Monthly Archives: February 2018

Laura’s Bookshelf: The Frame-up

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Jone at Check It Out. She’s got big news about the Cybil Award for Poetry!

Happy Poetry Friday! Thanks for visiting the Poe House with me last week. I pulled a random name from the comments and Jama Rattigan is the winner of the Poe Keepsake Journal. Congratulations, Jama!

Before I get to this week’s post, I want to thank Arnold Adoff and the Virginia Hamilton Conference. Last week, I learned that my debut novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was named the Arnold Adoff Poetry Award for New Voices honor book. “Surprised” is an understatement! It is a huge honor and I’m so grateful for the recognition. Please do visit the full list of award-winners. There are some phenomenal books among the 2018 awardees.

It’s been over a year since I started keeping a personal bullet journal. (If you’re not familiar with bullet journals, start with this post.)

Inspired by my educator friends, one of the new things I’m trying with my 2018 journal is tracking my reading. I’ve kept track via Goodreads before, but charting books is allowing me to take a close look at my genre preferences and how many children’s novels I read, versus YA or adult.

So far, it looks like this:

I am very excited about my most recent read.

Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s The Frame-up is about  boy who — spending the summer with his art-gallery-director father — discovers a great secret. Paintings are alive!

Let’s say you are a portrait. You keep all of the memories of your living person (the subject of the portrait) until the moment the painting is finished.

From that point on, you become your own entity, keeping quiet and still during the day, so museum goers won’t guess the truth. At night, you visit friends and neighbors in other paintings. And by visit, I mean going into a painting of a pub to drink and dance with your buddies or, if you’re a child, hopping into a seascape with a soothing pier for you to walk around. If that seascape is so soothing that you fall asleep in the painting — the wrong painting — no worries … as long as you’re back in your own picture by the time the museum opens.

But let’s say the gallery director’s son, Sargent Singer, happens to come along to the gallery one night and notice that your portrait frame is empty. And then what if he spots you, fast asleep on a pier, in the wrong painting?

This middle grade contemporary fantasy will be available in June. Pre-order now from Indiebound.

This is how The Frame-up opens. The painting that Sargent catches is that of a girl about his age, Mona Dunn. (You can view William Orpen’s Mona Dunn here.) The two of them spark a secret friendship, chock-full of adventures and mishaps.

How serendipitous that I’d have a chance to read the ARC right now, when our February Poetry Project is in the midst of writing in response to art! I know that members of this group are going to love how vividly MacKnight imagines the personalities of several paintings — all found at the real-life Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick, Canada.

It’s also a super fun book. The climax (involving nefarious goings-on at the gallery) is exciting, both in our world, and in the world of the paintings. And the resolution? It totally tugged at my art-strings. (Get it?)

I went back to the first February Poetry Project, looking for a poem to pair with Wendy’s book. The theme that year was vintage post cards.

Many of those poems were portraits of the people pictured on the cards, but only one imagined that the people in the image are awake, thinking beings.

Luckily, this poem is a good fit for Valentine’s Week.

Cartoon Boy Meets Cartoon Girl
By Laura Shovan

You have no lips to kiss or speak.
I have no ears to listen.
Let me lean on this picket fence,
watch you hover
over a loop of jump rope,
your braids drawn up
by bat-winged ribbons.
You cannot see my baseball cap
or read my cautious expression.
Your lashes fell a moment before
the cartoonist imagined us.
But I will wait. The next panel,
with your fluttering lids, must come.
The artist — would he leave us
forever like this?

Sadly, these two are frozen in their art, unable to move or communicate. They’d much prefer being in the wonderful world of The Frame-up. Find the original post with this postcard and poem at Author Amok.

Takedown: Source List

Hello, friends and readers.

One of my favorite things about being an author is doing research. When my children were in elementary school, I worked part-time as a features writer for Baltimore’s Child magazine and my local edition of The Baltimore Sun. As a newcomer to Maryland, the job helped me get to know my new community. It also taught me how to interview people, visit an event or location and catch interesting details, and how to write on a deadline.

As a fiction writer, my sources tend to come from four main places: non-fiction books, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and personal observations (sometimes called gonzo research — either going to or participating in an event related to the story). Documentaries and YouTube videos are another go-to resource.

Takedown is about two middle school wrestlers, Lev and Mikayla. It will be published on June 19, 2018 (Random House Kids).

In order to be transparent, I am going to create a list of sources I use for my books, beginning with Takedown.

Takedown is a wrestling story. When I started drafting the book in fall of 2015, it had been several years since my son put on a singlet, headgear, and wrestling boots. I had a lot of research to do in order to relearn the sport.

TAKEDOWN: Sources and works consulted
(I’ll be adding to this list periodically as I look through my notes. It’s going to look informal at first. I’ll come back and use standard formatting later.)

Videos and Documentaries
“Helen Maroulis used lessons learned in London to win gold,” NBCOlympics.com
“Helen Maroulis’ mantra: ‘Christ in me, I am enough’,” NBCOlympics.com

Articles
“Zaccardi: Helen Maroulis’ takedown of a legend has been years in the making,” NBCOlympics.com
Akinnagbe, Gbenga. “A Metamorphosis on the Wrestling Mat,” The New York Times, 3/3/2012.
Smith, Tim. “Focus on NFL, injuries makes ‘X’s and O’s’ a timely entry at Center Stage,” The Baltimore Sun, 11/15/15.
Stein, Betsy. “Editor’s Letter: Lessons learned on being a supportive sports parent,” Chesapeake Family, September, 2016.
Stein, Betsy. “Parenting Plays from the Pros, Touchdown Tips to Help Young Athletes,” Chesapeake Family, September, 2016.

Books
Ditchfield, Christin. Wrestling (True Books: Sports), Grolier Publishing, NY, 2000.
Ellis, Carol. Wrestling (Martial Arts in Action), Marshall Cavendish. Benchmark, NY, 2011.

More sources coming soon!

A Visit to Poe House

Sally Murphy is hosting the Poetry Friday round up today. Head down under to find all of this week’s links!

Poets, do you have a bucket list? A list of things you want to do before you — for example — turn 49?

My family and I have lived in the Baltimore suburbs for over 18 years. And for 18 years, we’ve talked about going to visit the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore.

I fell in love with Poe’s poetry and stories when I was in middle school. Not only was he the father of horror writing, Sherlock Holmes would not exist without Poe’s detective stories. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle borrowed mercilessly from Poe’s story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”) Then my children read him in middle school and my youngest became a Poe fan too. It’s kind of hard not to love this Dark Romantic author, whose poem “The Raven” was adopted by Baltimore’s pro football team. (We are the only NFL team whose name has literary roots.)

Finally, FINALLY!, we did it.

Last Saturday, my husband, 18-year-old, and I headed out to find the tiny little row-house on Amity Street where Poe lived with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter, his cousin (later, wife) Virginia for three years.

We paid our $5 each in a front room, then headed into what would have been the kitchen. Dark. Small! No natural light. (There would have been a door, the friendly guide said, but it led to the alley and the outhouse.) There would have been a little cook-stove, not a full fireplace big enough for a cooking pot. This — we learned — was an area of the city where itinerant families lived. The Clemm family didn’t have a lot of furniture or clothing. They were poor.

Sitting room on second floor (with those steep stairs!)

You cannot believe how narrow the stairs are. I imagined how claustrophobic this house must have been, with three and sometimes more people living here. Did the compressed space influence Poe’s writing?

The second floor is a sitting room with a fireplace. A highlight for me was this wooden box, a travel writing desk that belonged to Poe.

Poet’s travel writing desk. The museum keeps a list of works Poe is believed to have composed in this house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peeking into the bedroom from the top of the stairs. I can’t imagine climbing up here every day.

Another impossibly tight flight of stairs went up to the bedroom. They couldn’t have all slept here! Visiting the house gave me a new appreciation for how difficult Poe’s life must have been.

 

I couldn’t leave without buying you a souvenir. Check out this Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal. I’m giving it away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered in a random drawing.

I brought back a souvenir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of posting my favorite Poe poem (“Alone”) today, I’ve got another surprise. Have you heard Sarah Jarosz musical rendition of “Annabelle Lee”?  When I hear this poem sung, I can’t help but think of young Virginia, who died of tuberculosis at age 24.