Sydney Taylor

This is my copy of All-of-a-Kind Family, the first in a series of books by Sydney Taylor. I loved this book as a kid and I still show it off when I visit schools. Because when I discovered this book, I felt like I’d finally found characters who were exactly like me.

allofakindAnd, okay, they lived on New York’s Lower East Side and I lived in Blacksburg, Virginia. And they were five sisters and I had a little brother. They were in the early part of the 20th century; I was a child of the 70s and 80s. And they were poor and we had enough. But they were Jewish, like me, and it was the first time I’d met other Jewish girls in literature. Coming from a spot in the U.S. where there were very few Jewish kids, finding Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie meant everything.

 

 

So Wendy Shang and I were thrilled when we found out we were receiving a Sydney Taylor honor for THIS IS JUST A TEST. The sticker has Sydney Taylor’s name on it. It’s a circle — and this does have that “full circle” feel And it’s silver, which seems especially apt: Sydney Taylor’s book was my very first mirror.

Wendy and I hope that our book, about a Chinese-American-Jewish kid named David, coverstick will do the same thing for other middle-grade readers that All-of-a-Kind Family did for me. We hope that all kids see themselves in David, of course. But we especially hope that kids who haven’t seen themselves before will open the book and say: Here I am! Even if David grew up in the 80s and they’re growing up now. Even if David’s grandmothers are at war with one another and their grandmothers are not. Even if David is a master of trivia and they are masters at soccer. Even if David was afraid of a nuclear war and they are — oh.

We hope they’ll see themselves as a part of the literary world and know that their stories matter. And we hope that they’ll tell them.

Thanks so, so much to the Association of Jewish Libraries and to the Sydney Taylor Committee. Thanks to Lisa Sandell and everyone at Scholastic, and a big shoutout to Chris Danger for his distinctive artwork. And thank you, Sydney Taylor.

For a list of all of the books honored (congratulations, everyone!) visit the Association of Jewish Libraries.

To order THIS IS JUST A TEST, call your favorite Indie or my favorite Indie. You can also order online.

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Eleven

I finally finished watching Stranger Things with my family and now I feel like I’m caught up culturally again, even if the Post put Millie Bobby Brown on the out list this year. (Not in my house, Post!)

Storm Reid is on the “in” list, which I’ll totally buy. I’m still conflicted about Wrinkle in Time, which I have read more times than I can count, as a movie. But it *looks* like they’ve done it a good job. And Camazotz is the way I’ve always pictured it.

My main casting issue is with the three Mrs. W’s. I hope they’ll be brilliant, but the book came out in 1962, so it seems to me that Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which should be a good two decades OLDER than the book, right? And looking like tramps? (Though that’s not an especially presidential look.)  The trailers don’t show them in the beginning so I will withhold judgment until I either give in and decide to see it or a reliable friend gives me a full report.

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Take Care

takecareTake Care, a picture book about taking care of the world — and each other — came out this week. It’s illustrated by Giuliana Gregori.

I write about where the idea for the book started over here and I don’t have much to add, except that this is my 10th book — with my name on it, at least. Double digits!

That means, according to my friend Carrie, that I’m officially a “tween.” It also means I’m still here, so I wanted to take a second and say thanks to everyone who has been a part of that, which more than likely includes you, if you’re reading this. THANK YOU.

You can order Take Care through your favorite indie or my favorite indie.

You can also find it online.

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Self Defense

I see posts online at the start of each year with recommendations on “how authors should behave,” a list of things we should do and not do in the year ahead, mostly related to social media and reviews and writing habits and conferences and publicity and — okay, mostly related to everything. So here’s my contribution: When you see advice, please only take the parts that feel truly right to you. Dump the rest.

Because some of the stuff these posts will suggest will make sense. But not for everybody. Not for me.

In the year ahead, I’ll be guarding my time. If I only have so many words to write during my lifetime, do I really want half of them to be tweets? There might be days — maybe even weeks — that I don’t log on to Twitter. And that’s okay. I can still keep my account. I can engage when I want to and catch up when I need to. Is it the most effective way to use Twitter? No. Is it the most effective way to remain healthy and focus on my writing? I hope so.

For me, it means abandoning Goodreads. Maybe you can hack it, but I can’t. I find it, if not soul-destroying, creativity destroying. I haven’t deleted my account, but I do try to uphold an OSHA-like record.

301 days without a workplace accident.

301 days without signing on to Goodreads.

Actually I’m not sure exactly how many days it has been because I’d have to sign on to find out. I’m not one of those advocating a change to the site. I’m just saying I avoid it like the plague.

If I hear, one more time, “well if you’re that sensitive maybe you should do something else,” I am going to scream. ARRRRGGGH. (That was preemptive. Also, a Charlie Brown reference.)

Here are the only things I want you to take away from this post:

1. Please take all of the advice you hear, even this, with a grain of salt. Some of the things people suggest will be good for you. Great, even. But some won’t be. See paragraph 1 about dumping what doesn’t feel true to you. Protect your creativity.

2. Find a community that will support you. Online or off. Big or small. Your community has to feel right to you, too.

If you’ve been writing for years and you’re still publishing, CONGRATULATIONS. If you’ve been writing for years and you haven’t published but you haven’t given up, CONGRATULATIONS. If it’s your debut year, CONGRATULATIONS. And if you’re just getting started, CONGRATULATIONS to you, too.

If you want to do this for the long haul, you have to trust yourself

And you have to protect yourself.

Over and out,

M

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Putting it out to the universe…

My friend Kristen Lippert-Martin said recently that if there were things I wanted to do, I should just put them out there to the universe. She meant mentioning it to actual humans in the hopes that they might have connections who would bring me closer to my goals, but I thought I’d just put some here, too, in this little corner of my blog, as the Internet is part of the universe and somebody might stumble across it. So. Ahem.

I want to keep writing my own projects that are rooted in humorous stories and often incorporate themes about protecting the environment, brothers and sisters, Virginia, memory, and Judaism.

I want to finish my novel with Wendy this year, and I want to finish a story I started a few years ago that was inspired by some art by Sarah Petruziello.

I’m sure my agent finds this incredibly annoying, but I want to explore new genres of children’s literature. Picture books and middle-grade novels are my sweet spot and always will be. But I’m interested in playing around with some easy readers and early chapter books as well. And in fantasy and super heroes, because the world needs more of them.

I’m also interested in work-for-hire projects to  supplement my personal, creative work. There are many categories I’d consider, but as a Nancy Drew fan, I’d love to take a turn at being Carolyn Keene some time. Have you heard of Tim “Ripper” Owens? It would be sort of like that.

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