Dec 18, 2009

Signed Bookplates

Would you like your copy of one of my books signed? If so, shoot me an email and I'll send you a signed, personalized bookplate that you can put in the front of your copy. I have them for all three of my books. This is also a nice touch if you're giving someone the book as a gift!

Nov 20, 2009

Review/Interview Damsels in Regress

Check out the review of The Other Half of Life and interview with me on Damsels in Regress, a website devoted to books about historical fiction!

Nov 17, 2009

The Other Half of Life wins a Parents' Choice Award

Just found out The Other Half of Life rec'd a Silver Parents' Choice Award.

Established in 1978, Parents’ Choice Foundation is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media. Parents’ Choice Awards are given to products that meet and exceed standards set by educators, scientists, artists, musicians, librarians, parents, and yes, kids themselves. Fewer than 20% of the products submitted to the Parents Choice Award program receive any level of commendation, so I'm thrilled OHOL was chosen!

Nov 11, 2009

Listen to Elie Wiesel's presentation on WBUR

WBUR 90.9 FM will broadcast Elie Wiesel's lecture on the "Tragedy of the St. Louis" Sunday, November 15th at 9:00 pm.

Nov 10, 2009

Elie Wiesel on "Tragedy of St. Louis"

I had the pleasure of hearing Elie Wiesel speak on the "Tragedy of the St. Louis" at Boston University yesterday. Thousands of people attended Prof. Wiesel's lecture on what he aptly called the "Moral Titanic." If you've never had the chance to hear Prof. Wiesel speak, I suggest you somehow find a way to in the future. Simply put, he is amazing. A rare combination of intellect, soul, and humanity.

Much of his presentation was outlining the history of the St. Louis but his overall theme was man's inhumanity to man. He spoke of the shame of the leaders of the free world who "failed the test of humanity" in turning the St. Louis away. But he did not solely lay the blame on the leaders of free countries. He noted that the majority of the American public and American Jews did not express enough outrage about the situation. He stressed that no one staged a national protest or initiated a petition. He stated that had the St. Louis debacle happened a year earlier this might have been more tolerable but months after Kristallnacht--the horrors of which were covered widely by the American media--the American public knew full well what Jews faced in Hitler's Germany.

Wiesel singled out Captain Schroeder for his exemplary actions on behalf of his passengers. While the characters in my book are composites of real passengers, there is one exception and that is the Captain. He is the one person I chose to portray accurately because I was in awe of this man and the choices and risks he took on behalf of 937 Jewish passengers. Wiesel noted that Captain Schroeder is the hero in the story of the St. Louis and will "be remembered as a humanist." Schroeder later in life received the medal for Righteous Gentiles.

Other points in the talk I found particularly interesting included the fact that in 1938 and 1939 the Nazi policy, as put forward by Eichmann, was to help Jews leave the country in any way possible. Wiesel noted that at the Evian Conference Hitler even said, "Germany is ready to hand over Jews on luxury ships." But Germany was equally pleased when other countries didn't want the Jews either--it was confirmation in front of the whole world that "no one wanted the Jews."

In conclusion, Wiesel explained that all questions regarding the St. Louis remain unanswered. He stressed that what we can take away as students of history is that, as proven by Captain Schroeder, choice always exists. He ended the lecture by saying that to wait and to be silent is a sin, and that one should never give up on man's capacity for hope. He said, "Whatever you do in your life, think higher and feel deeper."

Nov 6, 2009

Back from Houston

Just got back from Houston, where I visited Beren Academy, the Emery-Weiner School, and the JCC. I gave several of my multi media presentations on The Other Half of Life, as well as did writing workshops for smaller classes. I was so impressed by the students at Beren, EW, and the JCC. They were great audiences, fabulous writers, and inquisitive minds. They asked wonderful questions about the St. Louis and my book, and in the workshops produced some top-notch writing! The general enthusiasm and energy of the students blew me away!

Thanks to the whole group who planned my visit and made my trip so pleasant: Marilyn Hassid and Judy Weil at the JCC, Elaine Lupovitch at Emery-Weiner, and my hosts Isabelle Meyer and Shira Yosher. And of course the biggest thanks to all the students!

Oct 21, 2009

Elie Wiesel on St. Louis at Boston University

I recently found out that Elie Wiesel will be doing two presentations on the voyage of the St. Louis, one in Boston in a few weeks and one in the spring in New York. The Boston one is free and open to the public.

As many of you know, Professor Wiesel was kind enough to blurb my book. I'm really looking forward to attending the BU presentation. Here is the info below:

In Our Own Time: The Tragedy of the Saint Louis
Introduction by Rabbi Joseph A. Polak, Director, Hillel Foundation; Rabbi to the Jewish Community at Boston University
November 9, 2009 at 7p.m

Oct 13, 2009

PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Award open for submissions

I'm very proud to be a member of the PEN New England Children's Book Caucus. One of the greatest things we do is offer our annual Discovery Award for unpublished New England authors. I won this award in 2001 (before I was on the committee, of course) and now I'm the coordinator for the contest. Our 2010 contest is now open and below are the guidelines!

Each year, the PEN New England Children’s Book Caucus honors emerging writers and writer/illustrators with its Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Winners will present their work to the public at the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Evening in May 2010, and winning manuscripts will be read by editors at major publishing houses. In past years, editors from Knopf, Candlewick, and Houghton Mifflin have read winning submissions.

Entrants must be residents of New England who have not been published in any genre (with the exception of magazines, anthologies and self-publishing), and the submitted work (or another work) must not be under contract to be published. While people who have self-published may submit, we ask that the piece they submit be unpublished. People who have done work-for-hire books are allowed to submit if their name did not appear on the work-for-hire. Previous winners of the contest are not eligible. We are able to accept only one entry per person, in one of the following four categories: picture books, novels, poetry and nonfiction.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, February 1 2010. Entries need only be postmarked by that date. If you want to be sure your entry has been received, enclose a self-addressed and stamped postcard. Please do not require a signature for delivery.

All work should be—in both format and quality—ready for consideration by a publisher. The Caucus does not determine ahead of time the number of winners or the categories to be represented. Winners will be notified by late March.

To submit your work, please follow these guidelines:

1. Each submission of text should be approximately 10 pages in length, double-spaced, though picture books may be shorter. PLEASE NOTE: Manuscripts will not be returned.

Picture books: Send complete text. If you are a writer and not an illustrator, there is no need to send along illustrations. Similarly, illustrators are encouraged to submit illustrations without text. In this case, please send a portfolio of 3-5 illustrations. Author/illustrators should include sample illustrations or a book dummy, which will be returned if an appropriate SASE is provided. Do not send original artwork.

Middle grade or Y/A novels: Send one or two chapters, and a one-page synopsis.

Poetry: Send up to ten poems.

Nonfiction: Send one or two chapters, plus a brief outline or table of contents.

2. Include a short biographical statement about your experience and interest in the field.

3. Include a phone number and e-mail address (if available).

4. Enclose a letter-sized SASE for notification of decisions.

5. Mail your submission to:
PEN New England/CBC Discovery Night
c/o Kim Ablon Whitney
34 Stafford Rd.
Newton Centre, MA 02459

Sep 30, 2009

Upcoming Events

I'll add to this list as dates/events come in but here are some upcoming events...

Book & Arts Fair
Jewish Community Center of Houston
November 4, 2009

SAR Academy
New York, NY
November 9, 2009

Northwest Ohio Jewish Book Fair
Toledo, Ohio
November 22, 2009

Groton Public Library
Groton, MA
January 14, 2010

Sep 15, 2009

Dealing with feedback

Usually I get wonderful emails from teachers, librarians and readers themselves letting me know how much they enjoyed my book. There's nothing better as an author! Sometimes they ask questions about writing the book or how I decided to write a certain scene, plot point or event.

Rarely, but sometimes, I get negative feedback. This is an email from a librarian (kept anonymous) who objected to a few of the (very subtle!) passages about Thomas's burgeoning sexuality. I've also included my reply. I was pleased that she actually liked the rest of the book!!!

Hello Ms. Whitney,
I hope you are well.

I borrowed your book from our local library to preview it for purchase for my school library, as I am the librarian for a Jewish school grades k-8. After having read historical accounts on the MS St. Louis when I was a child, I was especially intrigued to read an account written for a younger audience. As has become my practice, I read every fiction book I consider for our library before purchasing it. This is done for several reasons - I want to ensure that the books I buy have literary merit, a meaningful story-line, and to check if it is appropriate for our audience. This is necessary because librarians have to answer to administrators, teachers and parents.

I really liked the book, as a whole. I liked how you set up Thomas as a victim of the Holocaust, his family background sounded realistic, the people on the ship were believable. I especially liked the interesting relationship between Manfred and Thomas. You had many fine story-lines going on, but here is my problem with the book- the reading level is clearly not a Young Adult, even though Thomas is 15 years old. It is more for a 4th to 5th grade level. If so, why did you find it necessary to include many "mature themed" passages? How would I explain/defend to my principals and /or to a parent, because they will ask, about some of theses passages? For example, on page 27 : "He stared at her a moment too long, looking from her face to her chest and then back up to her face again. She dipped her chin and averted her eyes. " on page p.67 when Frau Rosen was set up for a trick, she falls, and ..."her dress flew up. Thomas couldn't help but stare, letting his eyes wander from her varnished red toenails to her upper thigh." or on page 88, " Somehow she ended up almost entirely in his arms...he had his hands on her waist and he was close enough to kiss her. He felt all his blood rushing to a part of his body he generally tried not to think about."

Does there really need to be sexual tension in a book written on such a young level? Couldn't you tell a good story without passages such as these? It does not add to the story, it actually cheapens it. Scenes like these merely serve as distractions, when you don't need them- you have enough material to make this a very interesting book. Over the past 10 years of working as a school librarian, I have had many children come up to me and ask why authors need to write certain crude words or include sketchy scenes. It actually makes many children very uncomfortable. It doesn't matter if a librarian works for a public, private or parochial school, we have to answer to those who trust us to make responsible decisions when it comes to buying books school libraries. So although , I truly liked your story, as I am sure that my administrators and parents would agree, I will not be including it in our collection. I just ask that you be more sensitive in any future books.

Dear Ms. BLANK,

Thanks for taking the time to offer your comments about my book. I'm glad you liked the overall story and I'm also sorry you found several passages to be inappropriate.

Given that Thomas was 15, I felt I should try to accurately account for the feelings and emotions of a burgeoning young adult. That said, I tried to keep them subtle, knowing that younger kids would likely read the book.

While perhaps precocious 4th and 5th graders may read it, it is targeted more at the middle and high school levels. In their reviews School Library Journal and Booklist cited 6th-8th and 7th-10th respectively for reading levels. I myself feel 6th grade is the youngest it should generally be read by.

Still, I understand and appreciate your predicament about not including my book in your collection. Thanks again for your feedback.


Sep 3, 2009

Random Acts of Publicity Week

Just heard about this and it's a great idea!!

Aug 17, 2009

Sacramento Book Review reviews OHOL

The Other Half of Life
By Kim Ablon Whitney
Knopf, $16.99, 256 pages
Emotions are high as the St. Francis leaves her German port. Some
sing, others cry, but most feel a strong sense of relief as they watch
Nazi Germany fade into the horizon and look forward to days of
freedom in Cuba. All, perhaps, except for fifteen-year-old Thomas. For
him, the promise of freedom, of escape, that the St. Francis offers is
too good to be trusted, especially considering the fact that most of the
ship’s crew, except the Captain, are Nazi party members and officers. Why, Thomas
wonders, would a Nazi boat take nine hundred Jews to freedom, and on a luxury cruise
liner, no less? As Thomas struggles to reconcile his desire for freedom with his contempt
and suspicion for the crew and their shady behavior, he forges friendships and love with
the other passengers whose sole hope is for a new life. But, when the Cuban government
denies the boat entry into the country, and the American Coast Guard trail alongside the
St. Francis to make sure she does not dock on U.S. soil, what are the passengers left to
The ill-fated story of the MS St. Francis, German-Jewish refugees and her Nazi crew is
based on one of the lesser known, and devastatingly true, events that transpired during the
Nazi era. While The Other Half of Life contains fictional characters, the story’s characters
and events mirror those of the MS St. Louis. This compelling insight into one of the most
embarrassing and heartbreaking events surrounding World War II is a must read for any
reader, both young adult and adult alike, who is interested in learning about the
Reviewed by Kim Hudson Raffanelli

Aug 3, 2009

Blog on Big Eq

Horse people!

My latest blog on Big Eq is up.

Also, just got back from visiting Storyland in NH, right next to the old Attitash show! What a wonderful show that was--all jumpers. It was always one of my faves. The Spaghetti Shed is still there and is as yummy as ever!

Jul 27, 2009

The Picnic Basket

My book is featured on The Picnic Basket, a blog for teachers and librarians! Check it out!

Jul 22, 2009

Holocaust memoirs debunked

Here's a very interesting article on Sharon Sergeant, an adjunct faculty member in Boston University’s genealogical research program, who has helped debunk three fraudulent Holocaust memoirs.

I can't help but wonder what makes people write a false accounting of the Holocaust?

Jul 20, 2009

5 Laws of Being a Novelist

Check out this editorial in today's Boston Globe. It's always nice to know other novelists share your pain!

Jul 8, 2009

For horse people.... my first guest blog about judging

I'm going to be guest-blogging for about my perspective as a horse show judge. My first blog is up... stay tuned for more! And feel free to contact me with any ideas you'd like to see me write about in future blogs!

Jun 29, 2009

School Library Journal Review

Another review has come in... it's always nerve-wracking to get these from your publisher but so far so good...

July 2009 issue of School Library Journal

WHITNEY, Kim Ablon. The Other Half of Life. 256p. bibliog. chron. CIP. Knopf/Borzoi. 2009. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85219-0; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95219-7. LC 2008038949.

Gr 6-8–Based on the story of the MS St. Louis in 1939, the journey of the fictional Nazi luxury liner MS St. Francis from Germany to Cuba and the United States creates the dramatic underpinning for this story. Focusing on 15-year-old Thomas Werkmann and 14-year-old Priska Affeldt, Whitney chronicles what happened to more than 900 Jews seeking refuge from growing anti-Semitism in Germany. Thomas is traveling alone. His father, who is Jewish, is in Dachau, and his mother, a Christian, could raise the money for only one passage. A strong friendship develops between the wary boy and optimistic Priska, who is traveling with her family. Whitney integrates, sometimes in an overly journalistic tone, information about oppression in Germany, but readers’ attention is held by the young passengers’ playful pranks, the developing romance between the two main characters, and tension between the passengers and the Nazi crew. Chess becomes significant to the story, possibly leaving some readers at a loss. The dramatic tone is sometimes too subdued, especially when the passengers are forced to make the return trans-Atlantic journey after being turned away from Cuba and the United States. In spite of these shortcomings, this story will hold readers’ interest and heighten awareness of history that could become forgotten. The author imparts the fates of the passengers in the last two chapters, one set 10 years after the ship returns to Europe and the other 70 years after. A chronology of German anti-Semitic legislation is appended.–Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

Jun 24, 2009

Tower of Books Guest Blog

Check out my guest blog on Tower of Books and also a review there too!

Jun 21, 2009

Washington Post Cartoonist Art Spiegelman recounts St. Louis voyage

Here is a link to a very interesting cartoon by Art Spiegelman on the 70th anniversary of the passengers disembarking the ship back in Europe. I found it fascinating to see the 1939 cartoons and Mr. Spiegelman's comments on them through today's perspective.

Jun 16, 2009

Ellen Steinbaum's site

The recession/digital era has taken its toll on print media and one of the casualties was Ellen Steinbaum's 'City Type' column in the Sunday Boston Globe. With less and less book coverage in print media, I really miss this column! Ellen is continuing it in a different form on her website, introducing local authors and books. She was kind enough to feature The Other Half of Life:

Jun 15, 2009

Review and a mention

The Other Half of Life got a nice review on Enchanting Reviews....

It also got a nice mention Stephen Dann's chess column of the Worcester Telegram this past Sunday.

Jun 5, 2009

Jewish Book Council "Meet the Authors"

I recently returned from the Jewish Book Council Conference "Meet the Authors" event in New York City. What a blast! The MTA event happens over three nights--each night 60 authors who either are Jewish or have a book with a Jewish theme (or a combo) give two-minute pitches about their books and presentations to program directors.

It's kind of like American Idol meets Speed Dating.

By virtue of my lovely married name, I had the priveledge of going dead last on my night. (In a shout-out to all my horse friends, it was kind of like going last at the Medal or Maclay Finals.)

All I can say is thank god Jews are funny! I laughed out loud many times during the event and the two plus hours of pitching went by pretty fast. Being married to a WASP, I can only imagine how deadly this event would have been if it had been the Protestant Book Council.

More than anything I came away from the event overwhelmed and impressed by how many amazing books and authors there are out there. Here are a few in particular that caught my eye:

Andrew Blauner, BROTHERS
Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, MY LITTLE RED BOOK
Steve Luxenberg, ANNIE'S GHOSTS

May 28, 2009

My Guest Blog on Jungle Writers Red

Check out my guest blog on Jungle Red Writers:

Special thanks to Hank Phillippi Ryan for inviting me to blog!

May 22, 2009

A special person attended my reading--help me find her!

Last night I did a reading at Porter Square Books. An older woman arrived early and sat in the back row. I just had this feeling from seeing her that she had a personal connection to either the St. Louis or the Holocaust.

After the reading she came up and spoke to me. Yes, she and her husband, who just recently passed away, both survived the camps. She was understandably very emotional about my book and I was so grateful to meet her.

I only wish I had gotten her name so I could get back in touch with her. She said how painful it is for her to relive the memories of the Holocaust and she didn't get a copy of my book, I think for the very reason that it would be too hard for her to read the whole thing and relive that time period. That said, I would very much like to give her a copy of my book--I understand if she can't read it but I would just like her to have it. Perhaps she would share it with her daughter, who lives in West Newton.

So this is what I know about her: she lives in Cambridge and her daughter lives in West Newton (on Highland Ave.). If by any chance anyone who reads this knows who she might be or has her contact info, I would love to have it so I can get back in touch with her.

May 14, 2009

Upcoming Events!

I have a few events scheduled for the upcoming weeks...

--I'll be appearing on "The Jewish Perspective" on WHDH/Channel 7, the Boston NBC Affiliate on May 17 at 6 a.m. I'm the last segment on the half-hour show.

--I'm doing a reading/signing along with my friend and fellow YA author, Pat Lowery Collins, at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass. on Thursday, May 21 at 7 p.m.

--I'm doing a reading/signing at Newtonville Books in Newton, Mass. on Saturday, June 6 at 2 p.m.

--I'm doing a reading/signing at the Wellesley Booksmith in Wellesley, Mass. on Saturday, June 13 at 2 p.m.

May 13, 2009

70th Anniversary of Departure of St. Louis

It's May 13, 2009. Exactly 70 years ago today over 900 people were readying to board the MS St. Louis. They were leaving their homes, their lives, often their families... all with the hope of gaining freedom. Sadly, many of those passengers' freedom was short-lived.

Today THE OTHER HALF OF LIFE is available in bookstores. I hope it encourages more people, especially younger generations, to learn about the St. Louis. Today I personally am thinking about how lucky I am to have always had a safe and free life. So many others today still are struggling against tyranny, racism, and violence.

I received a very nice phone message yesterday from the Karliners, saying they had received the copies of the book I sent them and how happy they were with the final product. Herbert Karliner was one of the passengers on the St. Louis who eventually did gain freedom and a new life. Much of his family did not.

I also received a very nice email from Anthony Blechner, son of Oskar Blechner, another passenger of the St. Louis, who sadly is no longer with us. Anthony has alerted me to another website that deals specifically with Oskar's story. Please check it out to learn more:

May 11, 2009

It takes a village!

It's two days before THE OTHER HALF OF LIFE officially comes out and I just wanted to take a moment to let people in on the little "secret" of how many people have helped me with this book along the way.  I recognize a lot of them in my acknowledgements page in the actual book, from my writing group (Lynne Heitman, Mike Wiecek, Samantha Cameron) to my writing partner, Cara Crandall, my babysitter, Maggie O'Brien, and the many experts I interviewed including my "chess angel" Luke Calhoun and Herbert Karliner, who so kindly shared his memories of being on the St. Louis.  Of course there's also my family--specifically my parents, my grandparents, and husband.  And everyone at Knopf, including my amazing editor, Nancy Hinkel.

All those people have helped along the way during the writing of the book and more recently I've also had amazing assistance from even more friends.  I feel so lucky that I have an army of friends who are willing to share their talents with me in order to help my career.  My good friend Caranine Smith designed my entire website and I think it's awesome!  My neighbor, Ken Bernstein, took the photographs of me that appear on the website.  And Lynne Heitman came with me recently to a talk I gave at the Maimonides School and videotaped it.  I have since edited the video and posted it on youtube so people can get a slice of the program I offer schools about the St. Louis and my book.

I couldn't have done all this without you all--thank you!!

Apr 28, 2009

The Blechner Family Story

I wrote briefly about meeting Mark Blechner in my last post and I wanted to follow up on his family's amazing story.  

Mark's father was one of four brothers all born in Germany in the early 1900's.  Each survived the Holocaust through very different means.  Mark's uncle, Oskar, was on board the St. Louis and when the ship returned to Europe, he was luckily selected to go to England.  

How did he come to be selected to go to England?  Mark told me that at one point before Oskar traveled on the St. Louis, when the family was investigating ways to escape Nazi Germany, Oskar's mother had been writing to friends in England and trying to get admitted there.  

When the JDC worked to determine which passengers aboard the St. Louis to send where, they came across files that noted that the Blechners had tried to gain entrance to England or knew people there and so they assigned Oskar to go to England.  Talk about the hand of fate...

Mark's father was not so lucky.  He spent the war in multiple concentration camps and somehow survived.  Mark explained that his father never talked about his experiences until he was in his late 80's.  At Passover every year, his father would cry when they got to the part in the seder about the mortar.  Mark would ask him, "Why are you crying?"  And his father would say, "I used to work with bricks, that's all.  Now, leave me alone."

Then one time, Mark went to visit the National Holocaust Museum in D.C. and was looking at a giant photo-mural of prisoners laboring in a work-camp.  There, he saw his father.  He finally understood why his father cried during the seder--that, in fact, he had worked with bricks. 

Mark's father began to open up about his experience and shared with Mark many of his traumatic memories.  Mark also has an amazing collection of family artifacts that he shares with students during school visits, including a postcard his father sent while a prisoner at Auschwitz, and also the postcard he sent immediately after his liberation from Belsen.

To learn more about the Blechner Family, visit

Apr 22, 2009

Maimonides School on Holocaust Remembrance Day

I had the priveledge of speaking to the middle school (6th-8th grades) at the Maimonides School in Brookline yesterday on Holocaust Remembrance Day or "Yom Hashoah."

My presentation included history of the voyage of the St. Louis and also what it was like to research and write a novel on such an important subject. I was so impressed by the students--they were really interested in the subject and asked smart questions. I was also surprised to learn that only a handful knew about the St. Louis. For many people, especially younger generations, the St. Louis really is "a forgotten chapter" of the Holocaust.

Part of my presentation includes a power-point using archival photographs from the actual voyage and it was incredible to see how the kids reacted to the photos. Some of the photos are of kids their own age and I could see them imagining themselves as passengers whose fates hung in the balance.

I also sprinkled in excerpts from my novel and it was exciting to see them connect with the characters. One student asked, "What happens to Thomas?" Of course, I couldn't exactly reveal that but I was glad that he cared about him enough to wonder.

Comprehending the 11 million lives lost in the Holocaust is a daunting task and this one boy's question, about my fictional character no less, made me realize how important it is to find a personal way to connect with history and trauma. It seems as if the best way to remember the people who died is to learn about a select few at a time. To immerse yourself in their stories and imagine yourself in their lives, presented with their choices, or lack of choices.

After my presentation, Mark Blechner, an alum of Maimo and also a father of a senior there, spoke about his family's story during the Holocaust. Mark's father was one of four brothers who all survived, although they were forced to take very different paths to surivival.

Mark's uncle, Oskar Blechner, was a passenger on the St. Louis. He was sent to England and survived the war there in relative safety. Mark's father lived through multiple concentration camps and came to the U.S. after the war. Mark shared some amazing artifacts and stories about his family and perhaps I'll write more about those in another blog. It was an honor to meet him and learn more about his family. You can also visit the Blechner Family website to find out more:

Mar 26, 2009

PEN New England Discovery Award Winners

I'm lucky to be a member of the PEN New England Children's Book Caucus and I'm also the coordinator of the PEN NE Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Well, we just announced the four winners who were selected by the caucus from a record 200 entries!

Usually we have around 100 entries. Why so many this year? Maybe more people are graduating from MFA programs? Maybe job loss has allowed some people to finally polish off that novel or picture book that they always wanted to write?

Either way, it was great to see so many entries and many were top notch in quality. It was hard to pick the winners this year and I'm positive there were many that didn't win that are of publishable quality and will go on to find homes at publishing houses.

I personally know that two of my good friends, Lara Zeises and Laurie Stolarz, both submitted to the contest way back when they were unpublished and while they didn't win, both have gone on to stellar careers.

And in fact a few days ago I received a letter from a woman named Jane Kohuth who submitted a picture book to the contest letting me know to take her out of the running because her book, Ducks Go Vroom, had been acquired by Random House. Well, it was too late to take her out of the running--but she hadn't won, which just goes to show you how subjective reading fiction is.

Anyway, here are our winners. Please come to our event and celebrate them. It's Sunday, May 3rd at 6:30 pm at Lesley College.

Maria Gianferrera of Waltham, MA for her picture book, Terrific Tongues
Anna Staniszewski of North Easton, MA for her middle grade novel, The Tinkerers
J. James Keels of Montpelier, VT for his YA novel, Starving Hysterical Naked
Shelagh Smith of East Bridgewater, MA for her YA novel, A Mouthful of Straw

Mar 4, 2009

I'll be at the Kinship Writers Festival March 21st

I'll be at the Kinship Writers Festival on March 21st in Arlington, Mass. I'll be reading from my not-yet-released book, THE OTHER HALF OF LIFE--this is the first time I'm reading from it in public! I'll also have a booth at the event focused on the craft of "Writing What You Don't Know" with ideas on how writers can write convincingly about stories that are not at all similar to their life experiences.

There are plenty of other great writers reading and holding booths so whether you're a writer and/or a reader come check it out! This is the brainchild of Erin Moulton and I'd like to thank her for inviting me to participate. Another fun tidbit for me is that two of the other authors reading--Erin Dionne and Ammi-Joan Paquette--are former PEN New England Discovery Winners.

For more info, here's the link.... hope to see you there!

Jan 25, 2009

Website Update

Big thanks to my friend and web designer, Caranine Smith, for redoing my site! It now includes all kinds of info on my new book, THE OTHER HALF OF LIFE, which will be out from Knopf in May. May 12 to be exact, but you can actually pre-order it now on Amazon. You can read the first chapter and read a short interview about why I wrote it and what the process was like for me since this is my first foray into historical fiction.

This is kind of a funny time in the book-birthing process. After reseaching and writing, and rewriting, and rewriting, and editing, my work on the book is officially done--it's in the last round of copyediting and then will go on to the printers. I'm really excited for it to come out and now I just have to sit back and wait, which when you write a book is something you're really not very used to doing!