Cultural Diversity in Children’s Books with Fiona Ingram, Author of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur

excalibur front cover final2-2Author Fiona Ingram is visiting the blog today, on a WOW! tour for The Search for the Stone of Excalibur

This middle grade adventure picks up the story following the first mystery she penned, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. Cousins Justin and Adam face modern as well as ancient dangers in their search to find Excalibur. And what’s up with Kim, the girl their aunt has sent along to help them?

Fortunately for us, we have Fiona to explain a little something something about Kim–and Cultural Diversity in Children’s Books:

In the early 1960s, Canadian philosopher and writer Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase ‘global village,’ in effect predicting that in time electronic media would draw the world’s populations closer. Now in 2015, over fifty years later, we need more than ever to acknowledge, accept and celebrate that there are people with different languages, cultures and religious beliefs. We should know more about the other people on our planet, but do we in essence teach our children that everyone has the same rights and deserves acceptance? I was brought up in apartheid South Africa by open-minded parents who valued people and taught us acceptance of everyone, regardless of color. Post-apartheid South Africa has a wide range of people from different race groups, languages, and cultural beliefs; and indeed there are still haves and have-nots. In my second book, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, the two young heroes—Justin and Adam—meet someone who is just like them, yet comes from a completely different background. They have well-off parents, while disadvantaged Kim is living with their Aunt Isabel so as to get a better education.

Readers might be interested to know that the character of Kim in Book 2 is based on a real child, an African child I fostered and later adopted. My young nephews (who inspired the book series) did have a bit of a cultural shock meeting someone who did not come from a well off background, and who needed another person’s help to perform better at school. In subsequent books, the heroic trio encounter different scenarios in different countries, and truly experience multiculturalism. Young readers who follow their adventures are steeped in various histories and cultures covering thousands of years in diverse locales. Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) takes the trio to Central America, where they meet an uncontacted tribe and learn about people who wish to preserve their own unique way of life in the jungle. They also learn about the dangers facing the rain forests, wildlife and indigenous people from industry and mining.

A reviewer commented on my books, saying: “Contrary to today’s apparent trend of watering down our differences, your stories celebrate those differences, which I believe will better serve your young readers as they become the next wave of world leaders.” I was moved by this comment because the places I have chosen as locales for the future adventures are rich in ancient history and stories and legends that anyone would be proud to call their heritage. These elements should be preserved as cultural wealth; special and unique moments in a people’s history that have meaning for them. By including diversity in children’s literature, an author is able to help broaden cultural understanding and acceptance between young readers and reduce conflicts. It’s a great way to teach kids that there are others who might not have all the advantages they enjoy, and that caring and sharing, and respecting others is part of the process of being a compassionate human being. As an end note, Book 1: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is now available in Japan and I hope young Japanese readers will just love reading about an amazing Egyptian adventure in their own language.

The internet has made the world a smaller place than when I was a kid, sharing information about people from all over the four corners of the earth. And yet we still struggle with the big issues: accepting others, treating those who are different from us with respect, and celebrating those differences. I love to see books like The Search for the Stone of Excalibur that embrace and celebrate different cultures–and tell a rollicking good story to boot!

FionaIngram-794310And now here’s a little more about Fiona Ingram:

Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—The Chronicles of the Stone. This was inspired by a family trip the author took with her mom and two young nephews aged ten and twelve at the time. The book began as a short story for her nephews and grew from there. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is a treat for young King Arthur fans. Fiona is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, set in Mexico.

While writing The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, Fiona fostered (and later adopted) a young African child from a disadvantaged background. Her daughter became the inspiration for the little heroine, Kim, in The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Interestingly, the fictional character’s background and social problems are reflected in the book as Kim learns to deal with life. Fiona’s experiences in teaching her daughter to read and to enjoy books also inspired many of her articles on child literacy and getting kids to love reading.

You can follow Fiona on Facebook or Twitter, and check out her blog, too. (She always shares the most interesting animal stories!) And of course, look for her fun and fascinating mystery, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. You’ll learn something new on every page!

Avoid Social Media Time Suck (Yes, Please!)

As you may recall, I have a wee bit of a problem with social media. Remember my seven-minute rule on Facebook? Um…yeah. It’s worked pretty well, but honestly, there are so many times I have to be on Facebook, have to work that side of the writing business. And before I know it, my writing time side is quite sucked dry. And Twitter? I simply can’t do seven minutes on Twitter–so I end up not doing Twitter at all. There has to be a better way, right?

Enter Frances Caballo, author of Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time To Write. It’s a mouthful, I know, but that’s exactly what we as writers need. A way to maximize our social media marketing so that we can write. Serendipitously, Frances has a few Twitter tips to get us started:

Social-Media-Time-Suck-Final-for-WritersCut Through the Slush and Maximize Your Tweets

The biggest hindrances to being social are the streams of incoming messages in your news feeds. If you are following 2,000 Twitter users, it can be difficult to cut through the slush to find the gems that you’ll find worth retweeting.

 One way you can cut through the plethora of messages is to find and join Twitter chats that focus on specific areas of interest. Nothing can replace the feeling of immediacy that interacting with a wide number of people on Twitter will provide. They are interesting, fun, and depending on the topic, very entertaining. Use these applications to find a Twitter chat you might enjoy:

 Twchat 

With this application, you can create real-time chat rooms based on your selected Twitter hashtag. A Twitter hashtag might be #memoirchat, #poetchat, #suspensechat, or #marketingchat.

 TweetGrid 

With this application, you can keep track of multiple keywords, including multiple Twitter chats. You can even join more than one chat, and the website will create grids with live updates within each stream. In essence, it creates real-time chat rooms based on the Twitter hashtags in use.

 

Applications to Help You Find Newsy Nuggets

 People post about everything on social media. They show pictures of gluten-free lasagna, a son’s graduation, and trending videos on YouTube. If you would like to view and comment on these posts, then do so. But if you want to find the real news and join conversations with more substance, there are a variety of applications that can help you with that, too.

 Nutshell Mail (www.nutshellmail.com)

You will determine whether you want to receive an update once or twice daily and at what time. On Twitter, it will keep track of new follows and un-follows, mentions, and tweets from your favorite lists in your Twitter summary. You can even tweet, reply, retweet, and send a direct message without even leaving your inbox.

Newsle 

 Newsle will send you e-mail alerts when people you follow are mentioned in articles online. It’s always a friendly gesture to send the person an e-mail or tweet congratulating them on the mention or a great post they wrote. According to the application’s creators, “Newsle tracks real news. Every story in your Newsle news feed is a real news article from a newspaper, news website, or blog that mentions or quotes your friend.” To set it up, simply connect to Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn. Review the settings to select how often you want to receive e-mail notification.

Do you have any tips for maximizing your tweets?

Well, Frances, I do now!

Frances Candid Shot 12-5-13Frances Caballo is a social media manager for writers. Besides her book above, she’s also the author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers.

And here are a few more of the gems you’ll find in Avoid Social Media Time Suck:

  • How to create and perfect your author platform.
  • The importance of being social and applications that make this task easy and fun.
  • Tools that enable you to track and measure your success so you can better understand the return on investment of your valuable time.
  • Exercises for introverted writers to help you feel comfortable on the social web.

Now, I know you’re chomping at the bit to get this book in your hot little hands. So leave a comment and maybe I’ll draw your name! (Name will be drawn on Tuesday, April 29.) Or check out the giveaway on Goodreads (Through April). Or just zip right here and order it.

And really, considering all that time sucking away, hand’t you better hurry?