rgz

readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Watch for it: DASH


 
Although Mitsi Kashino and her family are swept up in the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsi never expects to lose her home – or her beloved dog, Dash when she’s forced to move to an incarceration camp.

Kirby Larson  swings by readergirlz to chat with Janet Lee Carey  about her new middle-grade novel, DASH.

 

 
JLC - Welcome Kirby. Congratulations on your new historical fiction book and on the 2014 National Parenting Publications Gold Award (NAPPA) for DASH!

KL –  Thanks, Janet! It’s an honor to visit with you. And I am so delighted about the NAPPA award, as well as the two starred reviews, for my new book.

JLC - Tell us what inspired you to write Dash.

KL – I grew up on the West Coast and did not learn about the “evacuation” of 120,000 people of Japanese descent – most of them American citizens – during WWII until I was in college. I was shocked that something of that magnitude could have been omitted from my education. So I began to try to learn as much as I could about it; when I became a writer, I wanted to tell stories from that time period in hopes that no other child would grow up in ignorance about that shameful slice of history. One of the texts I read, Strawberry Days by Dave Niewert, had a short snippet of an interview with a woman named Mitsue Shiraishi, who told about being so heartbroken at the thought of having to leave her dog behind during the “evacuation” that she wrote to the man in charge, General John DeWitt, asking for permission to take her beloved Chubby to camp. He said “no,” so now Mitsi had a few days to find a home for Chubby; fortunately, a kind neighbor, Mrs. Charles Bovee, agreed to take him in.
 
Mrs. Charles knew how much Mitsi loved her dog so she kept a diary, in Chubby’s voice, of his first weeks in the Bovee household, and then mailed it to Mitsi at camp. Mitsi died as a very old woman and when her family was cleaning out her apartment, they found that diary in her nightstand. I was struck by the fact that of all the horrible things that had happened to Mitsi, the thing she held onto was a symbol of kindness and compassion. That heart hook into the story, plus the fact that I am madly in love with my own dog and couldn’t imagine having to leave him behind, lead me to write Dash.

JLC – Would you tell us a bit about your research, and give us a peek into your writing process?

KL – Do you have all day? ;-) As a researcher, I leave no stone unturned. For example, when I read that snippet about Mitsi in Mr. Niewert’s book, I began to reach out to everyone I knew in the Japanese American community to see if I could find Mitsi’s family. I did and they generously provided me with stories, photographs, and other ephemera to help me understand what Mitsi went through. I listen to music of the time period I’m researching, dig up recipes, put together outfits my characters might have worn (Pinterest is great for this!), and even scour second hand stores and eBay for old journals, letters and diaries to give me insights into the past. What I work hardest to find are primary resources – they are essential for helping me conjure up those delicious details that bring the past to life.

As for my writing process, it is a huge mess! I just jump in and start writing – no outline. No plan. What I do first, however, is get to know my character as thoroughly as possible. My work is very character driven.

JLC – The Kirkus starred review says: “Mitsi holds tight to her dream of the end of the war and her reunion with Dash. Larson makes this terrible event in American history personal with the story of one girl and her beloved pet.”
Would you share the secret of writing historical fiction in a way that makes it personal and real for young readers?

KL – I’m so flattered by this lovely review. I wish I knew the secret! What I do know is that if I don’t do my homework – really get myself grounded in a past time and place—I would never stand a chance of making history personal.

JLC – #WeNeedDiverseBooks is an important and long-awaited topic in the book world right now. Thoughts?

KL-   I am thrilled this conversation is taking place. Children need to see themselves – deserve to see themselves! -- in literature of all kinds. I do have a worry, however, that “diversity” could come to mean only ethnicity. It would be a shame to set such limits.

I’ve said this elsewhere: as a kid who grew up wearing hand me downs and sometimes finding the kitchen cupboards completely bare, I would have died and gone to heaven had I found books like Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog or Janet Lee Carey’s The Double Life of Zoe Flynn, in which the main character is homeless. I hope and pray this #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign leads to an even richer and broader range of the kinds of kid characters and stories we’ll see in children’s and young adult literature.

JLC— What would you like readers to take away from this book?

KL – I want readers to take away their own meaning from all of my books. But if Dash made readers stop and think about what it means to be a decent human being, I wouldn’t mind that one bit.

By Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 10/2014


 

Friday, October 10, 2014

rgz Newsflash: International Day of the Girl, October 11

Just caught this early shout out from iheartdaily:

Just two years ago, the United Nations declared October 11th to be International Day of the Girl. The UN has said, “Girls face discrimination and violence every day across the world. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”   

This year's theme is "Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence."

Amen to that! Bravo, to the United Nations for this intentional focus. With their estimate of 200 million girls missing around the world due to gendercide, dowry infractions, and forced abortions of girls we need to stop and think and act.


Since the publication of FIRSTBORN, inspired by my outrage over gendercide, I've been trumpeting the work of All Girls Allowed. The nonprofit funds young women, pregnant with females, so they can carry their babies full term and keep them. They work to stop the intentional annihilation of girls. And then there's the Global Gendercide Advocacy and Awareness Project who takes internships, rgz! Or there's the movie which is absolutely chilling. Take a look at the trailer for IT'S A GIRL and then watch the full movie on NETFLIX.



I created a collection of posters on Polyvore to draw attention to gendercide. You can see the full group of 30 by clicking here. Share them and raise awareness.

Gendercide Poster #25Gendercide Poster #27

Celebrate INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL! Read, reflect, and reach out, rgz!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Watch for it: HIT


 
Lorie Ann Grover swings by readergirlz to chat with Janet Lee Carey  about her new book HIT on its launch day! Welcome Lorie Ann.


JLC -- HIT is a riveting read! Tell us what inspired you to write it.

LG -- Thank you, Janet! HIT was inspired by a true story. Ten years ago, my daughter's best friend was hit in a crosswalk on the way to school. With her life threatened, her urgent brain surgery sent her family and friends spinning through a dark wait. Inspired by her experience, my novel tells the story of one girl struck down by the very grad student she is crushing on. Plans, goals, and dreams are shattered, as everything comes screeching to a halt. 

JLC – You chose to write the book in two viewpoints: Sarah, the girl who’s struck by a car, and Mr. Haddings, the young man who was behind the wheel. I was amazed by your choice which worked beautifully! Can you tell us when you decided to write the book this way and share some of the challenges faced?  

LG -- Well, it was originally six voices!

JLC -- Wow, six?

LG -- :~)

JLC -- Who were they?

LG -- Sarah, Haddings, Cydni, Luke, Janet, and Mark. Different editors along the publishing journey suggested reducing it to four, then finally two. Without introducing some sort of fantastic element, like Sarah wandering the hospital in spirit form, I needed at least two voices to tell the story as she is so long in surgery.

JLC – You write so deeply and truly about family and family relationships in HIT. Can you give us a peek into your process for this?

LG -- I think the real event was so charged and poignant, gestures, words, and phrases became haunting notes in my mind. It was simple to stream those straight into the novel. I also include the struggles I’m having or have had in the past: how to mother and let go, how to love the right person, how to separate your identity from another, etc. By digging deeply and bringing battles to light, there’s a chance the work will ring with a reader.

JLC—They say every story is about character change. Sarah’s accident forces not only the central characters but every character in the book to change. How did you determine the way each of these unique personalities would change through the events of the story?

LG -- Thank you for noticing, Janet! I started from a place where everyone was caught up in the everyday. They were selfishly focused. The accident arrests each of them, giving them a chance to stop and assess where they are and what is important. So often, this is one of the gifts within a hardship. I naturally landed on their starting points, riffing off my friends and my own traits. I amplified every facet to better the tale. Seriously, my friends are blessed with so much grace, I had to work hard to weaken them. :~)

JLC— What would you like readers to take away from this book?

LG --’d really like readers to consider the concept that within every hardship there are sweet red seeds. Like Dottie tells Sarah, under the leathery pomegranate skin, there is beauty. We just have to look for it. The truth lines up beautifully with Hit-and-Run: the Gratitude Tour. We're doing. Both Justina Chen and I tend to write about this.

JLC-- The tour will bring out HIT and Justina Chen's A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS.
 
 
JLC -- Tell us more bout the tour!
 
Hit-and-Run: The Gratitude Tour:
When trials hit, how do we run in triumph? When we have a blind spot for blessings, how do we embrace gratitude? Award-winning authors and readergirlz co-founders, Lorie Ann Grover and Justina Chen, share the trials and triumphs within their own lives and their books’ characters, inspiring teens and adults to #hitwithgratitude.

 
What we now realize is that our message is going to stretch beyond this tour across four states. We will continue to hit the road, encouraging readers to #hitwithgratitude now and in the years to come. For example, how about a 30 Day Challenge to #hitwithgratitude daily through the month of November? Why not tweet, fb, and Instagram shout-outs for those you are grateful for? Who are the people who have crossed your life that you’d like to #hitwithgratitude?

JLC -- I love this idea!

LG -- There are so many ways we can encourage each forward, right? Let’s do it.
I officially #hitwithgratitude: readergirlz and Janet Lee Carey!

 

JLC -- :~) 
Hit 
By Lorie Ann Grover
Blink, 10/07/2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

rgz tour: #hitwithgratitude


 
The concept of #hitwithgratitude began with the release of my young adult novel HIT coinciding with the release of Justina Chen's YA novel release, A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS. As close friends, critique partners, and co-founders of readergirlz, it was a short leap to the thought of going on tour together. Rather than rgz coming to us, we'd go to you all!

To join two houses, 
Blink Young Adult Books and Little Brown Books for Young Readers, would be novel. Yet, with a love of literacy, two books releasing so close together, the support of two houses, and being besties ourselves, it was an easy decision to hit the road side-by-side. 

How about the hashtag #hitwithgratitude? Where did that come from? Justina and I a few years before had taken a 
test, springing from Shawn Achor's book THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE. We discovered out of more than 20 personal strengths, we both ranked Gratitude in our top five abilities. It was interesting, and we filed it away. We also ran across Ann Voskamp's book, ONE THOUSAND GIFTS: A DARE TO LIVE FULLY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, and we discussed the beauty of numbering our blessings. Personally, I was being hit with wave after wave of chronic illness diagnoses from lupus to rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, while Justina was being hit by an unexpected divorce, being abandoned in China, and finding her long way home. 

In 2014, as Justina read HIT and I read A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS, we were struck by how both novels carried the theme of enduring trial with a thankful heart. A theme we've shared with readergirlz across the country since our beginning in 2007. We chatted about choosing to be BETTER NOT BITTER and choosing PRAISE NOT PITY. There was room to be thankful in the midst of trial: not because of it (that would be irrational), not in spite of it (that would be grim determination), but thanks in the midst of it, knowing there is a greater purpose and lessons to be learned.

With #hitwithgratitude, we set out initially on tour with our books to encourage readers of all ages to hit back with gratitude even when hit by heartache, loss, and physical testing. As time passes, we'll likely travel together around the globe more, carrying the same injunction. Along the way, we'll meet with readergirlz, media, librarians, teachers, students, and book clubs of all ages. We'll exchange stories, listening wholeheartedly, and encourage everyone to share a pic, a text, a video, or a post with the hashtag: #hitwithgratitude. Sharing, our personal gratitude we can hit, encourage one another, with our thanks...over and over...and over. 

Join us, rgz. Let's run and #hitwithgratitude!


Hit-and-Run: the Gratitude Tour
Portland: October 2
Yakima: October 3, 4
Launch Party, Sumner, WA: October 7
Tempe: October 16-18
South TX: November 12-16
YALSA Symposium: November 15

(If you'd like to contact us regarding a visit, virtual or personal, jot an email to lorieanngroveratclearwiredotnet. We'd love to see you, rgz, and share a bit of our gratitude for each one of you!)