Monday, March 23, 2015

2015 Children's Literature Festival, Day 3

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

We started off our day with Roland Smith. He is definitely a pro when it comes to presenting his work to kids!

Roland has written over 40 picture, middle-grade, and YA books. Roland wanted to be a writer when he was a small kid, but a job at the Portland Zoo and becoming a research biologist created a 20 year detour. But from these careers, he gained the inspiration he needed to write his contemporary stories.

When Roland is writing a book, he does all the research before putting anything down on paper. When he's ready to write, he puts his research and story ideas onto note cards. With those cards he storyboards his entire book. So when he is writing, he has a clear "map" to follow to keep on track.

Roland showed the cover of his newest book, The Edge, (a sequel to Peak) which will be coming out in October.

Next we saw Antony John. John is fairly new to the writing world, but he gives an expert presentation! He has published six YA novels, with a seventh one, Imposter, coming out in September.

He recently completed his YA dystopian fantasy trilogy, Elemental. The books are set in the United States after a plague has struck the mainland. A small group of survivors have moved to the harsh islands of the Outer Banks. Many of these survivors are gifted with an ability to control the four major elements: earth, air, water, and fire. But when pirates destroy one small community, a few teens are left behind to survive on their own.

Besides talking about his books, John also gives advice on becoming an author. He says that if you wonder what is going to happen next when reading a story, then you are starting to think like an author. Also he states the importance of the "What if...?" question. This question can lead you to creating successful stories.

Next we went to see Jane Kurtz. Kurtz writes both picture books and YA novels. Her newest book is called Anna was Here.

When Kurtz was two-years-old, her family moved from the USA to Ethiopia. It was a hard move, but she grew to love the people and the culture there. Because of this experience, she has written many books based on the Ethiopian culture, racism, moving, and family relationships.

She also gave advice about becoming a writer. She said the way to be a good writer is to be a good reader because everything you read will show up in your own writing.

She asked three personal questions to help inspire writing ideas: (1) What do you think is interesting to you? (2) What is inside you that's interesting? (3) What do you know and care about?

Next we saw Claire Rudolf Murphy. For her presentation she focused on three major topics: the power of writing, women's rights, and the history behind the song "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."

She said that writing is powerful! The better you are at writing the more doors will open to you. The better the piece of writing reads, the more work has gone into it.

Because the conference is held in Missouri, Murphy brought up the history of women's right in Missouri. She had kids participate in a political debate and vote on women's rights similar to what was done in 1920.

Then she focused on her picture book My Country, 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights. She showed how different lyrics were used in the song during many major events in US history. She had audience members sing along to the different lyrics.

The last presenter we attended was Laurie Calkhoven. Calkhoven writes both historical fiction and non-fiction for elementary and middle-grade readers. Many of her books are through American Girl.

In her presentation, Calkhoven focused on the research she did when she wrote her three Boys of Wartime books and I Grew Up to Be President.  When she discussed each book, she shared a historical "wacky fact". These facts included how a broken egg saved the Sons of Liberty from the British; how a union girl sang taunts to Confederate soldiers in Gettysburg; how many Parisians raised ducks, chickens, and rabbits in their bathrooms to survive WWII; and how President Taft got stuck in his bathtub at the White House.

A very informative presentation for history fans.

It was a great conference! I look forward to reviewing many of the books I learned about.

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