Raising Nerdy Chicklets (and GIVEAWAY Reminder!)

Most of the time, we devote this blog to Nerdy Chicks. But just for today, I wanted to focus not only on girls, but on kids (or Chicklets, as we like to call them!) in general.

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At Afton Elementary in Pennsylvania

Raising a Nerdy Chicklet is a challenge in many ways. We have to foster his or her intellectual curiosity and be ready with facts, figures, and other resources to help her learn. As parents or educators, we strive to be ready with the answers. But having the answers isn’t the most important part of supporting a Nerdy Chicklet — allowing her to ask questions is the vital thing. Even when we don’t have the answers, the questioning process teaches the Nerdy Chicklet to think. Remember, giving facts is often a linear thinking process. We take the facts down a logical path with very few side stops in order to keep the explanations simple. Asking questions, however, lets a child explore in a non-linear way. Some of the smartest people in the history of the world were non-linear thinkers. If you want to help the Nerdy Chicklets in your life reach their full intellectual potential, let them ask questions — and be honest if you don’t know the answers. When that happens, it’s just an opportunity for the Nerdy Chicklet to learn independently and teach you, or for you two to learn together. Instant bonding!

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At Central Elementary in Maryland

One of the truly awesome things I get to do as a children’s book author is to go around the country to talk to kids about writing and books. Recently, this has taken me to schools in New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as the Knoxville Children’s Book Festival in Tennessee. I always get lots of questions from the kids and I’m often so impressed by the kinds of things they are curious about. Here are some of the questions I’ve gotten.

“How can you tell the difference between a good idea and a bad idea?”

I get this question a lot. I wish I knew the answer!

SAMSUNG CSC“Do chickens make every story better?”

Not every story, but certainly most.

“Does it ever feel better to write about something that hurts you?”

A lovely boy asked me that question privately after one of my school workshops. I’ll tell you the same thing I told him: yes, it does eventually feel better. Writing is wonderful therapy, especially because in fiction, we have power. In life, we get what we get and it is often unfair. In fiction, we get to give our characters the endings they deserve — which means the good characters get happy endings, and the ones we don’t like get humiliation and defeat.

“Did you really set a mouse on fire?”SAMSUNG CSC

I get that question everywhere, but it was especially funny at the Rumson Country Day School, where one of my presentations was invaded by an actual MOUSE!

(Oh, and, yes, I really did.)

P1030380“How do you relate to kids when you’re so old?”

This was a question to the panel at the Knoxville Children’s Book Festival, where I shared the stage with the wonderful Julie Danielson, Bob Shea, Jarrett Krosoczka, Marc Tyler Nobleman, and Debbie Diesen. Needless to say, the little girl who asked it stole all of our thunder.

REMINDER!

There is still time to enter the GIVEAWAY for a free VIRTUAL CLASSROOM VISIT! Check out the cover reveal for DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE! and enter to win!

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Chick Lit for Chicklets

SAMSUNG CSCRecently, the Nerdy Chicks conducted a workshop at the New England SCBWI Conference about Creating Chick Lit for Chicklets. Here is a recap of what we talked about…

What is Chicklet Chick Lit?

Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly. Chick lit for chicklets is pretty much the same thing but geared specifically to the interests of a child or young adult audience. The main character of Chick Lit is always a strong female who bucks authority to follow her dreams.

What qualifies as Chicklet Chick Lit?

Not every book with a female main character would be considered chicklet chick lit — this is important to keep in mind. Some books just happen to have female main characters. In this very limited case, just being a girl is not enough.

In Chicklet Chick Lit, the main character’s obstacles and challenges must be specific to gender. The chick lit heroine is very aware of her world and the details of this world will deeply affect her choices/actions.

Let me introduce you to my friends…

In addition to the main character, Chick Lit is often populated by strong secondary characters. Here are some of the archetypes commonly found in Chick Lit for Chicklets:

BFF

antiBFF

apparent parent

antiparent

boy friend

Now you all know more about writing Chick Lit for Chicklets — we hope you try your hand at this fabulous genre!

(If you attended the Nerdy Chicks’ workshop at NESCBWI and would like a copy of the entire PowerPoint, please fill out the form below or email Sudipta or Kami directly)

Kat Yeh: Mad Scribbles, Big Feet

297310_10150320631406460_1375238351_nA couple years ago, Kat Yeh and I were attending the same writer’s conference. I was in the middle of a conversation with a well-respected agent, when Kat walked by. Immediately, the person I was speaking to went silent and his eyes followed Kat as she walked away. When he finally remembered that he was supposed to be speaking to me, he turned back, shrugged, and said, “She’s very striking.” The funny thing is that this guy had no idea that, as striking as Kat is from across the room, she is so much more so in person. Kat has a warm and endearing personality that has you laughing and feeling like you’ve known her for years, even when you first meet. This explains why I’ve spilled so many secrets to her despite our relatively short friendship!

Magic-Brush-Yeh-Kat-9780802721792You're Lovable to MeKat is a graduate of Villanova University and she worked in sports marketing for many years before discovering she really is a wonderfully talented writer who needs to be putting books into the world for the rest of us to read. She is the author of the picture books YOU’RE LOVABLE TO ME (Random House Books for Young Readers) and THE MAGIC BRUSH A story of love, family and Chinese Characters (Walker Books for Young Readers) and the forthcoming novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (Little Brown BYR, coming 2014). She’s also the recipient of the 2012 SCBWI Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award.

Thank you, Kat, for joining us today on Nerdy Chicks Rule. Let’s get started! If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I actually think I received the perfect piece of advice already at that age (though I was not really able to figure out how to use it till much later) A dear and wise-beyond-her -years friend gave me a little card with a tiny painting and the quote: “Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks with my behavior so that I can see how it is I want to be” I think we were 13 or 14 at the time. She knew I was struggling and feeling stuck, so she made the card for me. I still have it.

And I wish I could honestly say I have other advice that I would give myself, but I kind of feel that all that stumbling and confusion was sort of necessary. Even the big plastic glasses and ill-advised outfit choice for my first 9th grade dance (brown cowl neck sweater and full-length a-line plaid skirt). I wouldn’t change any of it. But maybe I’d just go back and give myself a big hug.

If it makes you feel better, I never even went to my 9th grade dance (though had I gone, I’m sure my wardrobe choice would have been equally unfortunate). Let’s move on…You’re one of my favorite authors!

Funny, you’re one of mine 🙂

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Here are the Nerdy Chicks with Kat (and Joyce Wan) in Princeton (after that conference where Kat was declared “striking”)

My favorite things to read…Books that lush and literary and brave and unapologetic and a little bit strange and completely committed to the world they create: example anything by Franny Billingsley.

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

I don’t think it is necessarily about what is being published today as much as it is about allowing a pretty free reign. Showing a lot of options, but then letting them make their own reading choices – and THEN being there to talk. Answer questions (or even better come up with more questions together!). Start discussions. Think of alternate endings. Be stumped. Be frustrated. Be in love. Then wonder and wonder and talk about why you both are feeling all these things. I love the George Carlin quote:  “Don’t just teach your children to read…Teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.”

That is a terrific quote from a fairly smart (and nerdy!) man. But we’re called Nerdy Chicks Rule, so let’s re-focus on girls…Tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

Is it too typical to say Jo March? I don’t think that I was ever as brave as she was as a teen, but I wanted to be. And of course, I always connected to her passion for reading and her utter desperate Need To Be a Writer – as well as her big feet and awkwardness and temper and fierce love and mad scribbling.

Your feet are not big! (Well, at least, not that big.) Moving on, though…What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

I love, love spending hours in used book stores or in the used book section of my local indy. Looking for old art books. Hidden overlooked early editions of favorites. I love finding books with quirky titles and wonderful content. It’s like a treasure hunt. I recently found a ratty copy of a book titled, LOVE & DROLLERY – A SELECTION OF AMATORY, MERRY AND SATIRICAL VERSE OF THE 17TH CENTURY for $7. Happiness.

That was totally going to be the title of my next book! I guess that’s why I should do more market research, especially in used book stores. You’ve convinced me to follow in your (normal-sized) footsteps! Now, what is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

easy: without a doubt, it is only when being absolutely myself (and therefore, embracing the nerdy in me) that I have been able to Find & Be Found and Get & Be Gotten by like-minded souls who have become life friends.

527286_10151155108171460_496397820_nI love the way you describe that: Find & Be Found and Get & Be Gotten. Beautiful. Guess that’s why you’re an award-winning author, huh? 🙂

Now, for the fun part: if someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?

That’s hard. As a mom, I tend not to think about spending money on myself. I’d probably buy drinks and a load of appetizers somewhere yummy (and hopefully with music) where a friend and I could have long, leisurely talk-ish time together.

And, finally, can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

For several months now it’s been baby arugula. I know – it’s not glamorous or decadent, but it makes me crazy. All dark and peppery and perfect.

Thank you again, Kat! If you want to find out more about the fabulous and fashionable Kat Yeh, visit her at katyeh.com (still under construction, but coming soon!) and follow her on Twitter: @yehface

Karma Wilson: Better Today than Yesterday

novprofileI can’t imagine there’s anyone in the world who doesn’t know who Karma Wilson is. After all, she’s a bestselling author and all-around interesting person. Who, by the way, trains in Mixed Martial Arts and calls a dog, a cat, and a chicken her pets. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock and have never heard of Bear Snores On, Frog in the Bog, or Hogwash, here’s a little about Karma.

Karma never really thought about being a professional writer because, growing up, it seemed so boring. But that’s only because her mother was a professional writer – and who wants to do what Mom does? (By the way, the answer to that is usually EVERYONE. But only secretly.) But as children all over the world are grateful for every day, Karma eventually came around and started writing books for kids. The first one(Bear Snores On)  came out in 2002. Since then, she’s written 30 books which have collectively received numerous state and national awards, been translated into dozens of languages, and a few have made an appearance on the New York Times bestseller list. 

I wanted to interview Karma for this blog because not only is she a great example of a Nerdy Chick, but many, many years ago, she became one of my KidLit idols (that’s a secret, too. I don’t want to look like a lame fangirl). So, please welcome Karma to Nerdy Chicks Rule!

So, Karma, you’re an award-winning author! What are your favorite things to read?

Fantasy is numero uno and always has been, followed by historical fiction with plucky characteres, and sci-fi if it’s original.

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

Oh no, not sure how to answer this. I don’t think all of them are for one thing.

(I agree with you. But do go on.)

A lot of pop fiction is depicting girls as helpless princesses waiting for a hero, or bullies, or cliquish mean girls.  I like books that help give girls a voice, that help them see themselves as capable people able to think and reason. Laurie Halse Anderson’s work, for instance. I think that for me it’s the books that are written about genuine, strong characters set in a good story that will automatically set the right examples for girls.  And I’m not the kind who thinks that only girl characters can set examples for girl readers. I love strong boy characters and think there is a gap in fiction that appeals to boys and girls. A timeless treasure like Freak the Mighty can go a long ways to teaching anybody how to be a more capable, compassionate, thinking person–boy or girl. A book depicting a boy character who values women and treats them as equals can help a girl recognize a good guy. Good stories, good characters–the rest falls into place.

Those are really good points. I think people are coming around to the idea that there shouldn’t be “girl books” and “boy books.” But speaking of girl characters…tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

Anne of Green Gables. I admire her for taking her fantasies and not just using them as an escape from her harsh reality, but to improve herself as a person.  She learned from her mistakes, she grew as an individual, she was caring, unique and plucky.  I love her!

Me, too! Reading is obviously very important to you, which totally makes sense since Nerdy Chicks love to read! What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a Nerdy Chick? family

Teaching my children to value words and literature. All three are excellent readers who enjoy words and writing. WIN!

In fact, I want to give a thanks to my kids, Michael, David and Chrissy for continuing to be my most successful endeavor….

That’s not only fabulous, it’s something that parents everywhere should try to emulate. Brava! How about this: what’s something else you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

I like to take pictures of food and post them on facebook. Yep, I’m one of those! lol. To be fair, I like and comment on other people’s food photos.

Mmmmm. There’s nothing wrong with that. Speaking of food, Can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

Coffee.  And toilet paper. In that order? Oh, just one. Sorry! lol

OMG, I just snorted my Pepsi all over my desk! You are too funny! If someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it? 

Buy a special treat from a local artist or craftsman. That way it would be a gift to them too! Probably pottery, which I love.

I’m starting to get goosebumps. I love pottery, too! Could we be long-lost sisters? (Wait, too fangirl-y? I’ll stop.)

IMG_2566Last question: tell us a four-word descriptive phrase you would like people to associate with you.

Better today than yesterday.

I’m not sure we could have ended on a better note than that – those may become words I have to live by. Thank you so much, Karma, for joining us.

If you want to learn more about Karma, find her on the web at www.karmawilson.com. There you can find great resources for teachers, parents and lovers of children’s books. 

Three Questions With…T.S. Ferguson

teeess-54_600T.S. Ferguson is an Associate Editor with Harlequin TEEN, where he acquires and edits commercial fiction for teen girls across all genres, and has the privilege of working with authors such as Kady Cross and Amanda Sun. Prior to Harlequin, T.S. worked for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, where he worked with bestselling and award-winning authors such as Jennifer Brown, Cris Beam, Sherman Alexie, Sara Zarr, and Julie Anne Peters. When he’s not reading or feeding his addiction to karaoke, T.S. is working on a Young Adult novel of his very own.

Today, T.S. is answering Three Questions about Nerdy Chicks and Reading

1) What should today’s Nerdy Chick be reading?

That’s a tough question, since Nerdy Chicks cover such a wide spectrum of individuals with diverse interests. Obviously YA. The Nerdy Chick should be unafraid to read teen novels. They’re for everyone now.

For the Nerdy Girl who enjoys fantasy, the Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore is great, as is anything by Tamora Pierce (a classic YA fantasy author) or Cinda Williams Chima.

For those who like paranormal with an element of romance, my favorites are Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series and Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series.

And for the Nerdy Chick who enjoys a great contemporary, some of my favorites include Sarah Ockler, Jenny Han, and Siobhan Vivian.

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some great Harlequin authors to you Nerdy Chicks. Steampunk fans should check out Kady Cross’s The Girl with the Steel Corset. If you love romance, check out Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. And if you love Julie Kagawa or Richelle Mead, you should look for Amanda Sun’s upcoming debut novel, Ink (July 2013), a paranormal adventure set in Japan and involving ancient Japanese mythology.

2) How can a Nerdy Chick make her writing stand out?

The things that stand out the most to me when I’m reading through my submissions is a unique voice and a plot that feels different. Be aware of the market and what’s already out there, don’t try to follow trends but rather focus on writing the best book you can write. Don’t be afraid of the revision process or afraid of other peoples’ edits, and even though I know it can be tough sometimes, don’t rush to submit your manuscript to editors and agents before it’s ready just because you can’t wait to be published. Writing that has been polished will always stand out over writing that needs work.

3) Who is a fictitious Nerdy Chick you admire and why?

Roald Dahl’s Matilda has always been a Nerdy Chick I loved and she is someone worth emulating. Not only is she incredibly smart, self-taught, and a lover of libraries, but she survives a neglectful and abusive home life and an abusive school environment, isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and the people she loves, and shows bravery in the face of danger. And she has telekinesis, which is pretty darn cool too.

Thank you, T.S., for your thoughtful answers! If you want to hear more of T.S.’s brilliant thoughts, follow him on Twitter: @TeeEss

New Giveaway! A Skype Classroom Visit!

In case you missed it, yesterday, we had a lovely chat with John Schumacher, aka MrSchuReads. (You did miss it? Quick! Click the link!) Here’s a bonus to that chat — if you pop on over to his blog, you can win a Skype Classroom Visit with Sudipta! All you have to do is fill out the entry form at Watch. Connect. Read and keep your fingers crossed!

 

mr schu pic

(By the way, if you want to see us do giveways like this on Nerdy Chicks Rule, leave us a comment and let us know!)

 

Leeza Hernandez: Fueled by Sour Patch Kids

leezaI met Leeza Hernandez years ago, and I’ve always felt she was waaaaaaay cooler than me. That’s hard for me to admit. Add to that her incredible artistic talent and way cool accent (she hails from the south of England), and I almost don’t want to talk to her. Except you can’t help but talk to Leeza — she’s too much fun, she’s got too much energy, and she’s way too smart. Read her interview — you’ll see what I mean.

As I said, Leeza is originally from England, but has been living in the USA since 1999. In 2004 she switched from newspaper and magazine design to children’s book illustration and writing. 2012 marked a milestone for her as she celebrated the release of her debut-authored picture book Dog Gone! (G.P. Putnam’s Sons).

Leeza is currently working on revisions and sketches for two new books due out in 2014 and just finished final art for a picture book written by John Lithgow (wow!!!!!!), due for release in fall 2013. She’s also the Regional Advisor for the New Jersey SCBWI chapter.
In her spare time, Leeza can be found either playing school, carpet picnic-ing or making art with her daughter, or cleaning the litter box. Coffee and Sour Patch Kids fuel late deadline nights which is also when the the cat likes to present her favorite fur balls under the art table!
Thanks for joining us, Leeza! Let’s get started…If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Middle school: DUCK!

(Oh, that’s hilarious. sorry for interrupting!)

High school: You might not be good at that and that’s okay. It in no way means you are a failure, simply do your best!

That’s great advice — I wish someone had told me that in high school! Moving forward in time, though, you’re now a professional artist. What are your favorite things to draw?

I love drawing chubby chickens wearing boots, scarves and/or earmuffs. There’s something very funny to me about that image. Makes me smile.

That’s made me smile, too! How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?

Showcasing any female character who, when faced with adversity, finds victory and overcomes chaos in clever, articulate and intuitive ways is a sure fire way to empower girls. I think that society is more open to embracing these types of characters and therefore today’s books have become the perfect platform to inspire nerdy chicks, help them be smart and know that anything in life is possible.

I agree — finding great examples in literature is a way to inspire girls to go after their dreams. Can you tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her?

Roald Dahl’s Matilda has to be one of the first “fictitious nerdy chicks” I ever remember having an impact on my life. There’s so many things to love about her- in spite of a difficult home life and an atrocious headmistress, she sought and found solace in books. With an insatiable appetite for learning she discovered the power of knowledge. Two other fictitious nerdy chicks whom I admire are Alice Pleasance and Violet Beaudelaire- smart girls who knew how to keep it together!

I love those characters, too! (See — I told you Leeza is waaaay cooler than me!) You truly are a Nerdy Chick, Leeza. What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a Nerdy Chick?

Oh wow, now you’ve put me on the spot! Okay, sorry if this sounds cheesy, but getting in to college was a big deal for me. Going through high school, and knowing that there was an exciting world filled with mystery and yet-to-be-discovered opportunities beyond the waters that surrounded the island I grew up on, were what made me more determined to study and get to college. That was my gateway to a new world. I absorbed myself in my art especially, and getting into art school will always be one of my favorite achievements. Debuting as an author/illustrator last year felt pretty good too!

I think college was a pretty big deal for a lot of us — doesn’t sound cheesy at all. It’s very inspiring to hear how you used college to open up a “new world,” as you put it. I think that’s what college is supposed to do.

Let’s shift gears a bit and have some fun…Do you have a personal “theme song,” perhaps one that speaks to your inner nerdiness?

Hmm, I never thought about a theme song. Ziggy Marley’s “Believe in Yourself” perhaps?

Love it! If someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?

No brainer! Books and art supplies.

Can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

Cheese: a good strong cheddar. (Hate to think what my cholesterol levels are like though!)

Ha! LEEZA HERNANDEZ, LOVER OF CHEESE. I think I love that even more! And finally, is there anything else you want to share with us that has made you who you are today?

Well, aside from art, sports and French were my favorite subjects throughout most of my school years. I was terrible at science. Also, I played cello for three years in middle school, but only because all the flutes were taken in the school orchestra. I can’t play cello anymore, but I do still play descant and tenor recorder.

Thank you, Leeza, for this great interview. I will never look at chickens without boots or earmuffs the same again!

If you want to know more about Leeza and her work (and who wouldn’t?), you can find her on the web at www.leezaworks.comHer books can be found at www.doggonethebook.com and www.eatyourmathhomework.com. Follow her on Twitter: @leezaworks