Three Questions with Robyn Hood Black

RHB Head Shot 2012 CREDIT  photo by Sandy FryI first met Robyn Hood Black virtually, when she contacted me via email after looking up my information through SCBWI. A poet, author, and artist, Robyn and her husband were considering moving to Beaufort, and she wanted to ask a fellow kidlit author some questions about the area. Thank goodness Robyn decided to make the move!!! She is a wonderful person, a great writer and she runs a business all writerly types will love: artsyletters.  I’m so excited to have Robyn with us today to answer questions about the businesses of writing and art. Her answers, and a bio detailing her published works follow, so keep on reading! 

1. Robyn, you are an artist, a poet, an author, and an entrepreneur. I recently visited you at your studio (one full of great old books, typewriter keys, and all sorts of things that make authors drool )and wondered how you came up with the idea of combining your love of the written word with the love of art. Can you tell us about that?

???????????????????????????????I’ve done some version of art and writing my entire life, and have never quite been able to choose between the two!  I’m probably a writer first, and I did finally pick an English major over art in college at Furman. (But I took a bunch of art classes as well.) I’d still love to illustrate my own text one of these days – working on that, in fact.  Even as a child, I had an entrepreneurial streak.  My sweet mother carted me around to gift shops, where I sold little pine bark sculptures with rocks painted as birds, with a shiny coating over all.  (I still love gloss!)

???????????????????????????????In 2012, with an empty nest looming on the horizon, I decided to launch my art business, artsyletters.  I’d done art shows and commissioned work in my 20s, but for this adventure I wanted more of a focus, and a trademark, too.  Who were my people in the world?  Writers!  And poets, teachers, librarians, and book lovers.  It seemed a natural venture to create things with a literary bent, and I find I have far more ideas than time to execute them.

red door collage arch macl 2 kami c (1)I like using books and words and letters as subject matter for drawings and prints, and I also relish using actual vintage texts to create mixed media pieces.  Somewhere along the line I went to the dark side and started altering old books and excerpts.   I enjoy bringing these physical, historical elements to life in a new form.  I might be working with a text published in the 1800s or the turn of the last century, and I always swim in questions – what was going on in the world when this was written or published?  Were we at war? Who might have read these words in their parlor or library or school?  Who might have touched this very cover or page through the years?

2. It sounds like every project is a result of your love of words! What has been the best thing about starting a business that caters to literary types?

wren on books with color kami c (1)The best thing has been that I tossed these things out into the universe, first at art shows and through my Etsy shop, and my “target market” caught them!  My first customer at a show was a professor at a small local college; she bought several bookmarks to give to members of that school’s first class of English majors.  At that same show, a young boy picked up my “Twas brillig…” bookmark and recited “Jabberwocky” by heart!

Those were fun exchanges, and several of my Poetry Friday friends have bought items, sometimes as gifts for each other.  They have been so incredibly supportive. (I personally think the Kidlitosphere is home to the most wonderful folks on the planet.)

XO on manual net c kami c (1)I’ve sold just about every altered-text mixed media piece I’ve made, and I look forward to making and offering a lot more of these in the new year.  It’s been humbling when an unexpected connection is made with these; a Rilke quote presented in a way that encouraged someone facing a challenge, for instance.  I’ve come to understand that these pieces, which I make with care and awe for the words that inspire them, will sooner or later resonate with someone because of his or her own story, and I love that.

 3. I know you love poetry, and some of your art even features found poetry. What is it about poetry that inspires you?

The Poet collage RHB kami c (1)How much time do we have? ;0)

I was one of those nerdy kids who loved poetry from – forever!  The older I get, the more I appreciate poetry’s ability to so efficiently and eloquently make connections – that’s really what poems do, isn’t it? Offer an image or phrase that makes you see/feel/think about something in a new way?  I primarily write poems for children, but a few years ago I fell under the spell of haiku, and I regularly submit to contemporary haiku journals.

My first poems published in a book for children were in Georgia Heard’s THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK (Roaring Brook, 2012).  I will forever be grateful for that open door to the world of found poetry.  It’s completely addictive (and something students enjoy trying).

When I make my “books as doors” collages, I include some kind of short found poem inside along with bits of vintage bling.  Last year, a dear friend bought one of the fairy door (miniature book) sized ones, which had a vintage fairy illustration and these altered words:  “I think your/wings are/strong enough/to carry/you.”  She sent it to a friend out West battling cancer.  That touched me deeply, and I’d like to create more of these kinds of works.

If you can't make it to Robyn's Beaufort studio, you can always visit her Etsy store.

If you can’t make it to Robyn’s Beaufort studio, you can always visit her Etsy store by clicking HERE.

For fun this month, I put together a few tiny ornaments in vintage oval frames with a wee print of my “Writer Mouse” image on one side and some “micro found poetry” (?) – just a few words highlighted in text, on the other.  The texts were from the late 1800s – I think the shortest was, “reindeer travel/upwards”…  Each of these sold on Etsy this past week; I have a couple of those tiny frames left and might conjure up new ones this weekend.  I have time, right?

Robyn in her studio.

Robyn in her studio.

Robyn Hood Black is a children’s author and poet living in coastal South Carolina. Her books include Sir Mike (Scholastic Library, 2005) and Wolves (Intervisual Books, 2008). Her poetry appears in The Poetry Friday Anthology , The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, and The Poetry Anthology for Science (compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, Pomelo Books, 2012, 2013 & 2014), in Georgia Heard’s anthology of found poems, The Arrow Finds Its Mark (Roaring Brook, 2012), and in leading haiku journals. One of her poems will appear in a board book compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins to be released from Abrams in 2015. Her fiction has appeared in Highlights and her poetry has been featured in Ladybug and Hopscotch. She enjoys encouraging young readers, writers, and artists through school visits and speaks to audiences of all ages. She’s been active in SCBWI forever. She also creates “art for your literary side” through her business, artsyletters.

You can find Robyn on her website: http://www.robynhoodblack.com

Her blog:- http://www.robynhoodblack.com/blog.htm

Her Etsy store: http://artsyletters.com

Thank you for joining us today Robyn!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Holiday Quotes

Sometimes you just have to buy a book for the cover.)

(Sometimes you just have to buy a book for the cover.)

Life has been so busy this year that I haven’t even started preparing for the holidays. But I have started thinking about preparing for them. So I’ve at least coordinated our family calendar, etching out time to spend with parents, grandparents, cousins, and siblings! Because other than celebrating what your family believes, it is the family itself that brings the most joy (and sometimes the most chaos) to the holidays.

When it comes to the holidays, here are some quotes that spoke to me. 

Holiday Quotes

I don’t need a holiday or a feast to feel  grateful for my children, the sun, the moon, the roof over my head, music, and laughter, but I like to take this time to take the path of thanks less traveled.  – Paula Poundstone.

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. – Hamilton Wright Mabie

Sharing the holiday with other people and feeling that you’re giving of yourself, gets you past all the commercialism.  – Caroline Kennedy

May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility. – Mary Anne Radmacher

It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. it is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace. – Agnes M. Pharo

 Happy Holidays Everyone!

Marcie Colleen: Four Ways to Get Your Book into School Curriculum

20140628_152522A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of hosting Marcie Colleen here on the blog. (If you missed that post, go read it now!) We now have the double pleasure of welcoming her back to share more thoughts on how authors can get their books into schools (and share some information about a great Webinar Marcie will be doing on November 23!).

Without further ado, heeeeeeeeere’s Marcie!

Four Ways to Get Your Book into School Curriculum

In my last post for Nerdy Chicks Rule, we talked about book selection for the classroom and how teachers are no longer relegated to teach specific dusty texts.  These days, under the Common Core, teachers are free to make their own decisions on classroom literature.  This is good news for authors but, there is a lot of competition out there.  So more than anything, authors need some snazzy ways to make their book stand out.

There are many benefits for teachers in using books from the “book closet.”  These books are classics.  They have been used for decades in the classroom.  There is no need to re-invent the wheel.

superfudgeTake for example SUPERFUDGE by Judy Blume.  Pop “Superfudge by Judy Blume lessons” into Google and you get 1,790 hits.  Find one you like, hit print and BOOM! There’s your plan for the next few weeks.

So how does your book battle SUPERFUDGE and win?

It can happen.

Here’s how:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the language of the Common Core State Standards.  You might not like it or politically agree with it, but it’s the educational language of today.  You wouldn’t go to a foreign country without figuring out how to speak the basics like “where’s the bathroom?” or “is there a doctor in the house?” Right?  Well, it’s the same with getting into the schools.  No one expects you to study and memorize the Common Core State Standards, but you should be familiar with them.  Know what they ask.  Know what they expect out of students.  Read more than the angry headlines you see on Facebook and Twitter.  Only then can you address how your book can fit into the school curriculum.  The Common Core State Standards can be found at (corestandards.org).Common-Core
  2. Know your themes and universal truths. Sure, SUPERFUDGE might be about Peter’s annoying little brother Fudge and another baby on the way.  But look deeper and it’s about “change”.  Peter’s life is about to change in so many ways.  And although students might not be moving or gaining a sibling, everyone can relate to change.  So what is the universal truth or theme of your book?  What is at the heart?  How can your book speak to every child?  Once you put your finger on what your book is truly about, it will be easier to position it within a school curriculum.
  3. Create Discussion Questions and Teacher’s Guides. Remember those 1,790 lesson hits in Google for SUPERFUDGE?    It’s easy and quick for teachers to adapt the book into their own classroom. No one expects you to have 1,790 lessons and activities, but if you can provide something for teachers to utilize easily, you’re playing the game right.  This actually happened to one of my clients.  She had just launched her debut early middle grade novel and she hired me to create the Teacher’s Guide.  When she went on her very first school visit she presented a copy of the Teacher’s Guide.  The teachers were so impressed.  And before she left a teacher said, “you know.  Maybe we should teach your book instead of SUPERFUDGE next year.”  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
  4. Be available. The most successful authors when it comes to school visits are visible.  They participate in initiatives like World Read Aloud Day in March and Picture Book Month in November.  They offer Skype talks and assemblies and library visits.  They Tweet to teachers.  These authors succeed because they are approachable.  Chances are a school is not going to be able to afford a school visit from Judy Blume.  However, you can be available for less.  You can be accessible.  This automatically gives you a foot up.

So there you have it!  You can do it!  You can get your book noticed.  You can be the talk of the school.  You can be loved until your books’ covers are falling off.  You can battle Judy Blume…and win!

I do hope you join me on November 23rd as we discuss further in depth the in’s and out’s of school curriculum (including the dreaded Common Core) and provide more details on how to make your book irresistible to teachers and students.

Kidlit Writing SchoolYou will learn:

  • To read and understand the Common Core
  • The jargon of the educational world so you can talk more knowledgeably to teachers and librarians
  • The nuts and bolts necessary to create great Discussion Guides, Teacher’s Guides, and hands on activities

Remember, Early Bird Pricing ends November 10thSign up now by clicking this link!

 

headshotAuthor and Education Consultant Marcie Colleen is an expert on creating highly acclaimed Teacher’s Guides that align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards.  She is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and the the Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council. 

Happy Halloween! Book Trail — Off the Beaten Path — plus Giveaway!

The WINNER of the MUSTACHE prize pack offered on this post is KATRINA (@Bookishthings).

Congratulations Katrina!

300x300xHBT14-Off-the-beaten-path-300x300.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Jtg4gjig0xHappy Halloween! If you are here because you’re participating in the Halloween Book Trail, check out my answers to the following questions and continue your journey! Right now, you are Off the Beaten Path! (But note, there is also a giveaway right here on this blog and it is super cool too!) Directions for this giveaway follow. If you’re here because you follow this blog, check out these Halloween themed questions I answered to be part of trail. Answers involve me, or my characters from The Boy Problem! You can enter this blog’s giveaway.

Blog Followers: If you haven’t seen the guidelines for the Halloween Book Trail, click HERE and join the fun. About forty authors are participating and you can win lots of fantastic signed books and more. All participants in the Halloween Book Trail AND all blog followers are eligible for the giveaway on this blog so read the directions below and post your answer.

With Halloween, zombies, and the like in mind, I answered these interview questions:

  1. For any spirited, entrepreneurial teen that’s ever had a crush, this sweet read is sprinkled with lessons on life, love, and business. -- Kirkus Reviews

    For any spirited, entrepreneurial teen that’s ever had a crush, this sweet read is sprinkled with lessons on life, love, and business. — Kirkus Reviews

    If your MC went trick or treating, what would they dress up as and why?   I’m going to answer this for a secondary character from The Boy Problem because I know EXACTLY what she would wear. Pri loves cupcakes and helps Tabbi, the MC, launch a cupcake selling business to raise funds for a hurricane damaged school. There is a super cute cupcake costume online right now and my daughter just had to have it a few years ago when she was in middle school. I have no doubt that Pri would want that cupcake costume too! Tabbi, the main character, would probably be a fortune teller, because she is busy trying to predict the future.

  2. What scares the pants out of you? Things that go bump in the night. Now that I have a big dog with a loud bark, these things are less scary!
  3. What is your most embarrassing Halloween costume malfunction? Once, I was a Q-tip for Halloween. It was hard to keep that large pile of cotton on my head.
  4. What is your favorite Halloween memory? In middle school I went Trick or Treating with a group of friends and we were the characters from The Wizard of Oz. I was Dorothy, and my mom helped me make glittery red shoes. This was before you could just buy things like that so we had to find red shoe polish and dye an old pair. Then add glitter, of course!
  5. Would you rather be covered in slime or covered in blood? Slime! People who live down here near the marsh where I do aren’t too afraid of slime.
  6. If the zombie apocalypse happened (and it will), what would be your weapon of choice? I’m wondering if strobe lights and a disco ball would freak out zombies enough to give me time to escape. If so, I’m in for that!
  7. 20141023_135117Please share a photo of your favorite Halloween costume you’ve worn. This was definitely not my favorite costume, but hey, it is the only one I could find a picture of. Here, I was about eleven and dressed as Raggedy Andy, which probably means I was talked into wearing this because I know my mom made that hat for a party she and my dad went to as Raggedy Ann and Andy. Notice my sister is a princess in a costume also made by my mom. We won’t go into who might have been the favorite kid based on these costumes! Anyway, the year I was a Q-tip (mentioned above) my sister was Cleopatra. She took one look at my costume and said, “Why wouldn’t you pick a costume that makes you look better instead of worse.” Know what? I’d never thought about it that way. But looking back at the Raggedy Andy and princess costumes, I’m thinking she’d been benefiting from that theory for a long long time. (My brother, dressed as Caspar the Friendly Ghost was probably also wearing a hand-me-down costume, since my sister and I both dressed as Caspar for about three years running. This was before her make-me-beautiful Halloween Costume theory came into play.)

So those are my answers for the Halloween Book Trail! Click HERE to head over to J Duddy Gill’s site for the next stop on the trail. But keep reading before you go to enter the giveaway for this blog.

Regardless of where you finish in the Halloween Book Trail, you can enter to win the Mustache Prize Pack pictured here:

Signed copy of The Boy Problem, hairy mustaches, fingerstaches, mustache cell phone holders/magnets, mustache journal, and super-cute burlap mustache tote bag!

Signed copy of The Boy Problem, hairy mustaches, fingerstaches (mustache finger tattoos), mustache cell phone holders/magnets, mustache journal, and super-cute burlap mustache tote bag! (As seen in the background here.)

Why the Mustaches? Well… Tabbi, the main character in THE BOY PROBLEM, uses a fake mustache to get out of a problem. And then a fake mustache kind of gets her into a problem. But fake mustaches also get her out of a problem again later. And then back into one… you’ll have to read the book to see how!

To be entered to win, just…

1) (Required) Fill out the entry form below (Don’t forget to hit ‘Submit’!) so we can contact you if you win.

2) Copy this blurb and post it to Facebook or Twitter:

Mustache prize pack! Fingerstaches. tote bag, journal, and book signed by Check out this !  

For extra entries you can also: 

3) Leave a comment below telling us what your favorite Halloween costume was!

4) Like Kami Kinard’s author page by clicking in the sidebar.

Every post, tweet, or comment will count as one entry (make sure you make your Facebook posts public so we can give you credit! )  

Contest Ends OCTOBER 31 at midnight EST! The winner will be announced on November 2 at the top of this post!

(If you haven’t read the last post about why the common core is good for authors by Marcie Colleen, you can click HERE to check it out! )

Marcie Colleen: Why the Common Core is Good News for Authors

It’s our pleasure today to welcome Author and Education Consultant Marcie Colleen to Nerdy Chicks Rule! Marcie is an expert on creating highly acclaimed Teacher’s Guides that align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards.  She is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and the the Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council. Marcie has been an invaluable resource to both the Nerdy Chicks as the developer of many of the educator guides that go with our books! We’re so happy that Marcie is joining us!

Why the Common Core is Good News for Authors

headshotI remember clearly my first few days as a high school English Literature teacher.  I was young.  I was green.  I had no clue what to teach.  I had a zillion ideas and no ideas at the same time.  The possibilities seemed endless.

And then I was handed a textbook.

It was made clear to me that I was to start toward the beginning of the textbook and work my way through.  It was required.

The textbook was the literature class.

In addition to the textbook, the students in my classes were required to read a few longer works.

All “appropriate, pre-approved” choices could be found in the dank dusty book closet which stood locked at the end of the hallway.  Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Many of these books had lost their covers.  Those that did have covers included out-dated, artwork that often evoked laughter from my rough, urban students.  Oh, and good luck finding enough copies for my class.  If worse came to worse, I was instructed to photocopy the necessary chapters each week.

That was that.  My creativity, my love for books, my countless ideas for stories to bring to class was squashed by this textbook and required reading.

Although these books were classics, they did not always speak to my students, they did not instill a desire to become life-long readers.  I was told it didn’t matter.  We were fulfilling requirements.  If I had any grand ideas of other pieces of literature to introduce, it had to be cleared by the Department and then it was up to me to find a way to integrate it into the existing curriculum while also covering the required literature.  Needless to say, I didn’t bring in anything extra.

Now for the good news!

The Common Core does not contain a required reading list.  All books are Common Core compliant.  Yes, even YOUR book!

The focus has shifted from WHAT the students read to HOW they read.  Students are expected to read a range of classic and contemporary literature as well as challenging informational texts from an array of subjects so that students can acquire new knowledge, insights, and consider varying perspectives as they read.

What does that mean to you as an author?

It means that your book now has a place within the classroom.  In fact, teachers that are used to teaching from obsolete textbooks are now looking for good quality literature and informational texts (Common Core lingo for Nonfiction) to bring to their students.

This is a huge opportunity.  Of course, it also means that the competition is high.  Teachers are still incredibly busy and instruction time is limited. However, there are several ways to make your book (and you) stand out above the rest.

No need to sift through the dank dusty book closet anymore.

Join me right here again on November 10th as we continue this conversation with 4 ways to make your book part of the curriculum!

Thank you, Marcie! This was such a great post!

As a private consultant Marcie works one-on-one to guide authors and illustrators to best position their books for school visits and classroom use.  Visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com to discover how Marcie can help you navigate the world of children’s literature and education.

Nerdy Chicks Logo with CIRCLE - TASSEL - DIPLOMA - pink backgroundAnd if you REALLY want to learn what Marcie has to teach you, join her at Kidlit Writing School for a Webinar on What Authors Need To Know to Make Schools Fall in Love with Their Books. You can register now for this 90 minute webinar with Marcie by clicking this link to take you to the Kidlit Writing School Square Market. There, you can pay the $50 fee by credit card at Square’s secure site.

Want to learn more about Marcie’s upcoming Webinar? Read all about it here.

 

Marybeth Cornwell on Cancer

Marybeth CornwellLast spring we had the pleasure of interviewing Marybeth Cornwell, General Merchandise Manager/Senior Vice President Home at Walmart and a cancer survivor. Maybeth has had a fabulous career as an executive and you can read more about that by clicking HERE. She is also a breast cancer survivor and is currently on the Board of Directors of Hope Cancer Resources. As part of her earlier interview, she answered questions for us about her experience with cancer. Her answers were so comprehensive (she even included a reading list) and so wonderful that we decided to save that part of her interview for October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  So thank you Marybeth for joining us again! 

1. In December 2011, you faced a huge personal challenge when you were diagnosed with breast cancer. How did you prepare to battle it?

Well, first I got my hands on everything I could read about the disease.  (I have a “best of / worst of” reading list, included below in this post.)  As a next step, I set up a Caring Bridge site.  That site is pure genius.  Well-meaning friends and family can consume your time with their questions when you should be focused on inhaling/exhaling, researching, and planning.

Then I asked for help.  Walmart’s benefits team has a doctor who did an extensive amount of research using facts (“outcomes”) and helped me find the perfect combination of major cancer center + great surgeon + top plastic surgeon – no easy feat.  I chose Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD for my mastectomies and reconstruction.

I transferred into my current role (from SVP of Home & Apparel for Sam’s Club to SVP Ladieswear for Walmart US) just two weeks after my diagnosis.  Was that an insane time?  Yes, but my team and my boss were incredibly supportive. I am so grateful for my company – I had something besides cancer to focus every day, and extra motivation to get well – we had a lot of work to do for our customers!

2. Now that you are a cancer survivor, has your life changed?

Situations that used to make me nervous or unsure just don’t throw me any more.  I think to myself “Seriously!?  Why are you nervous?  You faced down cancer.” It’s a very useful tool for self-empowerment. I am also much less tolerant of negative people or energy-sucking situations. I say “no” more

3. Good for you! We should all be avoiding those energy-sucking situations. After your experience, what is the most important message you can get out to women about cancer?

  • Get yourself checked, for goodness sake. Screening guidelines are there to protect you.  Just do it.
  • Do not compromise on quality of care. Never feel awkward about needing more information, kindness, respect, returned calls, a second opinion, anything.  Your mission is not to have your caregivers like you; your mission is to save your life.  You must step up and be your own best advocate.

Thank you Marybeth! You’re a hundred percent right about needing to be your own advocate. No one can advocate for you better, and in most cases, no one cares more. Great advice.  

Keep reading for Marybeth’s Cancer Book List. To share the list, you can download it here: Marybeth’s Cancer Book List

 

 

Mb’s Breast Cancer Book List

First, the #1 most important rule of reading about breast cancer:

NO READING AFTER DARK.  

No kidding, no fooling, this is important.

That said, there are several wonderful books depending on what you need…

Reference:

The Breast Book by Dr. Susan Love.  It’s the recognized comprehensive guide to breast cancer.  Super helpful.  An absolute MUST.

Pick-Me-Up:

There are several uplifting (sorry, couldn’t resist) books about breast cancer.  Search “breast cancer humor”.  I especially enjoyed Humor After the Tumor by Patty Gelman

Both of Hoda Kotb’s books (morning talk show anchor, survivor, seriously cool woman)

Hoda:  How I survived War Zones, Bad Hair,Cancer and Kathie Lee

Ten Year Later:  Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives

Practical Advice:

You Can Do This: Surviving Breast Cancer With Losing Your Sanity or Your Style by Elisha Daniels and Kelley Tuthill

Dancing With Fear: Tips and Wisdom from Breast Cancer Survivors Leila Peltosaari, Rina Albala and Bev Parker

Most Creative, Sassy Distraction:

Cancer Vixen, A True Story by Marisa Acocella Marchetto (it’s a cartoon novel – by a NYC survivor.  Much of it was published in Glamour magazine during her journey)

Avoid, run away, do NOT read – they will sucker punch you and the cover makes them look cheerful.  :(

Noon at Nordie’s

Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person – A Memoir in Comics

 

Remember Marybeth’s advice: Don’t read after dark, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

This post is particularly meaningful to the nerdy chicks. In the past year, cancer has touched our lives as well. Our hearts go out to all who are affected by cancer. 

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?