Monday, December 13, 2010

December Issue and Book Giveaway!

Spellbinders Logo
December, 2010
And the winner is . . .
SEA cover The Winner of November's book giveaway Sea by Heidi R. Kling is Maggie Desmond O'Brien! Congratulations, Maggie! Please email Kimberley Little at so we can get your prize mailed off to you!

My Invented LifeAnd don't forget to enter December's book giveaway of the novel, My Invented Life, by Lauren Bjorkman, our guest columnist this month!

To Enter is easy: Just leave a comment on the
Spellbinder blog or email Kimberley at and you might win My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman, published 2010 by Henry Holt Publishers.
Feature Article

The YALSA Symposium - by Carolee Dean

November 5-7 the YALSA Symposium was held in Albuquerque, NM where more than 400 librarians, educators and authors met to discuss "Diversity, Literature, and Teens: Beyond Good Intentions." The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is a division of the American Library Association (ALA). YALSA's mission is to advocate, promote and strengthen library services to teens.
Lois & Carolee at YALSA

Lois Ruby and I presented a poster on Character and Culture by highlighting twenty-one New Mexico children's authors. Each of us wrote a brief description of how living in the southwest has shaped our experiences and influenced our writing.

Terry TruemanTerry Trueman, author of the Printz Honor book Stuck in Neutral, and parent of a child with severe disabilities, gave a presentation entitled "Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup: Young Adult Literature and Disability Diversity: How Far Have we come?" Co-presenters were Dr. Heather Garrison and Dr. Katherine Schneider who discussed books that include positive portrayals of teens with disabilities and how to use books to promote acceptance and diversity. We will talk more about this presentation in January when the Spellbinders newsletter focuses on Exploring Disability in Children's Literature.

Vaunda NelsonNew Mexico's own Vaunda Nelson was the speaker at the Bill Morris Author Luncheon. Her book, Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall, was the recent winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. Vaunda is a full-time librarian as well as author and all around sweet person.

Peotry Panel

The poetry panel on "Forms and Faces of Poetry for Teens" included (left to right) Ann Burg, Jen Bryant, Margarita Engle, Pat Mora and April Halprin Wayland. They talked about their poetry and read aloud from their novels in verse.

Nikki, April & CaroleeOn Sunday morning Nikki Grimes gave suggestions for conducting poetry readings at schools in "Open Mike: Reaching Teens at Risk Through Poetry". That's her in the middle with April on the left and me on the right.

Ellen & LaurenThe symposium wrapped up with Ellen Hopkins (left) and Lauren Myracle (right) speaking at the closing session about overcoming intellectual freedom challenges so the right book can get to the right kid at the right time. Mark your calendars for 11/2/12 for the next biannual YALSA symposium in St. Louis, Missouri. Hope to see you there!

Texas LibrariansSaturday night 30 authors signed books their publishers had donated to the event. Every participant got 5 tickets they were able to exchange for signed books. Here I am at the signing with three delightful librarians from Texas.

Guest Column
YA Librarians are Awesome by Lauren Bjorkman
Lauren Bjorkman
Lauren Bjorkman

I like November. My birthday is in November. My first YA novel came out last November. And this November I attended my first national event as an author-the YALSA conference in Albuquerque. There I discovered a few things about YA librarians. They talk to strangers. They have lively conversations in elevators, in fact, a social no-no in other spheres. And they have passion for getting diverse books into the hands of teen readers.

During the pre-conference session called "Beyond Stonewall", authors Michael Cart and Christine Jenkins gave us a "history lesson" on GLBT teen fiction from 1969 to 2010, book-talking dozens of titles. They are experts on the subject.

All the earlier books with GLBT characters were tragedies, and usually ended with the gay character killed in a car wreck. Or truck wreck. Or motorcycle wreck. Seriously! Things got better in the 80's, when some books ended on a hopeful note-particularly those by M.E. Kerr. Still, the majority of GLBT teen lit consisted of "problem" novels.

My Invented LifeIn the 2000's there were many breakthroughs - GLBT books for the retail market, ones with multi-cultural characters, humor, happy endings, and many that received awards.

In the afternoon, I spoke on a panel about future trends in GLBT teen lit with Megan Frazer (Secrets of Truth and Beauty), Kirstin Cronn-Mills (The Sky Always Hears Me), and Malinda Lo (Ash). Our topics were serious-the fluidity of sexuality, labeling, coming out, heteronormativity, and settings without homophobia-but we still managed to make 50+ librarians laugh out loud.

AlamosaFriday night, I participated in a Q&A at Alamosa Books, an Albuquerque bookstore devoted entirely to young readers and teens. From left to right: Malinda Lo, Lauren Bjorkman (me), Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Alexandra Diaz (Of All the Stupid Things), and Megan Frazer.

The next day, I attended a session on "Commercial Success and Diversity". One particularly poignant moment came when the authors on the panel shared stories about their novel covers.

  • The cover for 8th Grade Superzero, for instance, a coming-of-age YA about nerdy African-American teens was given the classic silhouette picture that hides the main character's race.
  • Neesha Meminger (Shine, Coconut Moon) expressed gratitude that the cover of her novel about South Asian teens in NY didn't include a red sari, mangos, or spices.
  • When Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez (Hater) complained about the three white teens on the cover of her book about a Mexican-American, one of the girls got an airbrushed tan.
  • Cynthea Liu (Paris Pan Takes the Dare) remembered how sad she felt when she learned that the Chinese-American girl on her cover would be a cartoon.

Shiprock, NMWith so many talented and multi-published authors in attendance, I felt a bit like a small minnow in a big pond. But what a pond! I got to talk to librarians in Kansas, Indiana, Ohio and even one in Shiprock, New Mexico that had my book in their library collections. Which made me a semi-famous minnow for the day!

Kimberley's Book Buzz
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Kimberley Little
Kimberley Griffiths Little

It's double whammy for Young Adult Book titles two months in a row! In November we discussed some fascinating books that deal with a wide variety of crisis in teen's lives. A great issue so if you missed it go here.

Since YALSA was right in our backyard this year, we can't help dishing about the 800 Young Adult Librarians swarming the Albuquerque Convention Center and talking non-stop about YA literature. So I bring you Young Adult Book Buzz as we prepare for the American Library Association Youth Media Award Announcements that will be held Monday, January 10 at 7:30 a.m. in San Diego, California!

A few titles that have had glowing reviews and are currently *buzzing*!

Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

A fast-paced post apocalyptic adventure set on the American Gulf Coast.

YouYou by Charles Benoit

Fifteen-year-old Kyle is a member of the "hoodies." So named for their ubiquitous hooded sweatshirts, they are the slackers/burnouts/freaks common to every high school. This book is written in an unusual second person Point of View as we live within Kyle's head as he gets picked on by bullies, serves detention, and pines after a girl.

FinnikenFinnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin, son of the head of the King's Guard, has been in exile for a decade, after the violent takeover of his birthplace by a usurper, followed by a curse by a priestess that has effectively shut the kingdom off from the outside world.

The Sky is EverywhereThe Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

When her older sister dies from an arrhythmia, 17-year-old Lennie finds that people are awkward around her, including her best friend. While dealing with her conflicted feelings toward her sister's boyfriend, her anguish over Bailey's unexpected death, Lennie must also cope with her unresolved feelings about her mother, who left when Lennie was an infant.

Fever CrumbFever Crumb by Reeves, Philip

Foundling Fever Crumb has been raised as an engineer although females in a future London, England, are not believed capable of rational thought, but at age 14 she leaves her sheltered world and begins to learn startling truths about her past while facing danger in the present.

RevolverRevolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Sedgwick's historical mystery, set in the Arctic Circle in 1899 and 1910, makes good use of the word chilling. Outside their remote Scandinavian village, Sig's father dies of exposure after trying to rush home across a frozen lake. The reason for his carelessness becomes apparent to Sig when a hulking beast of a man arrives at their tiny shack with a Colt revolver, demanding his share of a stolen wealth of gold.

Last Summer of the Death WarriorsThe Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

Seventeen year old Pancho is bent on avenging the senseless death of his sister, but after he meets D.Q. who is dying of cancer, and Marisol, one of D.Q's caregivers, both boys find their lives changed by their interactions.

NothingNothing by Janne Teller and translated from Danish

When thirteen-year-old Pierre Anthon leaves school to sit in a plum tree, and train for becoming nothing, his classmates set out on a desperate quest for the meaning of life.

A few more excellent fiction and non-fiction titles:

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters by Jeannine Atkins

We Could Be Brothers by Derrick D. Barnes

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by David Levithan and John Green
Picture the Dead, by Lisa Brown & Adele Griffin

Now that it's December and 2010 is coming to a close - What are some of YOUR favorite books this year? Please tell us in a comment on the blog:


The Secret Language of Stories
Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean

Adolescence is a period of rapid growth and life-altering change. With this month's focus on young adult literature, it's the perfect time to talk about the transformational arc of characters. In a well-crafted novel, movie, or play a character will grow and change in a significant way. Owen, in the YA novel, Crash Into Me by Albert Borris, goes on a road trip with three teens he met online. They plan to visit the sites of celebrity suicides and then kill themselves, but as he connects with the teens on the trip, he finally discusses his brother's tragic death, and he begins to find hope. In Heidi Kling's novel, Sea, Sienna begins the story deathly afraid of flying and fearful of the ocean because of her mother's plane going missing three years early. She falls in love with Deni, a teen she's met at an orphanage in Yogyarta, and by the end of the story she's travelling with him to tsunami ravaged Aceh to help him find his missing father. In the process she not only overcomes her fear of flying, but faces potential death from a variety of other sources including malaria and bird flu.

This character transformation even happens in short stories and picture books, though often to a lesser degree. The young wife in The Gift of the Magi starts out feeling sad because she has no money to buy her husband a Christmas gift. She sells the one thing that really sets her apart, her hair, to buy him a chain for his pocket watch. When he comes home and appears shocked by her new appearance, she faces the potential loss of what she values most - his affection. In the end he tells her that he sold his watch to buy her a set of combs for her hair. They both realize how truly rich they are because of the great love they possess.

In the picture book The Frog Prince Continued, the frog and his wife begin the story disgruntled with each other. Married life isn't what they thought it would be. He goes off looking for a witch to change him back into a frog and suffers a near death experience when a fairy accidentally changes him into a carriage. He despairs that he will have to sit in the forest until he rots, but then the clock strikes midnight and he is a prince again. When he finally returns to the palace, he and his wife have a newfound appreciation for each other.

Transformation is often painful and never easy. It is that awkward change from caterpillar to butterfly and typically involves some type of death experience, much like the chrysalis phase where the caterpillar melts into goo before being reborn as a monarch. There is no real change without this death of the old and birth of the new, but it is human nature to avoid it, to hold onto what is comfortable and familiar. The one exception may be adolescence when teens are eager to throw off the bonds of childhood to embrace the "freedom" of adulthood. It isn't until they are mid stream through the river of reformation that they realize just how treacherous those waters can be.

To read more about the twelve stages of The Secret Language of Stories, visit our previous issues of Spellbinders at

For a fun activity focusing on character transformation, visit the monthly activity blog on my website at

2011 Youth Media Awards

Here is the list of awards given out at the 2011 Youth Media Award announcements at the ALA Midwinter Conference:

  • Alex Awards
  • Andrew Carnegie Medial
  • Coretta Scott King Book Award
  • Coretta Scott King - Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • John Newbery Medal
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Award
  • Margaret A. Edwards Award
  • May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture
  • Michael L. Printz Award
  • Mildred L. Batchelder Award
  • Odyssey Award
  • Pura Belpré Awards
  • Randolph Caldecott Medal
  • Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal
  • Schneider Family Book Award
  • Stonewall Children's & Young Adult Literature Award
  • Theodore Seuss Geisel Award
  • William C. Morris Award
  • YALSA Award for Excellent in Nonfiction for Young Adults

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Great November Issue! And Book Giveaway-Leave a comment to WIN!

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November, 2010
Feature Article - Kids on the Edge

An Interview with Albert Borris - by Carolee Dean

This month Spellbinders will focus on stories for kids and teens dealing with crisis. I've found books to be a valuable medium for bringing up tough subjects. Young people often benefit just from knowing there are others going through the same struggles. I think it's true for all of us that as we see characters overcoming what seem to be insurmountable obstacles, we find the strength and courage to face our own difficulties.

Albert Borris

My job as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools has had a definite impact on the types of stories I create, so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to interview Albert Borris, whose career as a Student Assistance Counselor inspired him to write Crash Into Me, the story of four high school students who meet online and form a suicide pact. They decide to go on a road trip together and spend two tumultuous weeks visiting the sites of celebrity suicides with the final destination of Death Valley, where they plan to end their lives. But an interesting thing happens on the road. The teens form connections, and as the narrator, Owen, finally finds a voice to express his despair, he begins to find hope as well. Check out Albert's website at

Carolee: Albert, thanks for joining us for this month's issue of Spellbinders. What got you interested in becoming a counselor?

Albert: Because I was a kid once, too. Also, I took a Human Psychology class with Dr. Betty Duff. She thought that I could be a suicide hotline worker. By my junior year in college, I was a counselor and never looked back. I also worked with teens while my father was getting sober. It all just stuck.

Crash Into Me CoverMy first job in schools was given to be by a woman named Carolyn Hadge in the Toms River school district. I worked there for two years and I loved it! Then I was given a grant to work in Moorestown for three years. When that time was up, they asked me to stay!

Carolee: How would you describe the work you've done with teens?

Albert: My job involves a lot of talking and connecting. I am a teacher as well as a counselor, which means being an authority figure as well as a friend. I offer a shoulder to cry on for students in 9th through 12th grade. I give emotional assistance for kids thinking of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and experiencing other hard times. But I'm also a teacher, taking on a class called Natural Helpers, I instruct students on the Ropes Course and I organize the Project Graduation.

Carolee: I've heard of Ropes. They had one at a psychiatric hospital where I once worked. A group of people go out on an obstacle course and do repelling and climbing with ropes and harnesses. It's about testing your limits and building trust. I've never heard of Natural Helpers or Project Graduation. What are those?

Albert: Natural Helpers is a series events from CHEF/ Comprehensive Health Education Foundation, and Project Graduation was a drug free event I organized for graduation night (8pm to 7am). Over 95% of the students who graduated came to the event.

Carolee: That's a wonderful turn-out. It sounds like you've done a lot of great things for kids. How has your job influenced your writing?

Albert: My line of work is directly expressed through my book. The inspiration for Crash Into Me came during a Parents' Workshop I coordinated. The other books I have written are along the same lines. Junior, The Holy Darkness, and my next book, The Anarchy Game, are all about some kind of struggle or suffering.

I know that through these books we can get the message out that there are kids/teens/adults that all have troubles. Sometimes, we all feel alone but there is always hope. By writing these novels, I can make that mark introspectively

Carolee: Thanks so much for joining us for this month's issue of Spellbinders.

Guest Column - Sea's Journey

This month's Guest column (below) is by Heidi Kling, debut author of SEA. It's the story of a fifteen-year old California girl, Sienna (Sea) Jones, who is haunted by recurring nightmares since her mother's disappearance over the Indian Ocean three years before. She reluctantly travels with her psychiatrist father's volunteer team to post-tsunami Indonesia six months after the disaster where she meets the scarred and soulful orphaned boy, Deni, who is more like Sea than anyone she has ever met.

Heidi's husband, a practicing psychiatrist, went to Indonesia after the tsunami and his experiences inspired the story that Booklist calls, "... a lyrical story of loss and daring to love again."

SEA coverWe hope you enjoy Heidi's article below and be sure to check out her blog, her web site, her Facebook page and her Twitter page.

Heidi is generously giving away a copy of SEA to one of our lucky readers here at SPELLBINDERS. In case you didn't know, issues of SPELLBINDERS are also posted on the Spellbinders blog. If you go to the blog site and post a comment, you could be the lucky winner. Also, it's a great time to sign up for our blog list. That way if you ever change email addresses, you will still have access to our articles.

We will post the winner's name in our December issue.

Sea's Journey by Heidi Kling
Heidi R. Kling
Heidi R. Kling

Sometimes, when you're married to someone for a long time, it's hard to tell where you stop and he begins--and vice-versa. That's sort of how it is with my husband and I, his profession and mine. I'm not a psychiatrist. I really wouldn't want to be one. He's much more hardy than I am, and hearty really. I hear sad stories and either buck away from them because I can't deal, or break down in sobs.

He is better at being neutral, objective, while still being empathetic and kind. So how does his profession influence my writing? Well, if it weren't for him and his volunteer work in Indonesia, Sea would not exist. In any form. I never would have come up with the idea.

And even if I did get this particular idea on my own, I wouldn't have felt comfortable entering this tragic, sensitive world on the other side of the globe, without first hand knowledge of real people who have been there, experienced it all, first hand.

When Daryn returned home from Indonesia, the first time he went, he was inspired to change everything in his career's future. He was a resident, so still in that phase of not knowing what comes next. Instead of going into private practice or working for a big HMO etc., he went to work for non-profits that focus on helping refugees and victims of natural (tsunami etc.) and man-made (war trauma) disasters with their PTSD. Yes, the pay is less, but the internal benefits of helping so many people who otherwise would not receive care made it so worth it.

The way this decision inspired me through writing, is I want to make sure every project I work on means something to me. SEA was a story I felt needed to be told. Indonesia is a place many teens or grown-ups don't know too much about. Also, there is still so much stigma around mental health disorders, and I thought if I created this extremely likable boy, Deni, and gave him PTSD, it would be a good way to bring up that topic and make it not as taboo.

As far as the rest of my writing goes, I play a pretend therapist in my essay contribution to Visitor's Guide to Mystic Falls, where I pick apart, and advise, the relationship between the Salvatore brothers from TV's hit show The Vampire Diaries. Interestingly, my husband didn't help me with the essay until the last draft. I had him read through it for clarity. I think it's just being around him-someone who listens to people's problems and helps try to fix them for a living. It's just rubbed off on me. The same way it would have if I was married to a rock star, or a rodeo heavyweight. I would know more about music. I would know about bulls. And those rocking outfits that cowboys wear.

I'm so grateful to my husband for doing what he does. I hope in some way, I'm able to help others through my words, the way he does with his important, often tragic, often hopeful, work.

It's hard in this current genre of sparkly vampires to make a go of a book that is largely about healing, family, and takes place in a third-world country, but my readers have been so enthusiastic and have fallen in love with the characters and this story.

This means the world to me.

The entire experience of this book, from early idea to publication, has taught me to stay true to my ideals and to tell the story I want to tell.

Kimberley's Book Buzz
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Kimberley Little
Kimberley Griffiths Little

Many thanks to Heidi R. Kling and Albert Borris for their personal stories, passion and experiences that led them to write their books.

In keeping with our Crisis Books theme, here are eight more well-written and thought-provoking titles for your teens. They may also work for 7th-8th grade students, but we do recommend that parents, teachers and librarians read the books first and be ready to discuss. All the topics are timely and the stories and characters very insightful, but they do have mature themes and some swearing.


The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney is about a girl dealing with date rape and its effects on her friends and school.

Struts & Frets

Struts & Fretsby Jon Skovron is about a teenage boy whose jazz musician grandfather has Alzheimer's disease.

Flash Burnout

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan about the drug use of a parent.

Dark Song

Dark Song by Gail Giles is the story of a parent in trouble with the law and a girl who gets involved with an older boy who plants in her mind the idea of killing her parents.


After by Amy Efaw, about the mental break-down and come-back of a girl who hides her pregnancy and dumps the baby in the trash.

Girl Stolen

Girl, Stolen by April Henry, about a blind girl who is kidnapped and how she survives.

Hate List

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown, about the events leading up to a school shooting and its aftermath.


Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia, about bullying by girls in the school/sports arena and the issues of personal and community responsibility.


The Secret Language of Stories
Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean

This month, keeping with our theme of novels with a strong central problem or crisis, I would like to discuss story goals. Many of the story grammar aids used by teachers to discuss story structure with students involve indentifying the central problem in the story. This seems straightforward. Even simple stories have some kind of basic problem. The three bears have experienced a home invasion by a fair-haired stranger. Little Red Riding Hood is being stalked by a wolf. Voldemort wants to get rid of Harry Potter.

Not all stories are based upon a problem, however. Some are based upon attaining a very coveted prize. In the movie, Friday Night Lights (based upon the novel Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, a 1990 non-fiction book written by H.G. Bissinger) the Permian High School Panthers want to win the state football championship.

Although the concept of a story problem seems fairly simple, further breakdowns are observed when students are asked to generate a problem for an original story. Many balk at the idea of "creating a problem." Much of their lives may be spent staying out of trouble, not thinking up ways of getting into it.

I have had much more success talking to students about the idea of the Problem and the Prize. I tell my students that some stories start with a problem such as an evil Jedi kidnapping a princess or a wizard wanting to regain power. Soon thereafter (or sometimes not so soon), the Prize is identified. Rescuing the princess or finding the Sorcerer's Stone before Voldemort gets it becomes the central goal of the story. Other stories, however, start with a Prize, such as capturing the attention of the cute boy in the cafeteria. But as we all know, as soon as you set a goal, obstacles soon arise to block your path - Oops, the cute boy is a vampire. That certainly complicates matters.

One of the other reasons that students have difficulty identifying the central problem of a story is because the objective often changes. Luke Skywalker rescues Princess Leia only to discover that there is a bigger problem - the Death Star must be destroyed. The hero may kill an evil monster only to find out that the monster has a mother. Dorothy's central problem is that she's been blown to Oz and needs to get back home, but in the middle of the story, the wizard tells her to go confront a witch and steal her broomstick. The Problem (confronting the witch) and the Prize (getting the broomstick) have nothing to do with the central Problem (needing to get back home), except for the fact that this task has been assigned to Dorothy as a prerequisite to attaining the wizard's help.

In a nutshell, this is what I tell my students: Some stories start with a Problem, and the hero of the story soon identifies a Prize to be attained that will help to overcome the Problem. Other stories start with a Prize, and obstacles (or Problems) soon arise to prevent the hero from attaining the Prize. Also, sometimes the Prize that the hero is pursuing at the Midpoint of the story is not the same Prize he seeks at the end. It may simply be a preliminary reward needed to advance further down the Hero's Path, or what the hero wants may change. The important thing is that as we identify with the hero of the story attaining his goal against insurmountable odds, we start to believe that maybe we can face our own Problems and come away with a Prize worth fighting for.

For a Fun Activity Looking at Problems and Prizes visit the blog on my website at

November Events

YALSA Symposium in Albuquerque, NM

November 5-7

The Young Adult Library Services Association Symposium was held in Albuquerque from November 5th to the 7th. Lois Ruby and Carolee Dean were in attendence at YALSA and had a great time. YALSA and its national conference will be the subject of next month's Spellbinders.

ASHA International Convention, Philadelphia, PA

November 18-20

If you happen to be in Philadelphia later this month, please try to attend the 2010 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention.

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