Friday, July 30, 2010

Interview with children's author and wolf lover Robyn Hood Black

My guest today is author Robyn Hood Black. Robyn has two great passions: children's books and wolves! I must say this last part is what drew me to her website like a magnet. Anyone who knows me well knows I share Robyn's passion for these magnificent, intelligent, mysterious and controversial animals. I hope you'll enjoy the interview. Robyn talks about how she got started as a children's author, her books, and, of course... wolves!

Thanks for being my guest today, Robyn! Tell us, when did you start writing for children?

I've been writing children's books since I was a child myself! Seriously, I was one of those kids always writing and illustrating stories, and this has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I was an English major at Furman University (where my oldest is starting this fall) and took the two children's lit courses offered at the time. I had a patchwork quilt of jobs after graduating and getting married, including working in a seminary communications office, writing for newspapers and magazines, working in an art gallery and selling my own art, scoring essays from standardized tests for elementary-aged students, working for a therapeutic horsemanship program, and teaching English part-time. I got involved with SCBWI around 1997, and I've volunteered in our Southern Breeze region ever since. With the publication of my first book, Sir Mike, a Rookie Reader from Scholastic/Children's Press (2005), I began walking this path full-time.

I understand you volunteer at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve. How did that come about and how has it inspired your writing?

When I got the contract to write WOLVES for Intervisual's animal vault series, I wanted to observe wolves up close. The closest ones I found were at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega, Georgia, a short drive from my home. A few months later, I met two four-week-old wolf pups born there in 2008, Juno and Luna, and I immediately signed up as a volunteer. Working with them has been an amazing blessing and has enriched my life in many ways. A couple of creative projects inspired by the wolves have taken shape but haven't yet found a publishing home. I recently had the honor of naming a new male pup who came to us in July - Rio! I'm sure he'll inspire more fun endeavors as well.

Your book, WOLVES, instantly caught my attention when I initially checked your blog. Please tell us more about this project. I can tell it's close to your heart.

Through SCBWI, I met Peggy Shaw, then senior editor with Dalmatian Press/Intervisual Books. She needed to hire a couple of writers for titles in an animal series she was editing, and I lobbied for the job to write the wolf book! I wrote "loves wolves" on my business card before handing it to her at a conference. The books were all designed for mass market sales and the deadline was tight. Still, I wanted the research to be as meticulous as I could make it. My office became a den I hardly left for weeks! Online I found Ed Bangs, Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out in Montana, and he was gracious enough to read the manuscript. Right before the book came out, I tracked down illustrator Colin Howard in England to tell him how great I thought the art was. All of the books in the series, including my critique group buddy Donna Bowman's BIG CATS, benefited from Matt Jeffirs' design work. To get to write the kind of book I would have loved as a kid, and hopefully contribute to wolf education, has been a thrill and an honor.

Your school visits and presentations about wolves must be fascinating to kids. What do you want children to take with them after they've listened to your talk?

I'm thrilled if they take away a couple of things. One, that they are creative and can express themselves effectively through their own words and art, and that writing - and researching - can be fun! Two, that the natural world is full of amazing gifts worth appreciating and learning about, such as wolves. Most kids are passionate about animals. If I can encourage their curiosity and nurture respect for an often misunderstood creature, that's a good day. School visits take a lot of energy, but I always feel energized by the enthusiasm of the kids.

You also write poetry and short fiction for magazines. Does it also revolve around wolves?

I've written several wolf poems, but the closest thing I have to one being published is one on tap to appear sometime in Ladybug - about a fox! A story scheduled to be published soon in Highlights is based on my mother's growing up in Arkansas, and there's a horse in a cameo role but no wolf. I'm always stirring a pot of writing ideas, and several involve wolves and other animals.

You love wolves because...

Ahh. Where to start? Wolves have been such a controversial animal in Western culture for hundreds of years. Perhaps that's because they share some characteristics of humans - they are very intelligent, they live in social structures with a dominance hierarchy, they hunt cooperatively, and they are fiercely loyal to their family groups. Folks tend to have very strong reactions to wolves, positive or negative. I have such respect for how they are mentally and physically suited to their life in the wild, and how they form such strong bonds with one another. All that said, I try to emphasize in presentations that they are not dogs - our pets evolved from wolf ancestors, but wolves are wild animals. Even captive ones, like the ones I've been privileged to work with, answer to their instincts first. They haven't been domesticated for thousands of years like dogs have.

What is the present situation with wolves right now and how can we do something about it?

Still controversial! Wolf researchers and advocates are working around the world, and that is heartening, but there are also plenty of folks who oppose the very presence of wolves on earth. While wolves thrive in some areas, their traditional range has been drastically reduced. Even among wolf supporters, wide ranges of thoughtful opinions exist about wolf management. I always point people to the International Wolf Center - - for comprehensive and current information. I support the center as a member and encourage others to do so. The site has educational resources for teachers and kids (including "wolf cams" which offer a glimpse into daily life of the center's ambassador pack in Minnesota), as well as the latest headlines about anything wolf-related. Clicking the links to even a few newspaper articles each week reveals how contentious wolf issues continue to be in the Northern Rockies, where wolf-livestock conflicts are an issue. The preservation of wolves and other wildlife depends on cooperation among people with different, sometimes strong, opinions.

What's on the horizon for you?

Though I'm sad to report that Intervisual's animal vault series has just been discontinued, I plan to continue incorporating wolf education into presentations if schools are interested. As far as other projects, I'm hoping to find a publishing home for a couple of picture book manuscripts (one which won second place in our SCBWI Southern Breeze writing contest last fall), and I've just completed my first historical novel! I'll share details if/when it finds a home. I continue to write poetry and nonfiction, too. And I'll continue volunteering at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve. There has been lots of excitement there this past week with the birth of a zedonk - Mama is a donkey mare and Daddy is a zebra stallion! The baby has garnered attention from all over the country, with several major media outlets featuring her. I have a couple of pictures and links on my website. Yes, I'm already working on a story.... As you say on your website, the writing life takes "a certain kind of madness." But I wouldn't trade it!

Thanks, Robyn! I wish you the best of luck with your books!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TOP 100 YA Novels

If you read and/or write YA fiction, head over to Persnicketysnark to find out which are the top 100 YA novels.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Interview with Maggie Stiefvater, author of LINGER

Please welcome my special guest, New York Times bestselling YA author Maggie Stiefvater! Maggie is the creator of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. SHIVER was released last year and has garnered some excellent reviews. This month, however, Maggie is touring the blogosphere to promote the release of the second book in the series, LINGER.

(Blurb taken from the author's website)

In Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabel, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love—the light and the dark, the warm and the cold—in a way you will never forget.


It's a pleasure having you on my blog, Maggie! In the first book, SHIVER, the story is told from two points of view, that of Grace's and Sam's. What made you decide to use four points of view in LINGER?

I really wanted to make the story a bit of a wider focus, both to see Sam and Grace’s relationship from the outside but also to get a different perspective on life in Mercy Falls. Isabel’s point of view was a very late addition to the manuscript.

Isabel has an important role in this book. What compelled you to continue her story? Did you know in book I that she would eventually have such a major role?

I actually just put her in Shiver as the mean girl with Reasons for Being Mean, and the more I wrote her, the more interested I got in the nuances of her character. I was a bit of an ice princess in the first few years of college, and people tend to take that icy princess shell at face value. So frosty = bitch. When sometimes frosty = hiding, shy, or uncomfortable with making sincere relationships. Isabel lets me dig deep into what the girl behind the mascara.

In SHIVER Grace's parents are almost nonexistent, hardly ever getting involved in their daughter's life. In book II their attitude seems to change. Why?

Ah, Grace’s parents. When I sold Shiver, I prepared myself for reviews that grumbled about the sexual content. What I didn’t expect was to get more reviews talking about the absentee parenting of Grace’s parents. The thing is, I’ve met a lot of parents like Grace’s -- more and more, actually, as I get older. They don’t see themselves as bad parents. They did their job; got their kids into high school without bad grades or drugs or wiccan rituals or an extreme love of World of Warcraft. They’re upper middle class white folks. Well-spoken, well-educated, two-income families that look quite ideal from the outside. But they aren’t families, they’re solar systems. Solitary planets who just happen to be in the same orbit due to the gravitational pull of the same last name. You might even know some of them. But I’ve talked to these teens who come from these families. Teens who drive themselves home, who have the house to themselves while their parents go on second and third honeymoons for a long weekend, who know more about their college plans than their parents. They exist. Trust me. Ask any high school teacher.

Anyway, in LINGER, Grace’s parents, floating as they were, get shocked out of their complacency when the natural order of things is disrupted. I try to be truthful in my characterizations even when it’s as annoying as all get out for me as a writer.

What was your inspiration for Cole and what made you decide to make him a rock star?

Cole! Cole was originally designed to make Sam look good. Sad, but true. I really, really have this thing for opposites in my fiction. Before a really bad scene, I’ll have a really pretty one. For every good relationship, a bad one. For every really nice boy, a really bad rocker one. *evil grin* Anyway, Cole was to be everything that Sam wasn’t. He also had to have a very good reason for choosing to go with Beck.

I just realized I still haven’t actually said “why rock star.” I can’t remember the exact moment I decided to make him a famous musician, actually. I remember that he had his roots in a character that I toyed with in a short story [] I wrote on Merry Sisters of Fate, called Heart-Shaped Box. You can kind of see the scaffolding there for his personality and for the the relationship between Cole and his friend Victor.

How do you go about maintaining your characters' motivations believable throughout your stories? Is this a conscious decision or does it happen automatically as you write?

Wow, you have good questions (and hard ones). I think of my novels as character driven stories so therefore, to me, the characters’ motivations are always the most important thing. I can’t write the next scene until I ask myself: how will this affect them? What are the possible things they would do next?

Of course, I know the character arcs beforehand, so sometimes I have to come at it backwards. Like: I want this character to change in this way. What needs to happen to make that happen?

It is definitely not automatic.

Thank you for having me on your blog!

Thank you, Maggie, and best of luck with your tour!

LINGER trailer...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Slip, Slide into the World of Book Reviewing

Slip, slide into the World of Book Reviewing

Enjoy reading and discussing books, why not expand your canvas and slip, slide into the world of book reviewing. How does one write a review and gain recognition one may ask? The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing answers your questions.

PRLog (Press Release) – Jul 11, 2010 – M E D I A R E L E A S E

CONTACT: Lida Quillen

For Immediate Release

Slip, slide into the World of Book Reviewing

Enjoy reading and discussing books, why not expand your canvas and slip, slide into the world of book reviewing. How does one write a review and gain recognition one may ask? The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards answers many of your questions along with practical advice which will get you started in no time.

Taking the publishing world by storm, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing first edition quickly became a must have reference tool for new and seasoned book reviewers. The authors acknowledged the fact our high speed information world changes in a nanosecond and embarked on their quest to update The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing and have released the newly revised and updated edition.

Reviews from well established and respected book reviewers continue to pour in:

“The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing should be considered mandatory reading for novice and aspiring book reviewers, as well as having a great deal of enduring value as a reference for even the more experienced reviewer. Additionally, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will provide to be informed and informative reading about the book review process for authors, publishers, publicists, booksellers, librarians, and the general reading public.” Reviewed by James Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review.

“The Slippery Art… is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in book reviews – writers, reviewers, publishers, publicists, librarians, booksellers and readers.”
Reviewed by Francine Silverman, Editor of The Book Promotion Newsletter

It comes as no surprise The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing has the distinct honor of the ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award and the esteem privilege of being listed as required reading at several American and Dutch universities.

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing
Twilight Times Books

ISBN: 978-1933353227, B&, and of course you can order through your local independent book store.

Anne K. Edwards is an award-winning multi-genre author, reviewer and editor of Voice in the Dark Ezine. Her latest novel is the suspense thriller, Shadows Over Paradise, just released by Twilight Times Books. Visit her website at

Award-winning multi-genre author Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She reviews for, The NY Journal of Books and Blogcritics Magazine. She’s had over 300 articles, reviews, interviews and stories published online. Visit her website at

Full Media Kit, Headshot, Book Cover Art and more are available upon request.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

'Slippery' included in Association of Jewish Libraries book list

Thanks to Google Alerts, I learned that the Association of Jewish Libraries included The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing on their book list for children's book reviewers. Not only that, but they marked it as 'essential'... I'm jazzed!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Check out my new cover!

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing has a new cover and the revised edition is already available from Amazon!