One of the bright spots in January 2017 has been launching the Quartz Creek Ranch series that I co-authored with Kiersi Burkhart. We are so proud of these books for 9-12 year olds. Each one is full of a diverse cast of characters, taking on real issues in heartfelt ways. The ensemble nature of the books makes them a ton of fun both to read and to write, and of course, horses make everything better!
Our Oregon launch party at Roundabout Books was a great success. We told horse jokes, played pin the stirrup on the pony, challenged our knowledge with horse trivia, and ate cupcakes. It was super! Thanks to Arwen, Lily, and Beryl for being amazing party planners and to Cassie for hosting our fun event!
Here are some highlights:
And of course, you can order books any time! Click here for buy links!
Hold onto your hats, cowgirls and cowboys! The exciting story of saddle bronc rider, George Fletcher, is out today! I am so happy to introduce OREGON READS ALOUD, a beautiful anthology of 25 stories by Oregon authors and illustrated by Oregon artists. I love this book and I love SMART: Start Making a Reader Today and I love horses and I love George Fletcher! It’s a win all the way around. Grab a copy and snuggle up on the couch with your favorite little person for OREGON READS ALOUD!
I know this because certain books have changed my life. They have changed the way I view the world and my place in it.
I know this because of the brouhaha that explodes whenever some journalist writes about whether young adult fiction is too dark, too complex, too negative, too whatever.
I know this because of the #YAsaves response to criticism of darkness in YA.
I know this because the campaign to increase diversity in children’s literature has taken over my internet feeds and sent reverberations through media culture in general. (Check out #WeNeedDiverseBooks)
The companion to the power and influence of children’s literature upon real, live, beating-heart humans is the pressure it puts on me as a writer of children’s literature to “do it right.”
Author Christa Desir captured this exactly in her review of THE BUNKER DIARY by Kevin Brooks. (Read the whole thing here.)
I’m fascinated by the burden of responsibility that seems to fall on the shoulders of those of us who write for children. I’m not completely clear who decided on the rules about YA books, but there seems to be an insistence that if the books are going to be about difficult things, then they need to somehow “save”. I have long hesitated at this notion that YA Saves because I think it puts us in the position that we must then acknowledge that the opposite can be true too. That if we’re going to assert that YA books save lives, then we have to allow that they can damage people. And this power makes me very uncomfortable.
I am only me and yet I am trying to write about people different from me with experiences far broader than my own. I want to “do it right.” I want to be authentic and reflective and respectful and honest. I want my books to be “true” even in fiction.
And in all this striving to tell stories that stretch beyond me, there is a very real danger of paralysis as a writer. In a recent conversation with my coauthor Kiersi Burkhart about our middle grade series Second Chance Ranch, I found myself expressing some very real fears about my ability to write diversity. I care so much about doing it right that I was afraid to do it at all. I can’t write about gamers. I can’t write about an overweight character. I can’t write about a black girl.
But the alternative?
Or worse, only writing about a bunch of skinny white girls who love horses.
I can’t face either of those alternatives.
In the midst of all this angst, I found Kate Brauning‘s wonderful post on Pub Hub about Writing Ethical YA. You absolutely must click here and read the whole thing, but let me leave you with the line I found most encouraging, the one that allowed me to shake off the paralysis.
If you’re showing real life and helping fill in the gaps, you’re doing just fine, and I want to read your book.
Thank you, Kate. This is exactly what I needed to hear. Now to get back to that black cowgirl who loves cosplay and isn’t super psyched about her weight…
I was a horse crazy girl.
I’m a horse crazy grown-up.
Recently, I found out that one of my fav writer friends, Kiersi Burkhart, grew up on a ranch in Colorado. Together we dreamed up Second Chance Ranch, a place in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where trouble kids go to find their way again.
We are so excited to announce the sale of our new book series to Darby Creek, an imprint of Lerner, coming your way in 2016 and 2017. Each book features a girl and her horse, meeting life’s challenges together. Kiersi and I can’t wait to tug on your heart strings and make you want to saddle up and ride with us!
Recently, I spent the morning dolled up for the Angel Punk team photo shoot. (Thank you, Levy Moroshan, for the gorgeous new picture on my home page.) Wait until you see the mid-air jumping shots! Hilarious to shoot even if I was a tad terrified about breaking an ankle in my heels.
Then I proceed to go home and muck out Sir William’s stall. The photo to the left is his high fashion shot. A neighbor was hanging around while I worked, and every time she got a glimpse of me, she laughed at the incongruity of my heavy make-up and less-than-glamourous activity. (I did change my shoes!)
But the process of writing is like that: sometimes exciting and sometimes pedestrian; sometimes a red carpet walk and sometimes a work-out at the gym. And the writing itself should be like that. Forget the predictable. Go with the incongruous. It builds better story!
Last week, I took care of my neighbor’s horses while she was out of town. I woke wondering if they were ready for breakfast. I wrote in my office with one eye on the weather darting over the coast range. I watched for sun breaks and the chance to ride. For a week, I smelled like hay and stalls and horse sweat. I pulled the rhythm of my days into that of snuffling breath and eager hooves.
My reading choice: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry.
Whenever the horseboys raced their horses beyond the city gates, Sham outran them all. He outran the colts his own age and the seasoned running horses as well. He seemed not to know that he was an earthy creature with four legs, like other horses. He acted as if he were an airy thing, traveling on the wings of the wind.
Then I thought of this lovely poem by Allen Braden, which appears in his book A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood.
Detail of the Four Chambers to the Horse’s Heart (excerpt)
Listen. The last time I saw my father alive, he spoke of horses, the brute geometry of a broken team in motion. He tallied the bushels of oats, gallons of water down to the drop each task would cost. How Belgians loved hardwood hames the most. Give them the timber sled at logging camp any day, the workable meadows in need of leveling, tilling, harrowing, new seeding. We could’ve been in our dark loafing shed, cooling off between loads of chopping hay, the way he carried on that last good day. With the proper encouragement, he said, they would work themselves to death.
I must confess that this horse-less week is much more crazy and much less full.