This blog started some years ago at the request of the amazing illustrator, Jaime Temairik. She helped design the header (yes, that is my house!) and got me thinking about what I might be able to add to the blogosphere conversation. And I was tickled when I came up with the blog name which allowed me to incorporate my own middle name, something I don't use but really like.
Jaime making me laugh. What else is new?
My first ever post appeared on December 23, 2008 (at the holidays; what was I thinking?); today's entry makes number 1304. Not bad. But good things must sometimes come to an end. Don't fret: I plan to keep blogging. But I have a spiffy new website and it makes sense that my blog lives there, too. And, though I really am sad to leave Kirby's Lane: A Place for Readers and Writers behind, the sage folks at BookSparks have convinced me that I need to unify my social media presence (next thing you know, I'll be talking about my brand!). The only thing that changes is the address. Oh, and the header. But other than that, you're still gonna find Teacher Tuesday, where the amazing and over-worked teachers of this world take time to answer 6 silly questions about their reading habits; Wednesday Wisdom; Throwback Thursday and Friend Friday, which is when I shine the light on new books created by my terrifically talented friends. And, of course, I reserve the right to post on Mondays and Saturdays and Sundays, when the spirit moves. We're still going to have tons of fun talking books and writing and Winston the Wonder Dog. Drop on by. You won't want to miss a thing.
I so love how the internet has made gathering friends so much easier. I'm thrilled that Sarah Tomp has agreed to visit with us today, in honor of the publication of her debut novel, My Best Everything. I know you will give her a warm Kirby's Lane welcome! And if you would like to follow her blog, Writing on the Sidewalk, (co-authored with Suzanne Santillan), click here. You might especially enjoy this older post on writer friends; I know I did.
I’m so pleased to be here today, Kirby. Although
we’ve never met, I’ve read your blog for years—it’s a lovely place to spend
In keeping with the theme, let’s talk about literary
When I was a teen, my friends were the focus
of my life. I loved them with the same intensity of any romantic
relationship—often even more. Although romance tends to be a common staple in
books for young adults, I think platonic friendships deserve attention and
respect as well. A main character’s friends can add depth and layers to your
My debut novel, My Best Everything, has been called a “love story steeped in
moonshine.” It’s a story about Lulu Mendez, who is desperate to escape her
small Virginia hometown. When her father loses her college tuition, she cooks
up a plan with her two best friends, Roni and Bucky, to illegally make and sell
moonshine in order to pay her own way. It’s written as a letter to Mason—the
boy who helps the plan actually work—although readers don’t know if the letter
is an apology, a love letter, or a good-bye until the very end.
The developing love story between Lulu and
Mason is an important part of the story, but so are the friendships!
The genesis of
my title is Lulu talking about Roni. They’ve known each other forever, and work
together in the local junkyard, but they are very different people with discordant
hopes and dreams. Having graduated from high school, this may be their last
summer together. Even though they are headed in opposite directions, they truly
want the best for the other. They love each other enough to call each other out,
and to fight and bicker along the way.
develops between Bucky and Mason: there’s a definite bro-mance! And then, when
Roni is at a low point, Mason is the one she goes to for needed help and
support. It’s clear they have a friendship separate from Lulu and Bucky. All
four characters are tightly enmeshed and invested in their relationships—and
the trouble they’ve gotten into!
A few ways friendships can help tell a story:
or old—can be the catalyst for action.
are someone to talk to, and do things with.
friend shows your character is likable – even when they are going through a
rough and potentially unlikable time.
provide backstory and history.
friends have their own simultaneous stories, even if they take place off the
page, it adds depth and layers to the primary story.
can be good for measurement through comparison. How does your MC stack up
against his/her best friend? How are they different?
can provide motivation.
can cause tension and stress—and can raise the stakes.
are something—someone—to lose or gain.
you so much for having me on your blog today, Kirby. I do hope we will meet some day!
Sarah Tomp is the author of My Best Everything (Little, Brown), a novel for young adults and a picture book, Red, White and Blue Good-bye (Walker and Co/Bloomsbury). She earned a MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches creative writing for UCSD Extension. She lives in San Diego with her family, but spent her teen years in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.
Today's guest is Laura Simeon, Learning Commons Director & Diversity Coordinator at Open Window School in Bellevue, Washington. Thanks for playing, Laura! You know the drill.
Please fill in the blank:
You should never read and (blank) at the same time.
Well, if you stretch the definition of “reading” to include listening to audiobooks, many seemingly impossible combinations can be achieved! And thanks to my nifty bookstand I am able to read and knit at the same time: my two favorite pastimes combined!
If you were invited to be on Oprah, what book would you bring for her to read?
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher. It’s a book we need now more than ever, about choosing love and forgiveness and healing in a time of great tragedy.
What is the funniest book you’ve read?
For adults, it would have to be any of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next literary detective series. They are absolutely hilarious and the book-related plots and puns are like catnip for librarians.
One that really stands out for middle grade readers is The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood. Any child who at times wants to behave as if they were raised by wolves (and are there any who don’t?) will enjoy its madcap antics.
What is the saddest?
For adults I’d have to say Heather Andrea Williams’ Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery. She quotes from letters and newspaper advertisements that will rip your heart out – and the losses these families suffered cast a long shadow.
So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins is the harrowing true story of what befell the author and her siblings following World War II. Middle and high school readers will be riveted; the impact of war on kids their age isn’t something that comes up a lot in history textbooks.
Favorite reading snack/beverage?
A nice cup of tea and a plate of British biscuits (cookies) always hit the spot – chocolate Hobnobs, Garibaldis, digestives, Rich Teas – not too sweet and also substantial enough to keep you going so you can read longer!
What’s next on your TBR list?
The teen book I’m most excited to pick up next is A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond, a magical writer from Northumberland, where I had the best holiday of my life a couple of years ago. For adults, it would be The Interpreter by Suki Kim. I just finished her deeply moving memoir about teaching English in North (!!) Korea and was glad to see she’d written a novel too.
Teachers, librarians, reading coaches, principals, custodians,
lunch ladies, anyone with school connections: Please play along! Email
me here and I'll get you the questions so you, too, can be featured
on Teacher Tuesday.
I can count on one hand ( a few fingers!) the number of times Kathi Appelt and I have been in the same room. But she feels like a dear friend despite infrequent contact. She's just that kind of person, as you can quickly surmise from her full-of-heart books. It's an honor to host Kathi today in time to celebrate her newest picture book, Counting Crows, just out. It's one you will definitely want in your collection -- along with When Otis Courted Mama, and Mogie, the Heart of the House.
get me wrong; I enjoy writing novels, even though they often make me feel
inadequate.But my first love will
always be picture books.Until I had my
own kids, I never dreamed that I would write for children.Me? I wanted to write academic stuff, essays
and the like, books that would rock the halls of esteemed universities. And I
earnestly tried that. But when my two little sons came along, picture books
you want to talk about feeling inadequate, wow, motherhood provided that in bunches.I was completely unprepared to be a parent. I
didn’t know how to do crafty things with my boys, nor was I great at games or
fingerplays or even peek-a-boo.However,
the one thing I did well was read to them.And boy, we did a lot of that.I
came to think of picture books as the magical element of our lives.Not feeling good?Corduroy to the rescue.Out of sorts? “Milk! Milk! Milk for the
morning cake!” Tired and cranky?Star-bellied Sneetches could handle that.
when a good friend asked me if I had ever thought about writing a picture book,
it took me about five minutes to realize that she had just opened the door to
something wonderful. Why not?
Why not?Well, for one thing, they’re a whole lot harder than they look.But at the same time, they make my heart
sing.So it’s with happiness that after
a few years of not writing picture
books, I now have three new ones to share.
Mogie, The Heart of the House,
illustrated by Marc Rosenthal, is about the very real dog that lives in the
Ronald McDonald House in Houston. I might have missed this story if not for an
old friend who found me on Facebook and asked me to visit the House and the
dog, and to please consider writing his story.
This book was based on pure joy.
I’m not even a dog person (I have five gifted and talented cats, after
all). But who couldn’t love this amazing pup that has such an intuitive sense
for when a child needs him? I fell in love with him in less time than it took
for him to give me a big, sloppy kiss right on the mouth. He taught me so much
about compassion. And working with the people who make the Ronald McDonald
House a home for families with very sick children continues to be an
honor. A portion of the proceeds from
this book goes directly to the House. Here is video about Mogie:
I actually wrote When Otis Courted Mama almost twenty years ago, then signed the contract for it back in 1998. So, it’s not exactly new to me. But it was definitely worth waiting for Jill McElmurry’s wonderful art to bring life and energy to my coyote family.
This book is a tribute to my stepfather, George. One day I was sitting at my desk, just noodling, and it occurred to me that stepparents often get short-shrifted in children’s literature. The words “evil” and “wicked” are not uncommon when describing them. But in reality, there are a lot of terrific stepparents out there, doing their best for their families. This book is also my paean to good storytelling and the salve that it can bring to the people in that circle—just like it did for me and my little guys back in the day. Enjoy this book trailer about Otis:
Finally, Counting Crows was an “idea” that I carried around in my head for a long time, that idea being a group of crows who would count things.
But an idea is not the same as a story, and it took me a while to think up how I could offer up the idea in a way that also told a story. There was a period in my life when it seemed like everything I wrote ended up rhyming. I actually got sick of rhyme. I never wanted to hear “moon” and “spoon” in the same sentence again! But sometimes, despite her best intentions, a girl has to rhyme. That’s all there is to it. And when I finally gave in, this book became a kind of jazz song. I hope when people read it they add a few little scats between the lines, including one for the cat who appears right at the very end. And Rob Dunleavy’s jazzy art seems to inspire a cool, bouncy rhythm.
At the end of the day, my hope is that my picture books will find a way into the hands of a tired, frustrated mom who is working hard to help a cranky little toddler feel better. How great would that be? I think picture books matter. And maybe, probably, they matter as much to those of us who write and illustrate them as they do to their small readers. Like I said, they saved me, and they still do.
Kirby! Thank you for inviting me to ramble down your Lane.
Kathi Appelt’s books have won numerous national and state awards, including the Irma and Simon Black Award, Children’s Choice Award, Teacher’s Choice Award, the Oppenheimer Gold Award, Parent’s Choice Award, Storytelling World Award, Growing Good Kids Award, Texas Writer’s League Award for Children’s Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Award, Best Books for Young Adults, VOYA Top of the Shelf Award, and a host of others.
Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the Pen USA Award, and was a finalist for the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award.
In 2009, she was named “Texas Distinguished Writer” by the Friends of the Abilene Public Library.
She is married to Ken, a musician and all around nice guy. Together they have two grown sons, Jacob and Cooper. Both of them are musicians too. They also share their home with six cats: Jazz, Hoss, D’jango, Peach, Mingus and Chica.
She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.