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Notes from the Writing Life

Exciting Times for The 57 Bus!

Exciting Times for The 57 Bus!
Today's announcement that The 57 Bus is a Finalist for an LA Times Book Award (along with four of my favorite books of the year) had me leaping about like an over-caffeinated gazelle. But it's been a pretty incredible month. Earlier this month, the book was awarded the American Library Association's Stonewall Book Award and was also named a Finalist for a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. That, plus four starred reviews and 15 best-of lists has me feeling pretty grateful for all the love.
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25 Authors for Teens Share Their 2018 Writing Resolutions | School Library Journal

http://www.slj.com/2018/01/teens-ya/25-authors-teens-share-2018-writers-resolutions/
M.T. Anderson resolved to get out of his pajamas earlier. Ibi Zoboi resolved to spend more time daydreaming. And me? I wrote a Writer's Resolution Rhyme.
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What An Honor!

What An Honor!
Thrilled to learn that NCIBA has named THE ANTLERED SHIP as its Picture Book of the Year and THE 57 BUS as its Young Adult Book of the Year. Thanks, NCIBA!
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How to Make A Bathtub Friendly Antlered Ship

How to Make A Bathtub Friendly Antlered Ship

Yesterday, at the launch party for my new picture book, The Antlered Ship, I taught folks how to make their very own bathtub-friendly antlered ship. It's the perfect bookstore, library or classroom craft -- no glue, no tools, no paint, no mess. All the materials are easy to find, around-the-house things -- perfect for upcyclers. Want to make your own? Watch the video demo or scroll down for written instructions. (I'll have a PDF of these instructions available for download soon. -- visit the Speaking section of this site and look under Resources and Learning Materials.)

Materials You'll Need:

·       1 or more pipe cleaners

·       2 rubber bands

·       3 corks

·       1 bamboo skewer trimmed to roughly 6 inches, or 6 inch knitting needle, or sharpened chop stick, or similar item to use as a mast

·       scrap card stock or acetate for sails (old folders or binder dividers work well)

·       clear or colored tape

·       scissors

·       hole punch 

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Step One: Make Your Antlered Figure Head

·      Cut one pipe cleaner in half

·      Take one half, make a loop, and shape the ends into antler shapes. The loop is your deer head – you can twist into a solid shape or keep it as a loop – your choice.

·      Twist the other half around the antlers to create more antler branches.

·      If you want, you can continue to add more pipe cleaners.

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Step Two: Make A Ship and Attach Your Figurehead

·      Loop a rubber band around each end of the antlers.

·      Gather three corks. Make sure the center one is made of actual cork so that it’s easily pierced. If you have plastic corks, you will need to make a hole in the side of the center one with a nail or other implement. (Grown-ups should do this for small kids; older kids can do it themselves with supervision.)

·      Wrap the rubber bands around three corks so that the corks are held together like a raft and the figure head is at the bow.

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Step Three: Add Sails

·      Cut sails out of card stock or acetate. I find that two rectangle shapes work well, with one smaller than the other.

·      Fold the smaller sail in half and pierce down the center line with whatever you’re using as a mast. (You can use a hole punch to make holes, or just poke it through)

·      Slide the sail towards the top and do the same with the larger sail.

·      Add a pennant to the top of your mast. You might use a piece of colored tape folded over the top and trimmed into a penant shape. Or you might cut a pennant shape from colored paper or acetate and tape it to the top of the mast with clear tape.

·      When all your sails are on the mast, poke the mast into the center cork.

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Step Four: Sail Away in Search of Answers . . . or More Questions

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The Story Behind The Antlered Ship

The Story Behind The Antlered Ship

One morning, I woke with an image hovering just behind my eyes, like the after-image of a bright light. A ship with antlers at its prow, sailing into a harbor.  I had no memory of the dream it had come from, if it had indeed come from a dream. All I had were questions: Why did that ship have antlers? Where was it going? Who was on board and what were they looking for? The only way to find the answer was to sit down and write the story.

As I wrote, I encountered Marco the fox, who boarded the Antlered Ship in order to find answers to his questions about the world. His quest mirrored my own. The more I wrote, the more I recognized in Marco the curiosity that made me both a reader and a writer.

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Everything I write begins with curiosity –that vibrating alertness that comes with wanting to know more. In college, my curiosity was so wide-ranging that I ended up designing my own major so that I wouldn’t have to settle on a single area of study. Afterwards, I became a journalist, the one profession where unbridled curiosity is the most important – perhaps the only -- qualification.

Through journalism, curiosity has led me to some amazing places. I’ve tracked wild wolves, paddled a kayak through a hurricane, and gone for a walk while holding the trunk of a baby elephant. I’ve interviewed every kind of person imaginable – scientists and inventors, paupers and politicians, judges and murderers, athletes and aesthetes. Each of those stories began the same way: with a list of questions.

Questions, of course, are the special province of children. When my son was little, I kept a list of the ones he asked me. What makes fire? What if trees could walk? Why don’t people have tails? How do you know if a volcano is extinct? Where does water come from? What does German sound like? What if all clothes were bathing suits?

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As we get older, most of us begin to fear that asking such questions will make us look stupid and so we ask fewer and fewer of them. We value certainty more than curiosity, answers more than inquiry. But while certainty ends a conversation, curiosity starts one. Questions are how we learn about the world, and about one another. Questions are what make us climb aboard a ship bound for unknown places.

I didn’t know that The Antlered Ship was a book about curiosity when I started it. But if I hadn’t been curious, I never would have found out. I hope that when children read the book, they’ll be inspired to be lifelong questioners, asking questions not just of parents, teachers, and librarians, but of themselves and of each other. As Marco discovers in the course of the story, the quest to find answers is often more important than the answers themselves, and the best answers inevitably lead to more questions. 

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