Searching for Silverheels (and fellow Nerdy Chicks)

SilverheelsCoverSCBWIWe feel lucky to offer a guest post today by Jeannie Mobley, college professor, author, and nerdy chick! Check out what Jeannie has to say about her nerdy writing journey and her newest novel. 

When I first saw the Nerdy Chicks banner, defining  a Nerdy Chick as “Smart girl who flaunts brain power and flouts social norms,” I knew I had found my tribe. Because my new novel, Searching for Silverheels, is all about an old woman who does exactly those things, and a young girl who is just learning how. And it’s who I’ve always been–the girl who thought that not-very-girly sciencey stuff was totally cool. Who has been known to go all goosebumpy excited over complex analytical statistics.

But when I was a kid, it wasn’t always so easy to go public with my love of cool nerdiness. I went through all the awkward nerdy phases before I found my tribe:

–the grade school years when I thought wanting to be an archaeologist was the coolest thing ever, and couldn’t understand why other kids rolled their eyes.

–the middle school years, when I discovered already knowing you wanted to be an archaeologist got you branded as a freak of nature and therefore it was best to suppress, or at least hide, such crazy compulsions

–the high school years, when I discovered picking  a college based on the strength of its academic programs was not the norm among my classmates, who preferred to check their Party School ratings in such upstanding journals as Playboy.

So, when, with a PhD and a college professorship under my belt, I set out to write a novel about strong, smart women, I didn’t have to do much research about how to write a smart young girl with big dreams but not enough backbone to stand up for herself. Because, I’m sorry to say, I’ve been there.

Nor did it take much for me to write the cranky-pants older woman who wants to fight for all the nerdy chick girls who need to grow that spine. I’ve been there too–in fact, I’ve got a whole closet full of crankypants even as I write this.

What did take some research, was finding the perfect setting. Which turned out to be 1917, just a few months after the US entered World War I. It was the perfect time, because I knew I wanted to write about a time when women weren’t thought of as strong, but did amazingly strong things. Any war time is good for that, but World War I coincided–or perhaps more accurately–collided, with the women’s suffrage movement.

Harris and Ewing Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-H261-8200)

Harris and Ewing Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-H261-8200)

This led me to researching both the war and the fight for a constitutional amendment granting women the vote. I didn’t know much about World War I, it seems to be the forgotten war for US history, or at least in my understanding of it. Yet the more I read about the home front in the Great War –the discrimination, the accusations of sedition against those who found fault in American politics, the pressure to conform to patriotic ideals that compromised freedoms–I came to appreciate how true it is that history repeats itself. How much every war, every international conflict, brings out those same issues. How much we need strong women in EVERY generation. And finally, now many unsung strong women there have been in every generation.

So let’s hear it for the Nerdy Chicks! Three cheers for brain power! Three boos for social norms that stop women (or anyone else, for that matter) from being all they can be! And thank heavens for the bold women who stand up for girls, either on the national stage (like the National Women’s Party that suffered harassment and arrest for challenging the president in 1917) or on the local stage, like my character Josie, the women’s suffragist  who takes a powerless girl under her wing and teaches her that she has power within her that she shouldn’t be afraid to use.

Because you do have power inside you, Nerdy Chicks of the world. And it is beautiful, so let it shine!

Thank you Jeannie! And welcome to the Nerdy Chick tribe! ;)  Keep reading to find out more about Jeannie and her novel. 

 

small pond (1)Jeannie Mobley writes middle grade historical fiction. Her newest novel, SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS released September 2, 2014. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an engrossing, plausible story of several unlikely feminist heroines, with a touch of romance and intrigue.”

When not writing or reading fiction, Jeannie is a mother, wife, lover of critters, and an anthropology professor at Front Range Community College, where she teaches a variety of classes on cultures past and present.

 

Searching for Silverheels  by Jeannie Mobley

SilverheelsCoverSCBWIIn her small Colorado town Pearl spends the summers helping her mother run the family café and entertaining tourists with the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who nursed miners through a smallpox epidemic in 1861 and then mysteriously disappeared. According to lore, the miners loved her so much they named their mountain after her.

Pearl believes the tale is true, but she is mocked by her neighbor, Josie, a suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote. Josie says that Silverheels was a crook, not a savior, and she challenges Pearl to a bet: prove that Silverheels was the kindhearted angel of legend, or help Josie pass out the suffragist pamphlets that Pearl thinks drive away the tourists. Not to mention driving away handsome George Crawford.

As Pearl looks for the truth, darker forces are at work in her small town. The United States’s entry into World War I casts suspicion on German immigrants, and also on anyone who criticizes the president during wartime—including Josie. How do you choose what’s right when it could cost you everything you have?

Teaching and Writing

Hi Everyone! We know we have not been around as much as usual these days, and we miss posting about things going on in our lives and yours like The Minimalist Challenge (update coming soon!) and Vacations (more on this next sumer!). So, where have we been? You might remember that we started a sister blog with a writing theme called NerdyChicksWrite.com and over there we hosted the first ever Kidlit Summer School where twenty-four authors gave writing advice on one theme: character development. The good news is that it was more successful than we anticipated, and was even covered in Publisher’s Weekly. The bad news is that it took WAY more time than we thought to run it!

Read the Publisher's Weekly article about Kidlit Summer School HERE or visit the BLOG to see posts on character.

Read the Publisher’s Weekly article about Kidlit Summer School HERE or visit the BLOG to see posts on character.

Still, we loved the experience, especially since writing and teaching are two of our favorite things. Sudipta talks about this in a guest post over on Tara Lazar’s blog: How Teaching Makes You Better at DOING. (She’s doing a giveaway too until the 16th. Check it out!) And Kami teaches a little about writing this week on the Writer’s Digest blog. (Another giveaway too!) Now we’re embracing teaching writing on a new level with Kidlit Writing School. If you are interested in writing a novel or a picture book, check out these courses. There is a free webinar on Monday, open to anyone, whether or not you take the courses! And we have sign-up specials running until September 20. Classes start October 6. These include critiques from Sudipta and I as well as a chance to win a critique from agent Rachel Orr. You can read all of the details HERE on our home page.

Nerdy Chicks Logo with CIRCLE - TASSEL - WHITE CIRCLE (transparent)

Here is a little more about the classes:

Picture Book A to Z’s: Plotting in Picture Books: The ability to craft a strong picture book plot is one of the factors that separates unpublished writers from those who consistently sign publishing contracts to see their work in print. This course will teach you the essentials of creating compelling plots, starting with Arcs, Beginnings, and Climaxes — then literally taking you through the alphabet. Each topic will be explored in depth, both in the lessons and in the discussion forums and webinars. The writing exercises that are a part of of the course are designed to help you apply the lessons to your own writing seamlessly and immediately. By the end of the course, you will never look at plotting the same way again!

Crafting the Kidlit Novel ​One Bite at a Time: How Writing a Novel is Like Eating a T-Rex and Other Things That Bite Back With Children’s Authors Kami Kinard and Rebecca Petruck :In today’s competitive market, a manuscript must be compelling, demonstrate deep knowledge of the category, and be of highest quality in order to attract an editor. This course will teach you how to dig deep into what your novel is truly about with specific exercises designed to bypass the superficial ideas and get to the heart of story. Further lessons will help you create main and secondary characters readers will feel passionate about; structure your plot to build maximum tension; practice the craft of writing itself; and coach you on how to write to the end. It’s a lot of ground to cover in one month, but fun lessons, practical exercises that apply to your own writing, forum discussions with your peers, and weekly webinars will keep your energy high as you craft your kidlit novel. We’ll wrap up the course with a discussion of today’s kidlit market and where we think your projects might fit into it.

Now that Summer School is over, we’ll be back with our regular blogging too. Coming next week: Back to school advice from our blog guests! See you soon!

Meet Emily Soper of WHEELS OF CHANGE

blog tour photo (1)On September 22, 2014, the world will get to meet Emily Soper, the main character of Darlene Beck Jacobson’s debut book, WHEELS OF CHANGE. Today on Nerdy Chicks Rule, you will get to meet Darlene and learn more about this fabulous new book.

Darlene, thank you for joining us at Nerdy Chicks Rule! One of the things we do here at this blog is to celebrate smart women (and girls!). So, tell us: what are your favorite things to read?

Middle Grade Novels and Picture Books are my favorites. I read many genres, but am especially drawn to coming of age stories, historical fiction, mysteries and humorous tales.

How do you see the books as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?

PiratePrincess cThere are so many wonderful books with strong, spunky female characters. Some of my recent favorites include: MG’s such as COUNTING BY 7’S by Holly Goldberg Sloan, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY by Holly Schindler, FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo, THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly, JUNIPER BERRY by M P Kozlowsky, KAT, INCORRIGIBLE by Stephanie Burgis, and INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanha Lai. For PB’s there is: HOW TO BE HUMAN by Florida Frenz, HAVE FUN MIOLLY LOU MELLON by Patty Lovell, PIRATE PRINCESS by Sudipta Bardhan Quallen, and all the RAMONA QUIMBY books. Each of these books celebrate girls who are different and not afraid to stand alone for something they believe in. Emily – the heroine in WHEELS OF CHANGE (WOC) – is that kind of girl.

Tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

The first nerdy chick I met in a book and wanted to be was Nancy Drew. She and her girlfriends Beth and George were independent, brainy, and adventurous. Oh what fun it was to pretend to be Nancy and solve those mysteries. She was the first “feminist” character I read as a girl and I still get a feeling of “girl power” when I see one of her books.

What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

When I was in high school I made most of my own clothes, so everything I wore was unique. I still enjoy making things by hand and giving them away as gifts.

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

lang awardThat would have to be winning the eighth grade Language Arts Award at graduation.

Three things that make the main character EMILY in WOC a nerdy chick:

1. She enjoys hanging out in the forge and in the carriage barn, hoping to one day become a blacksmith.

2. She’s always asking questions, and when she thinks something is unfair or unjust, will speak up – even if it means getting in trouble.

3. She thinks girls shouldn’t have to worry about being proper ladies, but instead should worry about doing what’s right. Even if it means standing alone.

Three things that make ME a nerdy chick:

1. If I were only allowed to bring three things on a trip, they would be a book, notebook and pencils.

2. I think the world would be a more just and peaceful place if girls were in charge.

3. I think authors and teachers are the real rock stars who deserve their own “Walk of Fame”.

??????????Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl. She wrote letters to everyone she knew and made up stories in her head. Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs. She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel. Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties. She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day.

Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters. Check out her website at: www.darlenebeckjacobson.com Twitter @dustbunnymaven

Darlene and WHEELS OF CHANGE are on a blog tour, so please sure to visit her Q & A on Literacy with Gail Terp on September 2.

See the trailer for Wheels of Change: 

Laurisa White Reyes: Thrilling Readers and Writers

IMG_1496bLaurisa White Reyes is a mother of five, an author MG and YA novels, and editor of Middle Shelf Magazine. Her career path is not surprising, considering she always enjoyed reading and writing. She wrote her first poem when she was five, and didn’t stop! She has written freelance articles, was a magazine staff writer and newspaper editorialist, and has worked as a book editor. Laurisa joins us today to discuss her novels, editing magazines, and belting out Broadway hits!

1. Your YA thriller, CONTACT, came out in July! What is your main character, Mira, like?

Contact bookMira is the 16-year-old daughter of a politician and former CEO of the company that cured mental illness and depression. So she is always in the spotlight, and that’s a tough place to be for a girl whose greatest desire is to be as far away from everyone as possible. For reasons unknown to her, she uploads other people’s psyches with a single touch, an overwhelming and painful experience that drives her to attempt suicide. But deep down she longs for personal connections.

 2. I can’t imagine writing something meant to make the reader’s heart race. How do you build suspense when writing thrillers?

When I was writing my first novel, The Rock of Ivanore, several years ago, I happened to be reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Brown is the master of suspense. I could not put that book down! I spent a good amount of time studying his writing techniques and trying to apply them to my own work. A few things really jumped out at me. First, begin and end chapters at climactic moments. The opening lines need to grab the reader, and the end should compel the reader to turn the page to see what happens next. Second, take risks. In other words, killing off key characters or letting the story take an unexpected direction enhance the thrill of a good story. I love reading books that demand to be read, so I want to write them, too. One thing I do to achieve that is to go through my first draft and chop chapters at the most pivotal moments.

rock3. Prior to writing CONTACT, you wrote two MG fantasies THE ROCK OF IVANORE and THE LAST ENCHANTER. Can you tell us about making the shift from MG to YA?

I wrote the fantasy series when my oldest son was about eight years old. (I’m working on Book 3 now.) I wanted to write a story he would enjoy. He’s seventeen now. Actually, four of my five children are teenagers or young adults. Since I’ve always read what my kids read, I started reading a lot of YA books a few years back—and I loved them! So I decided to try my hand at it. CONTACT actually began as an experiment to see if I could write a novel without an outline. I’d say the experiment was a success.

 4. We’d love to hear about some of the advantages and disadvantages of publishing with small presses! Would you share some of what you’ve learned?

The biggest disadvantage of publishing with small presses is simply lack of money. After working countless hours on a book for two or three years, I’d really like to earn a little back for my effort. But small presses just don’t have the kind of budgets that the big publishers do. Fortunately, there are a lot advantages to publishing with a small press, including being part of a team or a family. Both my publishers included me in just about every step of the publishing process, including the cover designs. Also, they are my books’ biggest cheerleaders, and my friends.

Middle Shelf Magazine

Guess who is in this issue? Click HERE to check it out.

5. Despite releasing a YA novel, middle grade is still something you love. As the Editor of Middle Shelf Magazine, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world of MG fiction. What kind of things do you look for in putting together Middle Shelf Magazine?

I have several objectives for every issue of Middle Shelf. The most important is to shine the spotlight on books that might not otherwise get the attention they deserve. There are many wonderful stories out there that are self-published or produced by small presses. Kids are often exposed only to books with huge marketing campaigns or that are written by famous authors. While MS certainly includes some of those as well, we pay particular attention to the books you won’t find on the best-seller lists, but that ought to be there.

Yes! This is what I mean by thrilling authors! ;)  Now Laurisa, can you finish these sentences for us?

My favorite writing tool is my padded wooden lap desk, the best Xmas present my husband ever gave me.

My favorite female character is Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. She is feisty and self-centered, but is also ferociously loyal and will fight to defend the people and places she loves.

Something I do that seems nerdy, but is actually really fun is to sing Broadway songs out in public. I’ll sing in the store, at restaurants, or just walking down the sidewalk. I do it because it embarrasses my children. Sometimes they’ll even clamp their hands over my mouth to get me to stop.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us today Laurisa! I have my Broadway musical song request ready for when our paths cross. :)  To find out more about Laurisa, visit her website  www.laurisawhitereyes.com and her blog http://laurisareyes.blogspot.com or find her on FACEBOOK.  You can find her on Twitter HERE.

For great middle grade reads, check out Middle Shelf Magazine too!   http://www.shelfmediagroup.com/pages/introducing-middle-shelf.html

 

 

 

 

Vacation Traditions, Part 3—On the Road

Recently those Nerdy Chicks, Kami [link] and Sudipta [link], shared their family vacation traditions that took us from Folly Beach, S.C. to India. My family’s vacation tradition was that our vacations were not traditional—we’d go somewhere different every year.

Living during the golden age of American road trips, we’d drive off from our New Jersey home to experience the great northeast—the Jersey shore, a Rhode Island beach, Mystic Seaport, Cape Cod, Vermont, Maine, Niagara Falls (twice), Washington, D.C. (also twice), a Canadian odyssey from Montreal to Quebec City. I have a photo of myself as a toddler with my Italian-speaking nonna and my Polish-speaking babka at Daytona Beach, Florida—I can’t imagine what that road trip was like.

family_beach

One year, my father sat at our dining room table with AAA maps and railroad timetables planning a trip to the Grand Canyon by train with connections in Chicago to all points west (my mother had a confirmed fear of flying). I was so disappointed when that trip never happened. Eventually, my mother overcame her issues with flight, and we made our trip to the Grand Canyon, continuing to Las Vegas, ending in LA and my first visit to Disneyland—but by then I was already 24.

Lincoln_annaWTC2001_anna_momAs an adult, I continued in the family tradition of wanderlust and saw the world. My last big trip was to Moscow to adopt my daughter. Then Anna and I began our own trips—the Jersey Shore, Washington, D.C., Hershey Park, a New York State dude ranch, a North Carolina beach, DisneyWorld.

3dogsLoRezBut then our family dynamic changed—we began to adopt dogs. First one, then two, then three. We loved them so much we didn’t trust anyone else to care for them (plus they tended not to like people other than us). This caused a vacation challenge for our family.

cabin_duskSo I bought a summer cabin in a lake community in northwest Jersey bear country and that solved the problem for a few years. It was the perfect place for us and our three dogs. But when Anna got her drivers license, she preferred being with friends, and the cabin lost its appeal for her. I struggled through the pangs of empty nest syndrome until I recommitted to writing and drawing for children. The cabin became Studio del Lago—my creative refuge.

Anna is now a certified professional pet sitter [link]. Her weekends and weekdays are spent lovingly caring for pets in their homes while their owners are on vacation. My weekends are spent at the cabin writing (like today) and napping (also like today).

But last weekend, we were both home and decided to have a Staycation together—having fun in our own hometown. We went garage sale-ing, shopped for beads at a craft store, had dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and saw Jersey Boys in our village theater. Sunday morning, we had pancakes at our local diner, and shopped at our favorite antique/junk store (she scored a cement replica of our dog Princess and I added an Italian vase to my collection).

staycation

Anna and I dream of going to Italy someday. I hear there’s an airline that lets your pets stay in coach with you. If it flies to Venice, you can bet we’ll get a photo of our dogs in a gondola.

Arrivederci!

Mary

 

www.maryzisk.com

 

 

Vacation Traditions, Part 2

Two weeks ago, Kami blogged about her family’s vacation traditions. Well, I just returned from my own family vacation, and thought it would be nice to share my reflections.

For some families, like Kami’s, the vacation traditions survive generations. For me, on the other hand, it’s a little bit different. Being the child of immigrants, my childhood summers were spent doing basically one thing — and my parents wouldn’t have called it vacation. No, for them, it was going home.

Aunts, uncles, parents, cousins...even a sister!

Aunts, uncles, parents, cousins…even a sister!

When I was younger, almost every significant school break was spent traveling back to India where my parents grew up. It was so common that I think I may have been in elementary school before I realized just what a journey the flight from JFK to Calcutta truly was! But the long flight and the inconveniences of travel faded as soon as we touched down on Indian soil. Because just as my parents were going home, for me, India became a home of sorts as well. Whenever I was there, I was surrounded — in fact, flooded! — with family. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents — you name it, I had a dozen. in Indian culture, we don’t hugely differentiate between first cousins and second cousins, or even between cousins and siblings. The word for older brother and older male cousin is the same — “dada” — just as the word for older sister and older female cousin (“didi“) is the same. Therefore, in India, I had family everywhere I looked.

My childhood memories of vacation are all strongly associated with layers and layers of extended family. And I always thought that that was a lovely way to grow up.

P1060527Except when it comes to my own children…well, I don’t have the same kinds of family layers to share with them. Sure, my kids spend oodles of time with my parents, and last year’s vacation was to go out to California to see their aunt and uncle (my sister and brother-in-law). But this year? It was just us at the beach.

As I was leaving, I remember thinking about how to make our solo trip about FAMILY in the same way my childhood trips had been.

I’m a silly person.

A few months ago, I took a trip to Paris with my daughters. There, I learned that getting MY way wasn’t how WE were going to have fun together. On this most recent trip, I learned something, too.

Even though it was “just us,” the trip felt as full as any of my childhood vacations (and I swear the drive was as long as the New York to Calcutta flight!). I learned that FAMILY with a capital F is not about the number of bodies you squeeze into a tiny space, but how much love you cram into it.

Here’s to great family vacations for all our readers!

The Minimalist Challenge

The first item to go. I got these down to decorate for a party and never put them back in the attic, so do I really need them?

The first item to go. I got these down to decorate for a party and never put them back in the attic, so do I really need them?

The Minimalist Challenge. I’m doing it. I’m totally doing it. Who wants to meet my challenge? Wait. Did you hear that sound? That primal cry? Don’t be alarmed. It’s just  the sound of unadulterated joy escaping my husband’s surprised lips. He’s wanted to clear out the house for years. See, he knows I have a problem getting rid of the following:

1. Anything sentimental, which means anything that belonged to my grandparents, AND
2. Anything my children have ever made, worn, read or played with.
3. Anything that can be made into any other thing by way of crafting.
4. Anything  that used to work, and could possibly work again.
5. Clothes that I might fit back into some day.
6. Books.

Hey, that’s not such a long list. I mean, how much stuff can you really accumulate when your “to keep” list is only six items long?

Turns out a ton. Maybe a few tons. With stuff spilling out of every closet and across the floors, my home has reached its saturation point. Which is why when I heard about the Minimalist Challenge, I knew I needed to embrace it.

What is the Minimalist Challenge? Basically, you get rid of one thing on the first day of the challenge, two things on the second, three things on the third, etc.  So before I become a candidate for the next episode of Hoarders, I’ve decided to pick up the gauntlet.

The bloggers who originally issued the challenge (aptly named The Minimalists) designed it to begin on the first day of the month, but I say you can start it any time you get desperate enough to get rid of potentially useful or desirable stuff.  For me, that day is today.

The Minimalists explain on their blog that they were both making six figure salaries but found they were unhappy with their cluttered lives, so both gave up their butt loads of crap (sorry, I really did have to go there) to  become minimalists and seek happiness from living more, writing more, and accumulating less. You can read more about them HERE.

Unlike the self-proclaimed Minimalists, I am not leaving a six figure job to claim minimalism and thus happiness. Anyone who has ever met me knows I’m a pretty happy person already. (Hey, maybe that’s because I don’t have a six figure income! Maybe living on a dime is a GOOD thing. What a relief.) So while I don’t fear that my possessions are getting in the way of my happiness, they are getting in the way of my sanity.

Rather than go happily insane, I’m accepting the challenge. If you want to meet the challenge with me, (or offer encouragement) comment below or send me an email.

Ready. Set. Let’s minimize!

Day 5: Still on target and plowing through the stuff. I decided to count both big and small items... otherwise the clutter doesn't really get cleared.

Update -Day 5: Still on target and plowing through the stuff. I decided to count both big and small items… otherwise the clutter doesn’t really get cleared.