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Tanya Lee Stone

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Tanya Lee Stone
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April 16th, 2014

I know I have one of the best jobs in the world. It involves loads of reading and writing and talking: three of my favorite things to do. I get to travel and meet new colleagues. I have the opportunity to speak to groups of all kinds. And did I mention the reading?

So, sharing this recent article is not really a complaint; it is an observation. Sometimes I wonder why I am so tired at the end of the day. Here is why:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/09/research-shows-professors-work-long-hours-and-spend-much-day-meetings#sthash.EoesElGC.dpbs

Some of this does not apply to me. Take this conclusion: "The study also gives insight into exactly where professors are carrying out their work. Some 59 percent of work – or 36 hours per week – takes place on campus, with 24 percent of work taking place at home and 17 percent of work taking place at other off-campus locations." When I first began to work as a university teacher, I did indeed spend time each day, Monday through Friday, on campus. Then, I spent only two days on campus, then one day on campus and one out in the field. Now, since our program is online totally, I spend one day in the office generally (8 hours) and then the rest of the week working from home. However, in terms of the number of hours, it is still applicable.

I report this here because there is a misconception on the part of some (and I think the leaders of the reform movement from outside of education are generally the most misinformed folks about this aspect of my job) that we do little work for massive pay. Wrong on both counts, I am afraid.

So, some food for thought. I wonder what would happen if I cut back to 40 hours of work each week? What would not get accomplished? What tasks would be left incomplete? How much of the TO-DO list remain at the end of each day?

BTW, I know if we were to do a similar study of teachers at ANY level, these numbers would hold true. Grading, parent contacts, duties, lesson plans, etc. They take time and sometimes in ways of which we are not always aware. Did you spend time this weekend on Twitter in chats? Yup. How about posting links for fellow educators on Facebook or your blog? Bet you did. Did you read? Write? Have an idea that caused you to stop "relaxing" and begin planning. I have no doubt.

So, after you read this, take a break. Go outside if weather permits. Deep breath. Mental image of this beautiful spring. Or sit back, enjoy a frosty beverage of your choice. Eat a leftover Girl Scout cookie (if there are any left) or a piece of Easter candy. And know that the time you invest is so incredibly important. The time you give to the kids is immeasurable in so many ways.
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What fun it was to chat with The Horn Book about creepy cuisine, werecats and the kind of shape-shifter I'd most like to be!

Pop over to check it out and join in the conversation!

See also a review of my latest novel, Feral Curse (Candlewick, 2014) from The Horn Book. Peek:


"Debut character Kayla — level-headed, religious, but also quietly proud of her shifter nature — holds her own, nicely complementing Yoshi’s swagger, Wild Card shifter Clyde’s newfound confidence, and human Aimee’s resourcefulness. Witty banter peppered with pop-culture references keeps the tone light even as the stakes ramp up."



Cynsational Notes

Reminder: E-volt is having a sale on Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick) for $1.99 and Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith, $2.99--discount prices will hold through April! Listen to an audio sample of Feral Nights and read a sample of Eternal.

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Milo

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Why did those joggers laugh when they saw me barking at them?!

http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/2014/04/afterworlds-special-arc-cover/

http://scottwesterfeld.com/?p=5054

As you know, I’ve already revealed the cover of Afterworlds, three posts ago. But I also wanted to show you the cover of the special advanced readers’ copies (ARCs) sent to bookstore owners and the like, because it’s seriously my favorite promotional object of my entire career:

afterworlds ARC

Now, I know that looks like the back cover, but it’s the FRONT, because the blurbs were so funny that Sales was like, “Put them on the front!” (And yes, they are real blurbs. Thanks to John, Maureen, and Shannon!)

Alas, only 200 copies of this were printed, and they are hard to acquire. I only own three, and you can’t have them!

For those of you in the trade, there will be many more ARCs with the real cover, at places like Book Expo America. (I’m signing there!) But I love that these silly ones are in short supply.

So collectible.

Also, I knew this thing was long, but now that it’s here in physical form and 599 pages, I realize how THICK that is:

IMG_2447

As you can see it’s 5cm (2 inches) thick, almost twice as fat as Justine‘s next book, Razorhurst. Which is her longest book yet.

Of course, I’m cheating because it’s really two books (Darcy’s book and the book about Darcy). But still, I win.

April 15th, 2014

I talk to Naomi Alderman about writing for Zombies, Run.

The Zombies, Run! app chooses songs from whatever playlist you feed it, and in that post, I talk about how my favorite moments are the ones when something comes up that’s wildly inappropriate for the narrative.

Today’s episode was filled with those awesome moments.

First, just as a friend has gone gray (turned into a zombie) and I’m fleeing from them, my playlist urged me to “Let It Go.”

Then, just another character was revealed to have secret zombie blood inside them, I was told “Something has changed within me. Something is not the same.”

And then a traitor was unmasked to strains of, “Don’t bring me bad news, no bad news, I don’t need none of your bad news today.”

And this is why I run from zombies.

Along the way, I’m pondering the fact that said traitor’s unmasking was utterly expected, and yet nonetheless satisfying. The discovery isn’t the only thing that makes a reveal satisfying–this is a craft thing worth thinking about some more.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

TAX-ing

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Thank goodness for electronic filing. We met the deadline yesterday at the accountant's office. Taxes filed. Now we wait for the return. After we got back to the house, I settled in for some work at the computer. This was the first link on Twitter and Facebook: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10. Each and every year, books are challenged, censored, banned. Here are the Top 10 from 2013.

2013

Out of 307 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit

Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Aside from the two adult titles, this list has some eerie resemblance to my required reading lists for children's and YA literature (hard to imagine, I know). Compare the books on this list with those from past years. Some appear more than once or twice or even three times. Other titles come and go.

Check out some more news about censorship at the ALAN web site: www.alan-ya.org and be on the lookout for my first turn as editor of the column about censorship in THE ALAN REVIEW coming in May.

Last week, I renewed my membership in NCAC and FTRF. I urge all of you who stand up for books and the FREADOM to read to do the same.

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/mitaliblog/ifQC/~3/I7hZnqhVsok/its-just-fiction-reading-and-writing.html

At the recent Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, MI, I had to tweak a presentation I've given over the past several years. A previous version focused on empowering writers with questions related to race, culture, and power to ask of ourselves and our stories. The Festival brings together writers and readers, so I presented "Ten Tips To See
 'Below the Waterline' of Stories," hoping that they might be useful while reading another person's story as well as in the revision of one's own work.

My goal is for us to SEE themes related to race, culture, and power with our conscious minds. Fiction is powerful, as propagandists know, and a "single story" of a group of people (as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie eloquently argued) transmitted "below the waterline" can be dangerous.

TEN TIPS FOR READERS AND WRITERS:

1. Look for an older magical negro or noble savage.


2. Notice a smart/good peer from a marginalized group who serves as a foil for a flawed hero. 


3. Check the cover or illustrations for misrepresentations of exoticization or whitewashing.

4. Ask when and how race is defined, if at all.

5. Notice if the setting, plot, and characters are in charge of the casting (because they must be.)

6. Pay attention to how beauty is defined (i.e, straight, silky hair; big, wide eyes, etc.)

7. Check for a “single story" that identifies a community or person on the margins of power.

8. Notice the presence of bridge characters.

9. Ask who has the power to bring about change and who has the power to be changed.

10. Question the storyteller’s (your) authenticity, privilege, and power, but not for the purposes of setting up an arbitrary apartheid system about who can tell the story.

For me, none of these lead to a deal-breaker when it comes to a book. In fact, I hate censorship.  I want to encourage us to see the powerful act of storytelling through slightly different eyes. It's helpful to consider the perspective from the margins, and to comprehend that the privilege of power (whether derived from class, nationality, education, accent, ethnicity, etc.) often enables us not to see.



Come visit me on the Fire Escape!
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for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I have a quote taped on the wall above my computer so it's the first thing I see every morning when I sit down to write.

"Comparison is the thief of joy."

That little gem comes from some guy named Theodore Roosevelt.

What a simple, true, and startling piece of advice. The idea that comparison is a thief, and it can steal your joy, take away your happiness.

My mother had a more delicate, loving way of putting it: "Appreciate what you have, Little Miss Smarty Pants."

This, in fact, seems to be my life lesson. I wish I could have told it to my younger self.

In this photo of me at five years old, I must have received a gift (what are those? pants? pajamas?) and so did my friend. I'm the one closer to the door. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? There I was, caught in the moment, looking at what she got, not what I got. Comparing.

And as you can see, I'm not smiling.

In high school, I compared my unruly, crazy curly hair to girls with seemingly carefree, straight locks (oh, their swinging ponytails!). In my early twenties, as I struggled to find a job, I compared myself to friends whose careers were taking off.

And later on, when I went after my dream of writing a book, I compared myself to authors who secured an agent and got published easily and quickly, while I stumbled and made endless mistakes.

Let's not even talk about those early query letters. Or those early manuscripts.

Don't get me wrong. I've had many happy, non-comparing moments. And I'm sure that comparison is somewhat human nature. Heck, I bet even cave women compared their hauls when they gathered herbs and berries.

But since authors live (and write) in a world of superlatives, comparison is all too easy to fall prey to. Scroll through your Facebook news feed or your Twitter timeline or the latest Publishers Weekly. It's all there for us comparison-junkies.

Six-figure deal! Auction! Trilogy sold in 44 countries. Starred reviews. Best-seller. Award-winning, must-read, most unbelievable book ever to be published in the history of time; plus it's being made into a movie! OMG!

While I readily and happily applaud my fellow authors' successes, I know I'm not the only writer out there who sometimes feels daunted. And intimidated. And like maybe it's a better idea to spend the day under the covers.

But then I look up.


COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY.


I have another quote taped next to that one: "I wish that I had duck feet."

That's the title of a favorite book I had when I was little, an early reader by Theo. LeSieg. It's the humorous and insightful story of a young boy who wishes he had various animal parts, like duck feet, a whale spout, and an elephant trunk. But as he imagines the pros and cons of life with these seemingly fun but ultimately troublesome additions, he decides that he's better off just being himself.

Good choice. That's probably my other life lesson. And perhaps, everyone's.

The ideas of comparison and being yourself are themes that run through both of my middle grade books, Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books, 2011) and my new release, The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days (Wendy Lamb Books, 2014).

In Calli Be Gold, Calli, the youngest child in a super-achieving "golden" family, struggles with the fact that she's a regular kid and isn't talented at sports like her siblings. She finds out what she's good at when she bonds with an awkward second grade boy in a peer helper program at school. In her own quiet way, Calli stands up to her intense, overbearing dad and makes him understand that talent comes in many forms.


In The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days, the main character, Nina Ross, questions whether doing good really makes a difference. She gets inspired from her eighth-grade history teacher's parting words and spends a summer doing secret good deeds in her neighborhood and for her family, despite the fact that she knows her best friend won't understand. Nina is confused and somewhat insecure, unsure of her "group" and where she'll fit in to the overwhelming world of high school.

As the good deeds prompt events she wasn't expecting, Nina has to decide whether or not to stay true to her plan and herself.


Creating and getting to know the characters of Calli and Nina has taught me, as an author, to appreciate the satisfaction in small moments.

While glowing reviews and awards are certainly wonderful, I've come to realize that rewards arrive in many forms, and often the best are the most heartfelt, touching, and personal.

Perhaps it's connecting with a child at a school visit, like the boy who admitted he didn't want to read Calli Be Gold because there was a girl on the cover, but now it's one of his favorite books. Or the email I received from a girl who wrote that Calli "inspires me to be open and kind to everyone. She makes me want to be myself." And the boy who was too shy to come up and have me sign his book at a recent event, and sent his friend to my table instead. When I waved to the boy, his surprised, thankful, light-up-the-room smile was absolutely perfect.

It's these moments when I nod silently to myself and think: these are the real superlatives.



Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz (Wendy Lamb, 2014) at Cynsations at Blogger. Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America. Enter here.
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  • Mon, 16:17: RT @LeonardosRose: Hate-Group-Watchdog has long file on "Patriot" suspect in Jewish-hate slaying http://t.co/sogZOsCX4r #tcot @/PaulRevereP…
  • Mon, 16:18: I would like to write a magical kind of book. You know, the kind that changes people's hearts or at least transports them away for a bit.
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A Year Ago Today

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Thinking of my daughter and my friends and family who live in Boston and my friend, Susan, who ran in the Boston Marathon a year ago today. Sending love to you all.

You didn't let it stop you. Not from running or living or being the strong, open-hearted, and hopeful people that you've always been. Today and always, I am inspired by the quiet, deep courage that takes.

April 14th, 2014

A new year

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Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 7.12.52 PMToday I celebrated my birthday at the Missouri Association of School Librarians conference, where I accented the Truman Award for Girl, Stolen.  At the dinner tonight, 800 librarians sang Happy Birthday to me.  It can't get much better than that.  (I'm wearing  my mom's necklace.)

While the last year was good for me, professionally, it was a tough year, personally.  On Memorial Day last year, we were driving to dinner just when two street kids let go of the leashes of their dogs. Their big black lab basically ran into our car and then we ran over it, while their smaller dog was hit by another driver.  We took both dogs to the emergency vet (the black lab was DOA and the other was put down that night) and spent the evening trying to comfort their owners.

In September, my mom chose to go on hospice and i moved back to my home town to take care of her.  Although she didn't need that much taking care of.  I fed her until she decided to stop eating, brought her ice, and watched a lot of documentaries and all of the Forsyte Saga and Season 1 of Homeland with her (it was a Damian Lewis kind of month).   Anyone who reads this blog at all knows how much I miss her.

And then in December I had that weird problem the doctors thought was cellulitis, and then diagnosed as MRSA cellulitis when it didn't respond to antibiotics.  I was in the hospital for three days and then discharged on December 30. I was ready to declare a fresh start January 1, but I kept having problems (including a freakish reaction to the IV antibiotics I was given in the hospital) until the 12th and 13th doctors finally gave me right diagnosis (just an unusual reaction to a shin clash in kung fu that never required antibiotics in the first place).

So I'm ready for a fresh year!  And this was a great way to start it.
Okay, it is a cheesy reference to FIELD OF DREAMS. But sometimes when we have these great ideas, we do pause and wonder: will anyone care? Donalyn Miller and I had been talking about our "roots" lately. No, not my gray hair roots, but the roots of the pedagogy that underpins what we do. It began with a discussion of Daniel Fader and then quickly grew spirited as titles, authors, and more began to fly back and forth. That was the birth of #bproots (best practices roots) the chat we had last Saturday. We selected Richard Allington's EVERY CHILD EVERY DAY: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar12/vol69/num06/Every-Child,-Every-Day.aspx.

Saturday arrived. Donalyn and I knew that we would talk even if no one else showed up. But if you build it, they WILL come. Here is the link to the Storify from that chat: https://storify.com/professornana/every-day-every-child#publicize.

There is SO much wisdom here. I think I did little more than retweet posts from the participants. Donalyn and I will do this again in May. We are exploring some more of our #bproots. The reason? So many of our best practices have been marginalized by the reformers. For those of us in the "resistance," it is imperative to know that these best practices are rooted firmly in research. Good pedagogy is. So, thanks to those who joined in. We have much more to revisit.

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I returned from the inspiring Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College yesterday to this tweet from Elizabeth Law, reader and editor extraordinaire:
If I could blush, I would have.

In an age of digital hullabaloo, one of my life goals is to avoid screens and plugs from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday. Apparently, I've discoursed about that publicly. The problem was that I was reading the tweet first thing Sunday morning.

At the Festival, I was reminded again that maintaining a 24/7 digital connection can suck the storytelling right out of you. Creative work flourishes with the age-old practice of a weekly day of rest, during which we enjoy a five-senses attentive delight in the present.

That's why I am going to renew my device-free habit from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday.

But this time, I don't want to do it just for me and my stories. I want to invite you into this practice with me (not exactly with my rules and schedule—feel free to make up your own), so that many, many good stories might emerge.

Join me in taking a one-day-a-week break from email, social media, and internet browsing, and/or refraining from screens and plugs altogether. During our digital break, let's rest, play, and be present in our places with our people. Let the stories come!

Come visit me on the Fire Escape!

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