Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hail Britannia

     There are things not to like about Great Britain.  There are things not to like about many countries, including my own.  But there's one thing you have to admit about the British people: they truly cherish their kidlit.  You saw the Olympics opening ceremony, right?  Or were you one of the nine people on the planet who missed it?  The country that gave us Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins and Harry Potter was absolutely CROWING about their wondrous children's book authors!  In a forum promoting the ultimate in national self-congratulation, they gave those books pride of place right up there next to Shakespeare's plays.  YEAH, they said to every other country represented there; these are OUR children's book writers.  Everyone else: eat your heart out.

     I never saw any Dr. Seuss characters pop up at the Salt Lake City Olympics, did you?  Let's face facts, fellow kidlit authors: in this respect, the Brits have taken the gold.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


     That's right!  I had such a good time running a giveaway contest for Kami Kinard's book that I am now immediately segueing into ANOTHER giveaway!!  Too good to be true, you say?  Well, there is one catch: I'm giving this book away because I didn't like it.
     I bought a hardcover copy of John Corey Whaley's novel, "Where Things Come Back," because I saw that it had won a Printz Award as well as a William C. Morris Debut Award, which of course seemed promising.  I struggled to get through it, however, and came away with the feeling that the YA world must be fairly desperate for boy books.  But I am not here to pan this novel or to bias you against it.  Au contraire!  I am here to tell you that PLENTY of others like this book, and that perhaps you will too!  Kirkus Reviews, for example, calls it a poignant and hilarious story of loss and redemption which "explores the process of grief, second chances, and even the meaning of life."  Well, I ask you: how much more comprehensive can one get??  Yeah.  Exactly. 
     So here are my rules for the contest:  Read whatever you want to about this book and its author. Then, leave a comment that convinces me that you have absolutely no respect for my opinion.  Prove to me that this book will, at the very least, find a loving home on your shelf, and perhaps even change your life.  Make me see that small towns in Arkansas, disappearing brothers, and extinct woodpeckers are, to you, the stuff of dreams.  If I consider your comment the most persuasive one I receive, the book is yours.  Contest ends at midnight EST on July 31st.  My copy of the book is in like-new condition, and its fate lies in your hands.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

And the Winner Is....

     Okay, my giveaway contest has ended, and my favorite among all the awesome comments I received was Cathy's at Bildebok.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for a good quote, especially one from Marie Curie!  Congratulations, Cathy!  Email me your address at muranosb (at)  and I'll have the book winging its way to you ASAP!  All other commenters:  I plan to keep doing interviews and giveraways, so do not despair!  Just keep visiting me here and leaving cooments, tell your friends to do the same, and we can get a good little thing going!  Have a lovely weekend.

Friday, July 20, 2012

God, Guts and Guns

     This morning, as I was driving to work in Newark, I found myself behind a Ford truck with a bumper sticker that read: "This country was built on God, Guts and Guns.  Let's keep all three."   Really?  The country was built on God?  My country was built on the Constitution, which contains a provision prohibiting the establishment of religion.  And guts?  I'm guessing truck-man's definition of guts wouldn't match mine.  And guns?  When I got to work, I learned about the tragic shooting last night in a Colorado movie theater.  Apparently, the shooter used multiple firearms.
     The NRA's line is: guns for us, the righteous citizens, not for criminals.  But when it draws its "us" line, George Zimmerman in Florida falls within it.  Now there's a man who personifies the God, Guts, and Guns way of thinking.  In fact, as he proudly and publicly announced, he's losing no sleep over having shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old boy, because it was all part of God's plan.  As Trayvon Martin's parents responded: No.  It wasn't OUR God's plan.
     There are too many guns around, too readily obtainable, and the NRA has made sure to always take full advantage of its own lobbying clout to block legislation that would carve out stricter limits.   The gun lobby can toss around any slogans it wants to about how "guns don't kill people."  But last night in Colorado, guns did.  When will we learn?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kami Kinard, Part II

     From age nine through twelve, I spent a month each summer at sleepaway camp.  I think it was the last of those summers when my counselor, distributing individual assignments to the girls in my bunk for Color War, gave me the task of writing somethiung - a slogan, maybe, or a cheer or an article.  I swelled with pride.  "How did you know I write?"
     Her brow furrowed.  "What do you mean, you write?  You mean, professionally?"
     I laughed at the ludicrousness of that idea.  "No.  I mean, I ... write."  I didn't know any other way to explain it.
     She looked perplexed.  "I didn't know."
     Suddenly, the light bulb turned on in my brain.  "Oh.  You mean you just assigned me to write because you knew I couldn't do anything else."
     She nodded appreciatively.  "Yeah," she said.  And I nodded back.
     Well, she had a point.  I couldn't sing, I couldn't dance, I sucked at sports.  But no one in the bunk could be left out of the Color War effort,  and so ...  Put a pencil in my hand and just hope I'll stay out of the way and manage to use it without stabbing myself.  The odd thing, as I remember it now, is that I didn't even feel insulted.  I had no illusions about where I ranked.  My counselor was matter-of-fact, and so was I.
     Forty-odd years later, I still can't sing or dance or play sports, but I seem to have inched my way up from the bottom of the food chain because, fortunately, there are significant discrepancies between the skill set needed to succeed at Color War and that needed to succeed at Life.  And this is why I LOVE Kami Kinard's "Nerdy Chicks Rule" blog concept.  Not all successful women started out as nerdy girls, of course, but, in my experience at least, a lot more of them did than my 12-year-old self would ever have dreamed possible.  And that's what Kami Kinard and I would both like for nerdy girls to be able to do: to dream that, for them, anything is possible.   Take off running, nerdy chicks!  Spread your wings and soar!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Interview With MG Novelist Kami Kinard


 After a humiliating game of Spin-the-Bottle from which twelve-year-old Kara McAllister emerges unkissed, she goes home and makes a Boyfriend Chart.  And that's when she learns, to her horror, that she is the ONLY one of the fourteen girls in her class who has never (as in, never going back to first grade) had a boyfriend.  Resolved to do something about this, Kara settles on the scientific method: unobtrusively study as many boys (a.k.a. "subjects") as she can in their natural habitat (i.e., school), take notes on their characteristics, and try to figure out where the glitch lies.  Nothing turns out the way Kara expected it to, but she learns a lot about her classmates (both male and female), her sister, and most of all, herself.  And since Kara is a good student, she picks up some very useful information along the way about popular kids, popular teachers, and popular opinion.  
     Kami Kinard's middle-grade novel, "The Boy Project (Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister)", was published by Scholastic in January 2012, and it's a funny, fun read with some important, appropriately understated messages.  Here's my interview with Kami:

Kami, as someone who was, is, and will forever be a nerdy chick, I salute your  celebration of all of us in your blog,, and in your middle-grade novel, "The Boy Project." Tell me something:  are there really that many of us out there?
And if so, shouldn’t we be banding together and taking over the world?
Hmmmm. The problem is, most nerdy chicks are too smart to get into politics, thus,  world takeover.

At a recent SCBWI conference, I attended a workshop you presented entitled "The Yin and Yang of Character Development." One of the focal points was that all protagonists must have a fatal character flaw, so that they can grow and change. Kara McAllister’s fatal flaw appears to be her impulsiveness, which gets her into some very awkward (but very funny) situations. But does Kara actually gain any control over her impulsiveness by the end of the book? Or does she just learn to channel some of it more productively, into her craft projects and blog?
I saw Kara’s flaw differently. At first, she judges and rates all of the boys and looks for the one that is perfect for her. Then she realizes that she might not be perfect. She has to modify some of her characteristics in the end to find a relationship. She becomes brave enough to risk rejection. I think shyness holds a lot of nerdy chicks (and roosters) back, but we often have to risk rejection to find meaningful relationships.

It’s very impressive that you’ve conjured up almost an entire middle-school class, and made each kid so distinctive. It makes me wonder … Do Kara’s classmates bear any relation to your own middle-school classmates?
Sure. But all of my characters are composites. They are combinations of a little of one person, a little of another, and a lot of fiction.

And while we’re on the subject: the names "Kara" and "Kami" differ only in one vowel and one consonant. Is this a coincidence?
This is a coincidence… I think. I didn’t put a lot of thought into the names in my novel at first. That’s a mistake I won’t make again!
Or have you, perhaps, encountered the inside of the boys’ bathroom yourself once or twice?
The only time I went into a boys’ bathroom was back when I was a high school teacher and one of my students kindly told me there was something written about me on the wall. The janitor offered to scrub it off for me, but I didn’t want him to read it, so he guarded the door and I scrubbed!            
When did the idea of writing a novel for middle-schoolers first occur to you?
 I got the idea for writing this novel after reading my middle school diaries. I also had a son in middle school at the time, so I was living the middle school life again, kind of.

 How much time passed from that point until you had a completed manuscript?
 Just a few months. It was the fastest I ever completed a first draft.
 What parts of the process went more smoothly for you than you expected?
 The first draft!
 What unexpected stumbling blocks arose?
 After the manuscript was sent out the first time by my agent, we got feedback that made me    realize I had to change the entire format of my book. That took longer to do than the first draft, but I’m glad that I did it!              

I like that your novel is realistic enough not to pretend that life is always fair.  Nothing particularly bad ever happens to the evil Queen Bee or to the rude Alpha Boy; nor does Kara’s vindictive teacher get punished as he deserves. Kara just learns to navigate around all of them. When you were writing the book, did you ever consider giving everyone his or her just desserts?
I didn’t think about that. I have had a couple of people say they wished something bad had happed to the mean girl. I guess that always does happen on TV.
What made you decide not to?
I just didn’t need anything bad to happen to them to move the plot forward. But I have to be honest and say that revenge has never been a motivator for me, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t be for my character either. 

How has your life/daily schedule changed since "The Boy Project" was published?
Well, it is much harder to find time to write than it used to be!
Have you had to reshuffle some priorities?
Yes, I have had to give up writing time for book promotion.

Can you talk a little bit about your next work-in-progress? Will you be sticking with middle-grade? With a humorous approach? With Kara McAllister?
I’d love to do another Kara McAllister book someday, but right now I am working on another humorous middle grade for girls and also a fantasy. I hope to finish one of them by the end of the year!

Thank you so much, Kami! Best wishes for all your future "projects!"
Thank you Susan!

     Okay, now here's where I'm going to try something I've never tried before in my neverending quest for blog hits: a giveaway (suggested by Kami herself) of my very own copy of "The Boy Project," in pristine condition if you don't count the pale green mark at the bottom of page 167 (sorry.  A leaf or something.)  But the price can't be beat: I'll mail it to you, free, anywhere on the planet!  (Full disclosure: all submissions from other planets will be read, but the bar will be set a LOT higher for them, given the cost of postage.  Outside our solar system = don't even bother.)  All you have to do is leave a comment on this page before midnight on Thursday, July 12th (my son Nathan's birthday!!), Eastern Standard Time.  If I get multiple comments, I'll choose which one I like best, and that person will be the book recipient.  Sincere birthday wishes for Nathan will not go unnoticed. All in all, you've got much to gain, nothing to lose, the way I see it.  Let's see what happens. 

***NEWS FLASH!!***   Due to the kind intervention of Donna Taylor, my new fairy godmother, the fabulous Kathy Temean has agreed to post this interview on her own (deservedly very popular) blog, and so I am going to extend my book-giveaway offer to one week from today.  If Jeannie wants the book, I'll buy her her own copy, and I will give away my copy to whoever posts the best comment (in my opinion) between now and midnight, July 20th, Eastern Standard Time.  Come on!  You know you want this book!  And I'm sending a huge thank you to Donna and Kathy!

     Meanwhile, Kami can be found at her website,,  at her Facebook page,, or at her blog,, where she posts author interviews and mini-bios of "quotable
nerdy chicks," including some very famous women you might have mistakenly thought you knew all
about!  Keep an eye out for Kami and her Posse of Nerdy Chicks!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Step Right Up!

- FACT:  The guy who created all those Ginsu Knife commercials 20 years ago died last week.
- FACT:  This week, Mitt Romney explains why the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate he enacted as governof Massachusetts bear no resemblance whatsoever to each other.
     COINCIDENCE?  I THINK NOT.  A huckster is a huckster is a huckster.  And when one huckster leaves this Earth, evidently his soul enters the body of another huckster.

     What kind of animal is this ACA mandate of which we speak?  Why, it's a penalty - anyone can see that.  No, wait!  I misspoke!  It's not a penalty - it's - it's a TAX!!  Yeah, that's it, a TAX!   But - but - the mandate I created in Massachusetts WASN'T a tax!  Why?  Um... Give me a minute... I've got it!  It wasn't a tax because the Supreme Court (glory hallelujah!), with whom I completely disagree about this whole subject, but which is still the SUPREME COURT (glory hallelujah!), hasn't specifically called it a tax.  Ergo, I DID NOT RAISE TAXES.  Are you following this? Whereas the Court HAS called the ACA mandate a tax, so that makes it a tax, even though (have I mentioned?) I completely disagree with the SUPREME COURT (glory, etc.) about this whole subject!  Am I making myself perfectly clear?
     I guess it's the constitutional right of all Americans, including presidential candidates, to run some absurd bullshit story up the flagpole and see if it flies, but - really.  Can't he do any better than THAT?  I'm embarrassed for the guy, and I don't even like him.  As firmly as I believe that there's a sucker born every minute, I also believe that even the suckers among us deserve better than a president who doesn't mind sounding like a guy playing three-card monte on a street corner.  Have a little dignity about it, Mitt.  When you pull this kind of stunt, all you do is make it painfully obvious to all that you can't really distinguish the two forms of mandate, because they're one and the same.  Face it - you have nothing up your sleeve.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Twitching Inside My Skin

     Everything feels off to me today.  I stayed up too late last night reading, woke up too early, couldn't go back to sleep.  I don't much like holidays anyway - the Fun Police telling me what I should be doing sets my teeth on edge - and the 4th of July is one of my least favorites.  The fireworks drive my dogs insane, and the last few years my husband and I have spent our 4th of July evenings cuddling them and crooning that it's going to be okay.  But I have some other things on my mind too.
     One of them is actually a very good thing, objectively speaking, which doesn't mean that I subjectively feel great about it.  We're going away for a week's vacation exactly a month from now, and within days of when we get back, my son will be moving to DC to get settled in and begin law school.  Like I said, a really good thing, right?  If only I didn't already miss him so much that I've taken to wandering around his room when he's not there, deriving comfort from the mess because it signifies his presence.
     The other thing on my mind is NOT a good thing in any sense of the word.  My father-in-law's health is failing.  He's 91 years old, very thin, very weak.  My husband and daughter and I were planning to spend this past weekend in Baltimore anyway, visiting him and my mother-in-law, but like millions of other people along the East Coast, they lost power in their home, rendering it unlivable.  We ended up moving them, all their equipment, and my father-in-law's oxygen tank, to a hotel room, where they were imprisoned for two days until they got their power back on.  They're back home now, but I'm sure they're not fully recovered yet from the experience.  I know I'm not.
     It's going to be a long, hot summer for me, I think.  I could really use the cooling breeze of a book contract right about now.