation was on both tables this past year and I never once gave a thought that it would be seriously considered for the Newbery because it was nonfiction. (But I did have high hopes for Layne Johnson's Caldecott-worthy art work - Sorry, Layne!). However I did feel confident enough in the quality of the writing, presentation, design and artwork, and the starred reviews it received, that it would be taken seriously by the Sibert. I'll never know at what point it got tossed off the table, but I am happy that there was a table for it to sit on.

I believe that next year the Sibert winner should be sitting on the Today Show couch next to the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott. Let fiction have its Newbery. Let illustrators have their Caldecott. We have the Sibert!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Waiting for the Next Wave

I'm just finishing up one project and haven't started another yet. I'm in that lull, floating in the gap between the waves waiting for the perfect one to ride in next. So which project should I choose? An article about the doctor I researched for my historical fiction? The picture book biography that I stalled on and put aside? Maybe now is the time to pull out one of my older manuscripts that didn't go anywhere. After moldering in the file cabinet, maybe now I can find the fatal flaws. It might be time to cast around for something new. Or maybe I should clean the office first. Box up the research notes, correspondence and first drafts of the books that came out last year. Maybe in my cleaning I'll discover a note from a long forgotten idea. I like this time. Bobbing in the calm water, I have time to look around, assess what I've done and where I want to go. But I don't want this calm to last too long. I need to keep writing. I need to keep researching, and lord knows there are enough true stories out there to choose from.

Monday, February 9, 2009

regarding Editorializing

Marc Aronson, in a recent blog, addressed the concern in nonfiction of editorializing. A book he had edited had been reviewed as "editorializing too often." And I'll put my two cents in here --

I haven't yet read the book in question - Tanya Stone's Almost Astronauts -- but I am familiar with her other titles and believe that like most nonfiction writers she lets her passion for her subject shine through her text without bashing the reader over the head with her opinion. As nonfiction writers we do not share just a collection of dry facts but information flitered through our own perceptions. We are as biased as anyone else. But our bias is to present the facts through a hopeful lens. This world might not be perfect but with hope someday it will be better.

I mentioned in an earlier blog, Nonfiction writer Milton Meltzer quote and I will mention it again -- He once said, "Almost everything I write has to do with social change -- how it comes about, the forces that advance it and the forces that resist it, the moral issues that beset m en and women seeking to realize their humanity... I have not been neutral; I see nothing wrong in the historian who feels a commitment to humane concerns -- to the ending of war, of poverty, of racism."

Through our writing we show that there are struggles to overcome, whether it is learning how to play baseball or becoming the first female astronaut, and by telling the true stories of others who have struggled, we provide hope and motivation.

If this is what was meant by the reviewer's comment, then I too have been guilty of editorializing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

True Confession

Hi, I knew that when I started this blog I would be writing in to the wind. So far no one has read what I have written. Rather than feel disappointed or abandoned, I feel liberated, free to write whatever I please. So I will confess -- I am writing a historical fiction novel and love it. Although I wanted to promote writing and reading nonfiction for children with this blog, I have felt like a hypocrite living in the fiction world for the last year.
But let me redeem myself. I have done just as much research for this story as I have for my nonfiction titles. The story takes place in Poland during WWII and is based on a true story , so I have been reading dozens of fascinating first person accounts of Jews and Gentiles who survived Nazi occupation, learning about the underground newspapers, what people ate, how they stayed warm, how they would address each other, what merchandise was sold on the black market and even how a Polish boy would repair a flat bicycle tire. And of course, I have been stashing away several ideas for nonfiction articles to write when I am done.