Tag Archives: story-telling

Book Tour: Southern California Edition

This spring, I have teamed up with the lovely author Elana K. Arnold for a book tour. We’re a great match up because we both have new middle grade novels (A BOY CALLED BAT and the QUARTZ CREEK RANCH series) as well as new young adult novels (WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF and POINTE, CLAW). For each stop on our tour, we are doing both a middle grade event and a YA event. I’ve just returned from the Southern California leg of our tour, and I am bubbly with things to report!

#1

Elana has a bird named Bird, a cat, and two dogs, including this endearing fluffball, who won my heart even though she ate my toothbrush!

#2

The Getty Museum is an architectural marvel perched on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. The paintings inside and the gardens outside were spectacular.

#3

Highland Park has vegan tacos and vegan donuts and men in high-waisted plaid pants. The Pop-Hop is a very cool bookstore, and I got to hang out with Antonio Sacre, one of my favorite writer-storytellers.


#4

Once Upon a Storybook in Tustin has reading nooks, a mouse door, and a wall of fame for authors to sign. I saw lots of my fav books on the shelves including VOLCANO RISING, THE MUSIC OF LIFE, THE SOMEDAY BIRDS, and RAMBLER STEALS HOME.


#5

Gatsby Books in Long Beach has a store cat, a Carrie Fisher super fan, and was hosting a Night Vale event right after Elana and I talked about Feminism and the Female Body. I regret that I did not buy a t-shirt!

#6

Planning an extra play day turned out to be a stroke of brilliance. The beach had whales and dolphins and lots of teeny-tiny bath suit bottoms.

#7

We ate at Snow Monster, and I found my new life motto.

#8

Being with Elana K. Arnold is incredibly inspiring. She’s a brilliant, deep thinker, and her books are some of the best I’ve ever read. We wrote together every day,  talked about our new WIPs, and debriefed this weird business we work in. She fed me donuts and let me hang out with her super cool family. I am grateful to call her my friend.

#9

We are coming for you in the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle. Click here to go to my events page for details.

Repeating the Ancient Tale

On Saturday, my sweet daughter will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah. She will lead our community in ancient prayers and chant ancient words, and more importantly she will find her own meaning in them.

As Jews, our task is to wrestle with narrative–to preserve history, to reinterpret the past, and to write new stories that will carry us into the future. It’s a tradition that resonates with me as a writer and as a person who has seen again and again the power of stories to change lives.

Also on Saturday, in a beautiful intersection of occurrences, my next novel, POINTE, CLAW, enters the world. Somehow it seems fitting that this book, which wrestles with the challenges girls and women face in our culture, is born alongside my daughter’s passage into adulthood in the Jewish community. It’s a fierce story and she is a fierce girl.

I hope you’ll understand that I’ll be focusing on my daughter this weekend. Book celebrations will follow later in the week. I’ll be posting a series of answers to questions posed by early readers of POINTE, CLAW–some serious, some goofy, some revelatory–also I’ll be sharing a mind-blowing review by a teen reader. Lots of book events to come in Los Angeles area, the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle. Details here.

To close, I want to leave you with one of my favorite poems. (I honestly don’t know the author. It’s been attributed to multiple people.) I’ve shared it before. These are words I return to again and again. I offer them in love.

We are simply asked
to make gentle our bruised world
to be compassionate of all,
including oneself,
then in the time left over
to repeat the ancient tale
and go the way of God’s foolish ones.

This weekend we repeat the ancient tale and go forth to make gentle this bruised world. Join us.

 

A New World View

I remember with great clarity the moment when I really “got” evolution. Before that I could have given you a vague explanation for evolution, but that was book learning. The moment I’m talking about was a revelation, an awakening, an eye-opening realization: THIS IS HOW THE WORLD WORKS! Suddenly I grasped that given a few fundamental principles, the inevitable conclusion was that the diversity of life on this planet is explained by descent with modification. It was a fireworks moment.

I’ve just had another one, and this time I have the Cheeto President to thank for it.

I believed/assumed that our democratic system of government was unassailable. Some people chose to get involved and run for office or work for campaigns, while others, like me, voted and donated money. Sometimes my candidates won. Sometimes they lost. Sometimes I liked policy changes. Sometimes I didn’t. Ho-hum. Politics as usual.

What I did not know until now is that democracy, even one as lauded as ours, is constantly in flux. It must constantly be defended lest it fall away from the delicate balance of powers that defines it. Like a house by the sea, we must reinforce the foundation and re-shingle the roof. Voting is no longer enough. Speaking out and insisting that each branch of government does its job without overreaching its bounds is an absolute necessity.

The democratic experiment that is America is on the knife-edge of an autocracy. Without us, the people, raising our voices and our fists, it will crumble. We must write a new narrative.

And you know what? I am made for that. I am Jew. I know history. That means I recognize the beginnings of fascism. It also means that means I know how to wrestle with the story we are telling ourselves. I know that we must constantly re-interpret and re-vision the story that we are living. I am a writer. I am made for telling the story that I want to fight into existence.

Join me.

Download and read the INDIVISIBLE GUIDE. Find a local activist group. Make your voice heard.

We must rise.

An unstoppable, rising tide…

This awesome art is by Calef Brown at http://www.calefbooks.com
This awesome art is by Calef Brown at http://www.calefbooks.com

The poet, David Whyte wrote: Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us.

I am paying attention—

To the singularly self-absorbed, little man who has revealed the bigoted underbelly of this country.

To the acts of hate and intolerance that have galvanized so many.

To the 64.6 million people, the majority, who voted for the progressive agenda of Hillary Clinton.

To the 3.8 million people sharing their stories in Pantsuit Nation.

To each of you who has written about transcending the hurdles of your past, about finding your voice, about standing up for yourself, about standing up for others, about building your true family, and about living an authentic life.

I am paying attention—

On one side, I see a thin-skinned man surrounded by hoodlums and supported by a mere 31.2% of registered voters, who willfully abandoned both critical-thinking and compassion.

On the other, I see survivors. I have read your stories. I have heard your voices. I know your strength. You are survivors of abuse, assault, and oppression, of illness, loss, and trauma. You have endured a thousand other indignities large and small, and still you shine.

You are light and fire and strength.

I am paying attention, and I am grateful. More than that, I am hopeful. I know that might be hard to believe, but it’s true. Dick and Jeanne Roy of the Northwest Earth Institute define hope this way: Hope is our highest vision of the possible.

YOU are my highest vision of the possible—an unstoppable, rising tide of humans united to take care of each other and the planet.

As for tantrum-throwing toddler man and his cronies who are determined to take it all for themselves, they have already lost. They don’t know it yet, and you might not be quite ready to believe me, but that’s okay.

The momentum in this country is toward a browner, queerer, greener, gentler, smarter future. We, the survivors, the highest vision of the possible, are using the power of the stories we share to take control of the narrative. We are the future.

*Feel free to copy and paste in order to share this post on your own feeds.
© Amber J. Keyser

The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales – Day Six #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY SIX #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
THE BAREFOOT BOOK OF JEWISH TALES
By Shoshana Boyd Gelfand

barefoot

About this book:

This engaging collection includes eight delightful tales from the Jewish tradition. Each story has been chosen for its appeal to families and each has a simple — yet powerful — message. Written by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, herself a mother of three, this is a fantastic set of stories to share and to treasure. Includes two story CDs narrated by Debra Messing.

Why I think you should read it:

I love all of the titles in the Barefoot Books line up. Our family has most of them (Princesses, Knights, Pirates, Horses, Animals, Grandmothers, and of course Jewish Tales). We love to listen to them in the car. Perfect for those trips around town. The readers are always great and the stories are fascinating.

Happy Hanukkah

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With a Mighty Hand – Day Five #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY FIVE #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
WITH A MIGHTY HAND
Adapted by Amy Ehrlich

Mighty Hand
About this book:

Amy Ehrlich retains the beauty, drama, and mystery of the Torah in this unique adaptation, gorgeously illustrated with paintings by Daniel Nevins. The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. It tells the story of the beginning of the Jewish people and their relationship with God. From Adam and Eve to the first patriarch, Abraham, to Moses, who led his people to the promised land, the stories in the Torah have been studied and revered since it was first written down nearly 3,000 years ago. Now in this glorious volume, Amy Ehrlich crafts an authentic, lyrical adaptation that is presented as a continuous narrative, one that honors the complexities of the original text. Daniel Nevins’s richly hued paintings bring the ancient wonders of the Torah to resonant life, making this truly a gift to savor, share, and treasure.

Why I think you should read it:

This is not your typical “children’s bible.” It does not attempt to simplify the stories of the Torah into easily-digested moral parables. Instead it captures all the thought-provoking, weirdness of the Torah in a way that leads to excellent family conversations.

Happy Hanukkah

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Be All There

Sometimes I hit social media like a rat hits a pleasure bar. Treat me. Treat me. Lots of uncertainty in my life these days. I blogged about it here and here. I turn to Facebook and Twitter hoping for something funny, something sweet, connection, and I confess, a bit of validation.

The result… I struggle to get into the flow space I need for writing to be fun and fluid and fast. I march. I drudge. I write the words and meet the goals. But it doesn’t feel good. To get the writer’s high, I need to really be in the story not grubbing around online hoping someone will tell me I’m smart and cute.

So here’s the reminder… for myself and for you.

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On love, loss, and the power of story

Version 2Last night I watched The Theory of Everything, and it left me with the same heavy, rich, complicated sadness that I felt upon finishing The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough a few weeks ago. There is so much in both stories that is courageous and uplifting, beautiful and inspiring.

So why am I filled with canyon-deep heartbreak?

The truth is…

… I want love to win.

I want to believe that love is enough.

I want love to conquer pain and trump loss and endure beyond death.

But the Man in Black is whispering in my ear, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

My lens is loss. I know that. The death of my daughter will always be lodged in the center of my heart, proof that death wins. The pain of it doesn’t obscure my love for her, but it does reveal love’s shortcomings.

Like Jane and Stephen, we can love each other and still be unable to withstand the way we wear each other down. Like Flora and Henry, we can love each other and know that our love brings trouble into our lives. Like me, we can love each other and still not win against death.

And yet I am still the fool that says love is worth it. Again and again I go back to this quote I saw on my godmother’s refrigerator years ago. I wish I knew who wrote it.

We are simply asked
to make gentle our bruised world
to be compassionate of all,
including oneself,
then in the time left over
to repeat the ancient tale
and go the way of God’s foolish ones.

Most often I return to these words because I need the reminder of self-compassion, but when the pain of loss rises, I need to remember that the ancient tale is to love, to strive, and yes, to lose the ones we love.

Foolish? Yes.

But it is the only story around…

… and I believe in the power of the story.

Poets, Virgins, LSD & More on the Writing Process Blog Tour

1980 Amber reading
10 Year Old Me, Weird Already

One of the best things about being a writer is getting to know other writers. We’re a quirky bunch, I tell you! So when poet Drew Myron and novelist Rosanne Parry invited me to join an online conversation about writing process, I jumped on board. Who wouldn’t want to listen to a bunch of writers spill the inner workings of their wordy brains?

In a series of blog posts like this one, we’ll each answer four questions about our writing process. You’ll get to see behind the scenes and discover some new books along the way.

Once you get a taste of Drew’s evocative, tender language, I know you’ll crave more. Visit her writing process post here and a link to her books here.

Rosanne is a master of middle grade fiction. She creates deftly-drawn characters who never let you go. Her writing process interview will post to her blog on the 17th, and her books, including the amazing WRITTEN IN STONE are here.

And on to my personal variety of writer-geekdom…

What are you working on?

I’m working on a project that scares me. And that’s good. It’s pushing me way out of my comfort zone in topic—it’s a young adult anthology of essays by women about losing their virginity—and in process because I’m acting as an editor for the contributors, something I have never done before.

But in spite of my jitters about how such an edgy book will be received, I am more convinced every day of its importance. I hope that the book will empower readers to take charge of their own sexuality, whether that means saying no or saying yes. If young women don’t, someone else will take charge of it for them.

THE V-WORD will be published in 2016 by Beyond Words, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

How does your work differ from other writers in your genre?

The only book on the shelves that I think is comparable to this one is LOSING IT, an anthology of short stories by YA writers. It’s a brilliant collection and you should read it, but it’s fiction. THE V-WORD is 100% true, and you’ll be astounded by the raw honesty of these talented writers. Every day I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to bring these stories to the readers who need them.

Why do you write?

Because I am stubborn and complicated and I like stories of all kinds.

What is your writing process?

My nonfiction books are usually sold on proposal so I do a lot of research up front. I need to have a very good sense of the story I am trying to tell and the shape it will take before any writing begins. The key to nonfiction is finding the right structure to carry the focal theme through to the end. After the book is under contract, the editor and I will refine the structure and outline together. With all that groundwork done, I start writing and add in research as needed.

For fiction, most of the pre-writing I do is around finding the voice of the main character. Once I have a sense of who this person is, then I generate a rough outline of the plot. The details sort themselves out as I proceed with drafting, my favorite part. After the first draft, comes the scissor-stage where I cut the thing apart and tape it back together. I have come to accept that there will always be radical and painful change.

But like I said, I’m stubborn.

________

Now I invite you to visit the blog of Kiersi Burkhart, who most famously described me as “stubborn as fuck.” She’s a fun and feisty writer of middle grade and YA fiction as well as a contributor to THE V-WORD. 

While you’re on the move, I encourage you to visit Ruth Feldman, writer of historical YA time travel novels. Ever wondered about the connections between free speech, LSD and medieval Paris? Look no farther than THE NINTH DAY.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

WeNeedDiverseBooks.001Today is the start of a three-day  social media campaign to highlight the need for diversity in books for kids and teens.

All the details are right here. Post your own picture or reshare mine. Let’s plaster the internet with a call to action.

Thanks to the Diversity in YA bloggers Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo as well as Oregon author Chelsea Pitcher for us fired up.

Books should be windows into lives different from our own and also mirrors where we find ourselves reflected.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks