Good, Well, Whatever

timthumbSo I just returned from a swell SCBWI conference and my brain is still a little frazzled from all that good writing stuff coming in (and hopefully the bad writing stuff going out). But I promise to share a couple writing treasures after I’ve decompressed.

Oh! Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll pick the winner for Last in a Long Line of Rebels on Thursday on Wednesday, October 28th, and then give a couple winning tips so that those of you who don’t win this wonderful novel won’t feel quite so bad. (But don’t comment here if you want to enter the giveaway–go comment on the post from last week, please!)

In the meantime, you can enjoy “Facing the Sewing Moment” over at the Muffin, depending on where you are in your writing journey. That is to say, if you’re serious about writing, you’ll want to get crackin’ and if you’re not so serious, you’ll give yourself permission to chill out. Either way, it’s all going to be good.

Um…I mean well (said the gal who just returned from a writer’s conference).

Look Who I Found! (And What She Wrote!)

Lisa tyre bookOne of my favorite things about being a member of the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI is meeting all the wonderful authors who live right down the road from me. Of course, in the South, right down the road might be miles and miles away, but us Breezers always seem to have an immediate connection wherever we are.

That’s the way it was when I met Lisa Lewis Tyre, and when her first book came out this month—LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS—I had to invite her to come and share this delightful middle grade novel as well as her journey.

Lisa, I just loved these characters! From 12-year-old Lou to her grandmother to football star, Isaac, I was drawn in by their deep authenticity. How many relatives think they’re in your book? (And come on, we won’t tell anyone. How many actually are?)

Ha! There are several, shall we say, similarities between characters in the book and family members. Lou loves UT like a dear cousin, and my father does actually own a dump truck (or two), but all of the characters are works of fiction, despite what my family thinks.

Your book skillfully weaves a Civil War mystery, the Underground Railroad, and modern day racism into a page-turning debut. Tell us a little about your research for LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS.

Thanks so much. I spent a lot of time on Civil War websites, reading. I wanted to make sure that the diary entries matched what was actually happening. I bought a Civil War diary off of Ebay, (best $6.00 dollars I ever spent) and got a lot of information from the website. I haven’t received any angry emails from historians saying I got something wrong so far. Fingers crossed!

God, church, the bible—I really liked the way you worked this spiritual element throughout Lou’s story without being heavy-handed. We don’t often see religion in our mainstream books and I’m wondering if there was ever any question about adding religion?

I am happy to say, not once! The religious aspect was important to me for a couple of reasons. One, I felt like it was realistic. Small, Southern towns are full of churches and I would expect Lou to either go, or wonder why her family didn’t. Secondly, because the story takes place over the summer, it gave me a way for the kids to meet/plan.

lisa_tyre_webAnd what about your publishing journey? When did you start writing and how did you end up at Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six, and I’ve written short stories off and on for years. About six years ago, I decided that if I didn’t really give it my all, it would be my one regret. So I finished REBELS, and started looking for an agent. After about a month of querying, where I sent out 5 or so a week, I found my agent, Susan Hawk. (Side note: LOVE her.) Susan sent the book out on submission and we landed, happily, ecstatically, and euphorically with Nancy Paulsen.

So now is the time I ask you to share your writing wisdom and/or gems. What’s the best advice you can give to my readers? And what’s the one thing you will never do again?

One, Get serious. Writing may be a dream, but you have to treat it like work. And secondly, Don’t give up. It’s hard in the beginning to believe it will happen, but I’m proof that it does. If the silliest girl that ever came out of Zollicoffer, TN can do it, anyone can.

The one thing I will never do is disparage another writer. Not every book is my cup of tea, but my hat is off to anyone that sits down and finishes a manuscript.

Amen to that, Lisa! And thanks so much for stopping by!

Honestly, if you have middle grade readers at your house (or in your classrooms), they’re going to zip through LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS. The history and mystery hooked me from the get-go, as Lou’s grandmother might say, and I can’t wait to see what Lisa Lewis Tyre comes up with next! (And maybe she’ll give us a sneak peek this weekend at wik’15, my SCBWI region’s fall writer’s conference in Birmingham, Alabama. Hope to see lots of friends there!)

Oh! Wait a second, y’all! I have an ARC (that’s an Advanced Reader’s Copy) of LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS and I’ll give it away to one of my lucky (and US only, please) readers. All you have to do is…let’s see. One of the things I LOVED in Lisa’s book was her use of Southern expressions. So leave an expression–it doesn’t have to be Southern but it does have to be PG–in the comments and I’ll enter your name in the giveaway. Then I’ll draw a name next week when I get back from conferencin’. (See what I did there? I took a noun and made it a verb. That’s a Southern thing, y’all.)

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine!

I don’t often leave the Sunny South, as I’m rather fond of staying warm. But a couple years ago, I ventured Way Up North, to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop, and gosh, I’m glad I did!

I’m also glad I had my boots and sweaters. But that’s another story…

The gist of this story is that I met lots of talented writers, lovely people excited about their stories and dedicated to improving their craft. Writers like Laurie Wallmark, whose picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, will be releasing on October 13! And oh, I just love this story! I mean, the title alone had me clamoring to read more. So Laurie very graciously sent me her book and agreed to answer a couple questions. (And you’ll want to read to the very end for what else Laurie’s promised!)

Ada cover 72dpi

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is the story of a girl’s passion about numbers and all things mechanical and mathematical. Is this the same manuscript you worked on at the Whole Novel Workshop? No, during our workshop I worked on a middle-grade novel. Ada’s story has always been a picture book. Much of her story, though, is inappropriate for younger children, so I’m now working on a young adult narrative in verse about Ada’s life.

That sounds very interesting! And yes, there are so many complex concepts in this story, and yet it’s so accessible! Why did you decide to present Ada’s story as a children’s picture book? Children internalize at an early age the idea that girls should not be interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) or, even worse, that they are bad at these subjects. I made Ada a picture book because I think it’s important to show young children this idea is not the case.

So true, Laurie! How difficult was it to make her story readable for this age group? Funny you should ask this. It wasn’t easy including the necessary technical details while still making the manuscript accessible to young readers. I tried many craft techniques before figuring out the ones that would work for Ada. I’m presently enrolled in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, so I was able to include some of what I discovered in my studies. In my third semester I did my critical thesis on “How to Explain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in Picture Books.” My writer’s toolbox is now filled with metaphorical gadgets and gizmos to bring STEM to life in picture books.

I loved reading all the research for this non-fiction book, and your love of the subject matter certainly comes through on every page! And I know you’ve been published in several children’s magazines, too. Are those stories non-fiction as well? Is non-fiction your niche now? Most of my magazine work is nonfiction, but I’ve had two short stories published. Amusingly enough, they have similar names—“Dreams of Freedom” and “The Sound of Freedom.” Although I love nonfiction, I also love fiction and poetry. I’d hate to have to confine myself to one genre.

So tell us a little about this story’s journey from idea to publication at Creston Books. How did Ada’s story end up with this unique publisher? Ada’s story has been a long time incubating. In 2010, it was a runner-up for the SCBWI Nonfiction Work-in-Progress Award. At that time, the book was called Not a Proper Lady: Ada Byron Lovelace. I continued to work on it, including at a different Highlights workshop (biography with Carolyn Yoder). In June 2014, I had a critique at the NJ SCBWI conference with literary agent Ginger Harris of the Liza Royce Agency. She and her partner, Liza Fleissig, thought Ada would be a good match for Creston Books. (Marissa Moss, the publisher and editor at Creston, has written several picture book biographies about women with nontraditional accomplishments.) After one revision for Liza and Ginger, and four more for Marissa, Creston made me an offer. Ten or so additional revisions later, Ada was ready to go.

 All the work worth it, though, as this is such a wonderful book! So what’s next for author Laurie Wallmark? Can you tell us about any new ideas? My next picture book biography is about Grace Hopper. She was the first person to use words in her computer programs instead of only “1”s and “0”s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThank goodness, someone’s finally going to explain that in terms I can understand! And now, please share with us your favorite writing advice so we’ll be as brilliant as you (and Ada Byron Lovelace). I teach adult education courses on writing for children. On the first day of class, I tell my students you need three things to be a successful writer.

  1. A little bit of writing talent.
  2. The willingness to learn and improve your craft.
  3. Persistence (as evidenced by my journey to Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine)

The best piece of advice I can give, though, it to read, read, read children’s books and write, write, write your own stories. Good luck.

ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston Books, October 2015) is a picture-book biography of the world’s first computer programmer. Ada was born two hundred years ago, long before the invention of the modern electronic computer. At a time when girls and women had few options outside the home, Ada followed her dreams and studied mathematics. This book, by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu, tells the story of a remarkable woman and her work. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as a “splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman.” [starred review]

Join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. All stops are listed at here.

Thanks, Laurie, and though now we have to say goodbye, one lucky reader will win his or her own copy of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine which Laurie’s promised to send! Just leave a comment to be included in the drawing, and if you link to this post on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll give you an extra entry. Just let me know in your comment as I’m trusting that way. But comment quickly! I’ll be drawing that name same time next week, here at the blog. (P.S. I’m not a math whiz like Ada Byron Lovelace but I do know that the more entries you have, the greater your chance of winning. Good luck!)