Multicultural Books

Okay, I lied. I'm posting once more about TLA and Dallas. Here's the handout that was put together by our panel leader, Stacy Nyikos (Dragon Wishes). A variety of books about the cultures we discussed, including Asian American, Latino, Afro-American, and German-Russian, are included.

My own, The Kulak's Daughter, is included. And because my story happens in present-day Ukraine, I've also included Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's picture book Enough and her young adult anthology, Kobzar's Children, as supplementary material.

On another note ... l
ast weekend at my mom's, we were going through a box of old stuff. In between favorite birthday cards and old insurance papers, I found the documents of both my parents' releases from the Soviet gulag. Their silence, over the years, speaks volumes about their suffering. They thought moving to a new country and starting a family could erase the past. It worked ... for awhile.

But memory is a powerful force.

Last Post of Dallas

Before tucking my Dallas images into my photo folder and moving on, I'll share a couple more photos. Here's one of my new editor, Madeline Smoot, from Blooming Tree. Seeing an editor wearing a plunger on her head can mean one of two things, a) she's a tad strange, or b) she goes all out for the books she works on. Having had a chance to share dinner with her, I can say with confidence that it's b) and not a). The plunger has all to do with BTP's latest release about a penquin, called Patrick the Somnabulist by Sarah Ackerly. Cute book. And I love that big word. Kids will, too.

Here's a stock tourist photo of me and Linda proving we really are in Texas - where flowers bloom in April - like they should! Have I mentioned all of Linda's books? She's very prolific. I really enjoyed the feisty and psychic Sabine, her main character of the Seers series, published by Llewellyn.

Last but not least, here's my brush with fame. A photo of the one and only, Gordon Korman. My oldest daughter grew up devouring
all his books - especially the Bruno and Boots ones. Here he is signing his recent release, Schooled. When did he begin his prolific career? Was it fourteen? No, in fact he was twelve!
In this photo he looks totally human - I mean he doesn't look like the legend he's become. (How do living legends look, you ask? Don't know - maybe I expect this aura around them - that radiates energy.)

Back to my own writing. The grind of creating - of revising and
of polishing. Must focus.

The Pigeons of Dallas

Dallas wasn't just about books. I did a lot of walking and saw a fair bit of these humble creatures - the pigeons. Here's a photo of some of them pitter, pattering down the sidewalks of Dallas. Not as photogenic as the storks of Ukraine, but I like them, anyway.

At one point I heard birds singing and I thought - isn't that nice - what a nature-loving downtown of a big American city, this is.

Then, I found out that the bird singing was fake. It was canned bird music to scare away those nasty, dirty pigeons.

More TLA

Of course, speaking on the Cultural Diversity Panel was only part of the fun. It was nice to get it over with early, so I could relax and learn the ropes of conference-attending, with my more experienced roommate, Linda Joy Singleton.

She told me to get some mailing boxes. I'd need them. Books are heavy (even if they're light mysteries or whimsical picture books.) And since we were flying home (after my 36 hour scenic bus ride down there, an airplane sounded quite inviting), we had to watch our weight.

Free books? I like free books. It was a wonderful experience - collecting arcs from the various publishers' booths. Pens, erasers and various sweets were also available. I had no idea. I was especially excited to get arcs of my ex-classmates, the 2k8ers. MP Barker, Marissa Doyle, Barrie Sumy, Kristin O'Donnell, PJ Hoover and more. Obviously, I've arrived home before my parcel and can't remember all the books.

Free books means I have a LOT of reading to do. Plus a garden that's finally snow-free. Is there a connection, you ask? Well, I think the best way to enjoy life is to sit in a garden with a book. Life is good.

Oh, right. I have a day job to go back to and a family that loves me better when I'm looking for lost things, driving them somewhere or cooking them dinner. Ah, well. Life is still good because a good book makes the good life even better.

(And if I write the word good one more time, I'm going have trouble spelling it. Does that ever happen to you - seeing a word and suddenly really seeing it and thinking, what is this word?)

Word of the Day
good - (ME) something conforming to the moral order of the universe.
(from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary)


I got back from The Texas Library Association (TLA) meeting in Dallas last night. It was a WOW experience for me. I got to talk about my book to strangers in a strange city. While the turnout out to the Cultural Diversity Panel was low - don't ask - we were invited back for next year's conference in Houston. So, whether it was guilt that motivated the organizers (we were scheduled at the same time as a couple of big name authors) or whether we actually were interesting - the thrill is that we get to do it all over again in 2009.

The best part of the trip was meeting my wonderful co-writers in person. In this photo, from left to right we have, the amazing Stacy Nyikos (who took the initiative and got us to Dallas), the spunky Bev Patt (now fearlessly co-leading the emerging 2k9 class), our superwoman publisher, Miriam Hees (whom we love dearly because she believes in us), the experienced Lila Guzman (with several books out about Latino history), the accomplished, bubbly seer, Linda Joy Singleton (with how many books out?) and me - still looking nervous - even though I should be relieved because ... not only did we survive, we can mark Houston, TLA, 2009 on our calendar.

More pictures to come.

p.s. In the photo, please note the green ribbons attached to our conference badges. Those ribbons identified us as 'speakers' and we wore them with pride.

The Kulak's Daughter

I've been holding this close to me, just indulging in its existence for two weeks. But now, I'm ready to share. I have my cover! Yes. It's like discovering what your baby looks like. I've looked at it again and again. It's a face I know well - on that cover - my mother's face when she was an eleven year old girl. I'd not seen this photo until 2000 when a distant relative found the photo and mailed it as a gift calendar.

At first I was afraid to look at that image of my mom as a child because it was obviously too painful for her to look it. She hid it - and I respected her pain. Gradually, however, I would peak at it whenever I visited her apartment. I got to know that little girl by asking questions. After all, I had two young daughters of my own. I was very aware of just how vulnerable little girls are.

Later, I made a copy of that photo (and of another one) and hung the two over my bed. I stared at that family until those eyes were etched into my mind. And now I know the story. And it's going to be a book. And my mom's photo - that young kulak girl - is on the cover!

German weather poem

April, April kann machen was er will.
Bald Regen und bald Sonnenschein.
Bald ist die Luft voll Schnee.

April, April can do what he wants.
First rain, then sunshine
Then the air is filled with snow.

Just had to share that German wisdom. I'd welcome the "April showers brings May flowers" weather since it implies WARMTH.

Enough about weather - I'm leaving for Texas next Saturday where I'm sure it'll be warm, sunny and best of all, raining books! (I mean, it's a library convention, right?)

I'm traveling down there by bus and look forward to viewing the great US of A through bus windows. It's all about the journey - not the destination.

Conducting snowflakes.

It's April. Spring break. Blah weather. But it could always be worse. As I was doing my daily walk I saw a school-aged kid - maybe nine or ten - conducting the snowflakes, as they filled the air, willy-nilly around us. I just love the image of this kid totally engrossed in his make-believe world where snowflakes dance while he commanded them. The kid was totally oblivious to me, but that was okay, because I still heard the music.

It's a great time of year to be a kid -even an adult kid. The puddles are everywhere. In the mornings there's still that thin plate of crackable ice over streets and sidewalks. The breaking of ice sounds like spring. A robin was in the backyard the other day. And the crows have returned - black, strong and noisy. Even the pussy willows in my yard have finally burst from their buds.

ee cummings described this season best ... when the world is puddle-wonderful - it smells, sounds, and feels like winter is finally loosing. Hurrah for spring! Time to conduct the snowflakes out of lives - at least for awhile. Please now, bow low and exit - stage left.

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