The Next Big Thing is here!
What is it? It’s a terrific blog event that shines a spotlight on authors’ upcoming book releases. The event was originally launched in Australia and is now spreading around the world. I received my tag from children’s author Lori Mortensen (www.lorimortensen.blogspot.com), and at the end of my interview, I’ll tag another great writer who will share her Next Big Thing when she blogs next
Here's my interview about my Next Big Thing: What is the title of your next book?
NOAH WEBSTER & HIS WORDS, and it just came out in October 2012! What genre is this book?
It’s a picture book biography. Who is the publisher?
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children Where did the idea come from for the book?
Everyone knows what Noah Webster did, right? (He wrote Webster’s Dictionary.) But what ELSE did Noah do? I’m a history major, I write biographies about people who did important and difficult deeds that made America better, AND I especially love to write about people who aren’t as well known as they should be. Now everyone knows Webster’s Dictionary but practically no one knows Noah himself, or what he did to keep our fledgling [adj.: new, young] country together. Voila! How did you do your research?
Oh, I looooove research! I love research almost more than writing, if that’s possible. As it happens, I wrote a chapter book biography of Noah many years ago and at that time, among lots of other sources, I was able to speak with the great-great-great-grandson of Noah himself! It was like being back in 1776 with Noah and Tom and Ben and ... Anyway, for research, I go to family members (I write about dead people) and experts in the field. I read all the books already written and scour the internet. I go to historical societies, museums, archives, and of course my best friend is my librarian. As we all know, for a non-fiction work, we have to have the true facts. I like the term “true facts” because a boy wrote me that my books have “true facts, not false facts like some books do.” I dig up primary sources: letters, photos, diaries, newspapers, maps, journals, period interviews, and more. How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Non-fiction takes a long time, for me anyway. I need at least six months for research, then another two or three months to write the first draft. But the first draft is only the beginning. Then there’s revision after revision before I ever send it off, then still more revisions depending upon the editor’s comments. One girl wrote me, after an author visit to her school, “I learned that it takes more than one day to write a book.” So there you have it! What more about NOAH might pique the reader’s interest?
Here’s a blurb from a recent review. “Noah Webster and His Words
has something for everyone: nostalgia, history, entrepreneurism, and last but not least, a few good old-fashioned belly laughs. Ms. Ferris’ age-appropriate sentences are full of enough cheeky humor to keep adults and children laughing from the first page to the last, yet she cleverly peppers this humorous text with great vocabulary words for the burgeoning reader. These words are instantly defined within the sentences instead of the typical back-end glossary.
Artist Vincent X. Kirsch has a field day with this delightful story, offering up quaint caricature-like illustrations that include pumpkin-sized heads, humongous feet, and sweetly studious facial expressions. The book is laid out in an early 18th century historical font (PS 1722), and each page’s background is nostalgically spacious, reminding readers of a kinder time in a gentler nation when the great outdoors—trees, fields and general nothingness—were all there was to see.
And the mysteries unraveled? Why, Noah had red hair (who knew?). He also lectured across the United States about establishing a national language and a national government. And his “blue-backed speller” of 1783 was still in use when the newly freed slaves set out to get themselves an education in 1865.” Do the reviewers like it?
Wow, do they! It’s getting starred and/or rave reviews from places like the NY Times, NY Journal of Books, Huffington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and a whole lot more. Anything more?
Debbie Gonzales has written a superb 30-page activity guide for NOAH, which is on my website, free to download. What’s next?
Look for THE LAST MOUSE IN LENINGRAD, a historical fiction set during the Siege of Leningrad. A 12-year-old boy struggles to keep himself and his little brother alive in a city surrounded by the Nazis, buried in snow, with no heat, no light, and no food. MOUSE is still in the editing process, but I hope it will emerge soon!
I’m now delighted to pass The Next Best Thing blog to the following terrific author and blogger:
Rosi Hollinbeck! http://rosihollinbeckthewritestuff.blogspot.com/
My passion is Russia (besides writing, riding, dancing, singing, acting, teaching, family...), and my wip is a historical fiction for mg/ya set during the Siege of Leningrad. However, due to all those other things and especially promoting NOAH WEBSTER & HIS WORDS, I have not worked on it since, oh, September. Today is the day I pull Yuri out of my pile, open up the incredibly detailed critique and edit I received, and step back into 1941 USSR. Wish me luck! Spasiba!
Noah is getting fantastic, wonderful reviews and I am soooo relieved! Even Entertainment Weekly has it #1 in history books for children. I hadn't realized EW did children's books! (Glad they do.) Houghton Mifflin has done a great job of getting review copies out there.
I'm sorry to have been negligent in blogging – still a lot to learn. I wonder, if you have a blog, do you find it's better to have it on your website (as mine is), or have a separate blog such as blogspot?
NOAH WEBSTER & HIS WORDS is getting great reviews! I am soooo happy and relieved. Horn Book, Kirkus, starred review in School Library Journal, a Junior LIbrary Guild selection and more!
Just sent the first 200 words of my Ohio River book to http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/11th-free-dear-lucky-agent-contest-middle-grade-fiction
Do you know who helped found the American Library Association (ALA)? When? Do you know who opened the first library school? When? Where? Do you know who invented the Dewey Decimal System?
A guy named Dewey, Melvil Dewey, did all the above.
The ALA was founded in 1876; the first library school opened in 1887 at Columbia University; and Dewey came up with his system for organizing and shelving non-fiction books in 1876.
(Fiction is shelved by the author of the book – EXCEPT folk tales, fairy tales, riddles which are in 398, and poetry and plays in 811-12.)
Non-fiction goes by the numbers – decimal numbers – EXCEPT biographies which are under 921 by the last name of the subject (Some libraries still shelve them according to what the subject is famous for, which seems a bit awkward. What if the person was famous in sports and music, both?).
Before Dewey invented his numbering system, some libraries arranged books to “look nice” by size; some put them alphabetically by title; some just had a fixed spot on a shelf. When a new book came in, everything had to be rearranged.
Ask your bffl (best friend forever librarian) for all ten Dewey categories and all the hundreds of sub-categories. Here are three: 200 is religion, 300 is social studies, 600 is applied science (science you use).
So, for example, the Dewey number for a book on the commercial processing of kidney beans is 664.805652. I know you are rushing to get that book even as we speak – unless you agree with the friend who said, “Like I care about kidney beans.”
If you are researching at an academic library such as Harvard or Yale, say, you will probably NOT use the Dewey Decimal System. Instead, you’ll use the Library of Congress Classification System which is more, well, academic.
One last fact on Dewey. He was born Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey, He changed this to Melvil Dewey, and even considered changing Dewey to Dui, the better to get rid of extra letters.
Oh, one more last fact. When did he figure out how to organize books? He wrote, “one Sunday during a long sermon … without hearing a word, my mind absorbed in the problem, the solution flashed over me.”
(Since I mention the Lincoln Public Library, you can see this is from my library column in the Lincoln News Messenger.)
As we think about our great and blessed nation on this 4th of July, we also think about our great public library system. Public, not private. Free entrance to all. Free books and free information, with a free library card. All available to every one of us at the Lincoln Public Library at Twelve Bridges.
It was 236 years ago that the men of the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, after some editing of Thomas Jefferson’s writing. Jefferson himself sat silently during the editing process but he wrote that John Adams fought “fearlessly for every word.” As we know, Jefferson’s argument against slavery was taken out. Also cut was his beautiful phrase of regret to King George – “We might have been a free & a great people together...”
Instead, we are a free & a great people as Americans.
Two hundred and thirty-one years ago, in October 1781, the British surrendered at Yorktown and the Revolutionary War was over. (At least the fighting was. The war ended officlally in 1783 when the peace treaty was signed.) Two hundred and twenty-three years ago George Washington was elected our first president. And as we all know, 186 years ago Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the very same day, the 4th of July.
One of my friends, Rae Yund, wrote this after my Flag Day presentation (okay, she exaggerated a bit, but still...): "We are all agog - can't believe that such a poised, entertaining, engaging, erudite, effective and accomplished speaker is our friend. That an accomplished hostess, chef, Bible Study mentor, greeting card designer and just plain Prairie horse-back-paper-route-delivery-girl could hold four hundred discerning adult Lincoln Hills residents in rapt attention for over an hour is truly phenomenal."
Don't worry, she said I could use her name. In fact she made a good point, which is that if I did not give attribution people would thingI could have made it up myself and passed it off as a compliment from "someone."
This just came from Janet Larscheid in Wisconsin, and yes, she gave permission to use her name and her quotes. Thank you, Janet! She had many more great comments, including how she used bios in her classroom. In these quotes she refers specifically to GO FREE OR DIE and WALKING THE ROAD TO FREEDOM.
"I am on the Kids' Non-Fiction site and saw your comments, and, really, felt so happy to reach out to you and thank you. The books were a springboard for our journey into the fight for justice of so many amazing people. Each year, I looked forward to introducing such important women to my students.
"What I appreciated, being in a school based on a democratic philosophy of equality, equity, and the fight for justice, was to find your books at a reading level available to second graders (toward the end of the year) and third graders. We did this, often, in a whole class approach, sometimes reading in unison, at times by individuals, and, also, often read by me. I feel that my students were able to understand, appreciate, and empathize with these heroines. The discussions that followed allowed for much exploration."
I was worried to death that about 30 people would show up in a room that holds 390. As it turned out 400 showed up. If I'd known there'd be THAT many I've have been even more worried! Luckily it went well – very, very well. Subject: People Who Made America Great. I had about 130 slides to go with, so it was quite the illustrated lecture. In fact, I'd say it was practically a graphic novel!
Tomorrow it's supposed to be over 100 here in Lincoln, so I'm going out to ride about 7 a.m. Should be only about 90 then!