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.

 

 

 

Vacation Traditions

 

 

We take our beach umbrellas seriously. We buy them from life guard equipment suppliers, and we've had the oldest two for over 40 years!

We take our beach umbrellas seriously. We buy them from life guard equipment suppliers, and the oldest two have been in the family for over 40 years!

My grandfather owned a beach house in North Myrtle Beach so when I was growing up we went to the beach a lot. Like every spring break, the first two weeks of June, and several weekends during fall and winter. And the entire month of August.  This worked out great for my blond-haired, blue eyed, olive-skinned siblings, but my pale freckly skin was perpetually burned and I’m sure the fallout is not going to be pretty. Still…what am I complaining about? It was a free vacation, and one that my family has become addicted to. So although granddaddy’s beach house was sold over thirty years ago, my mother and her sister are committed to sharing a beach house at least one week of every year so that their grandchildren can have the same experiences we did.  Except now instead of ten of us there are twenty one which makes everything a lot louder and more complicated.

IMG_20140703_144019_768But we have our traditions and most of us really look forward to our yearly get together. Of course with twenty one people there have to be rules (right?), so this year’s beach week started with a new set of rules laid out by my mother and her sister, the grandmoms.  You can see by the photo how seamlessly the rules were enacted.

And some of us have developed special skill sets for coping with the large in-house crowd. My father disappears into a book. My sister heads out to the beach during the hottest part of the day when everyone else is inside, and my aunt and cousin have picked up the habit of putting together jigsaw puzzles in the corner of the room while the extreme extroverts among us play loud games. This year’s favorite is BANG.

My daughter found the one on the left, my mother found the one on the right. I found the one in the middle. I'm afraid my reputation is about to change.

My daughter found the one on the left, my mother found the one on the right. I found the one in the middle. I’m afraid my reputation is about to change.

So, okay, the cramming all of us into one house can be less than 100% perfect, what makes us want to keep doing it? Well, time spent together in the sand is one reason.  A lot of us (okay, mostly the males) enjoy daily games of petanque, which is similar to Bocce and played in France. We still have the set my husband bought when he was an exchange student living there. Others of us (okay, mostly the females) enjoy looking for shark’s teeth. I usually enjoy this the most of all because over the years I’ve developed a reputation as the best shark-tooth finder. Here are some that we found this year.

Grits and salmon patties with beefsteak tomatoes.

Grits and salmon patties with beefsteak tomatoes. A beach house favorite

The school aged kids all love swimming in the ocean despite what finding the large sharks’ teeth proves, their fearlessness amid the breakers evoking fearfulness in their parents.  We usually build at least one big sand castle, play at least one after-dinner game of Spoon, and cook some of the same favorite meals.

Petaque!

Petanque!

Every year is the same, and every year is different. I am thankful for all of our traditions, both important and trivial. And I think, no matter what your traditions are, the simple tradition of etching out time to spend with family is one of the most important parts of growing up. Happy summer everyone!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Character

Character is essentially WHO we are. Which is why characterization is so important to writers. We’re celebrating the creation of great characters over on our sister blog, Nerdy Chicks Write.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll find these quotes about character relative, no matter what your profession. After all, we all have character!

Quotes about Character:

 

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT:

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”

 

RICHARD REEVES:

“Character is a word that seems to define almost all human activity and then some…”

“Power is what you do and character is what you are…”

” All leaders must face some crisis where their own strength of character is the enemy.”

 

HELEN KELLER: 

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

 

HERACLITUS : 

“A man’s character is his fate.”

 

SAM SHEPARD:  

“Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.”