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Thursday, May 25, 2017

An Interview with M.E. Castle, author of the Fakespeare series

Today M.E. Castle is at The Hiding Spot to chat about Fakespeare, his new series for young readers! We talk about writing for reluctant readers, sources of inspiration, and more!

Your new middle school series, Fakespeare, offers a fun spin on the Shakespeare plays. What about Shakespeare appealed to you as source material for this series? 
I think an underappreciated aspect of Shakespeare’s work is his humor, even in the non-comedies. The degree of seriousness and reverence given to his work can sometimes hide the fact that Shakespeare was pretty silly, bawdy and lighthearted in much of his writing. I don’t think his heaviest, most dramatic and most powerful words would do as well without such a counterbalance. I wanted to bring that goofy side out and showcase it, because it serves well as an entry point to Shakespeare for people who might have trepidations. 
These books are excellent picks for reluctant readers. Was reaching this audience a goal for you? Do you feel that certain tactics can be helpful in reaching an audience that is reluctant in general or simply finds writing like Shakespeare unappealing? 
It was a goal, yes! There’s plenty in common between people who are hesitant about Shakespeare and those who are reluctant about reading in general. I think the frequent approach to tackling those issues is a bit skewed and unhelpful. Too often, literature is something proffered like a spoonful of acrid medicine. We’re told it’s good for us, it’s important that we read such and such, it doesn’t matter if we enjoy it because the benefits are worth it. 

This can breed resentful readers. If you want someone to read more, or to read Shakespeare or Homer or Cervantes, precluding the possibility that they might actually like it will only kneecap your efforts. I don’t just love Macbeth because it’s a work of stunning wordcraft that digs deep into the philosophical guts of loyalty, ambition, and marriage. I also love it because it’s a gothic bloody tale of royal intrigue full of double crosses, murder and sword fights. If somebody who’d never read Shakespeare asked for a recommendation, which of those descriptions would you lead with? 

That’s where you start. Try and convince someone they could, in fact, like what you’re offering to them. 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? 
It varies from work to work. I’ll start out by jotting very slightly organized thoughts in a notebook for a while, and coming back to the notes later after I’ve let it stew in my head. I also tend to come up with ideas for scenes and characters first, and built the bigger plot around that. With Fakespeare, of course, I already had plots to work (mess) with, so it was more a case of figuring out how these people would function within an approximation of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet, and how a version of those plays would be different with these special guest stars. 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity. 
In a very “tips and tricks” oriented society, I think it’s important to take time while working on an idea to just think about it. No books, no paper, no internet, no music. A lot of the time, key new pieces fall into place in my head when I’m doing literally nothing but sitting(or walking) and thinking. Something else I like to do that inspires is walk through a bookstore and glance at lots and lots of books. Just looking at the spine or the cover, reading the title, maybe the blurb on the back if I’m especially drawn to it. You collect all these little bits and pieces of the ideas and stories out in the world, and it can really help with your own. Finally, I love playing games of all kinds. Video games, tabletop roleplaying, board and card games. The practice of becoming a character in a story with a specific challenge or set of circumstances to overcome really gets my mind going about how to approach issues I’m having with what my own characters should or could do in their circumstances.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, and the whole subsequent series. When I first picked it up I was in my middle school years, doing my best to dodge all of the angsty, petty, squabbly nonsense that comes with adolescence. Diving into a story thousands of years in the future, spanning a civilized galaxy, with the fate of human civilization and knowledge at stake, was a perfect way to escape from the absurdity of growing up when I most needed to. 
What can readers look forward to next? 
There’s plenty of ground to cover when it comes to Shakespeare, but there are other great works of the past that the Narrator might have eyes on. Difficult to predict, that crafty Narrator. Keep your eyes open, there’s plenty of classic lit to trample through - I mean, approach with proper dignity and reverence.

More About the Books
Three kids get lost inside Shakespeare’s book and must help Romeo and Juliet finish their story in order to return home in this silly middle school series!

Dear Reader,

You are reading this because you expressed interest in the Get Lost Book Club.

Are you ready to embark on a journey to Italy, where you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a major feud between two rival pizza-making families: the Montagues and the Capulets? A swordsman and perfumer will hunt you. There will be disguises, fake pizza, and tomato fights (make sure to duck!). You must help Becca, her stepbrother Sam, and her dog Rufus convince Romeo Montague to ask Juliet Capulet on a date, or you will all be stuck in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet forever!

Intrigued? Worried? Downright terrified? You should be. But if you’re ready for an adventure, step right up and follow me. It’s time to get lost.


The Narrator

Follow the blog tour!

Monday - Novel Novice 
Tuesday - The Winged Pen
Wednesday - Middle Grade Mafia
Thursday - The Hiding Spot

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Smell of Dirt: 5 Picture Books About Gardening & Nature

Though we're still having some cold days here in Michigan, green is suddenly everywhere and flowers are starting to bloom. Farmer's Market has started, which means vegetables like asparagus and radishes are available right from the ground. Celebrate the turn of the season with 5 picture books that highlight the magic of gardens and nature!

Green Green
Marie Lamba / Baldev Lamba & Sonia Sanchez

When concrete and steel begin to clutter the landscape, a community comes together to plant a garden everyone can enjoy. An important reminder that nature and community can flourish with a bit of care.

The Forever Garden
Laurel Snyder / Samantha Cotterill

Snyder and Cotterill introduce readers to a young girl who loves her neighbor Honey and her garden. When Honey must move away, young Laurel learns that friendship is a lot like a garden.

Diana's White House Garden
Elisa Carbone / Jen Hill

Based on a true story, Carbone and Hill tell the story of a young girl named Diane Hopkins, who, with Eleanor Roosevelt, planted the White House victory garden in 1943!

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
Kate Messner / Christopher Silas Neal

The ecosystem is a wondrous thing, as readers will discover as they explore this picture book from Messner and Neal. Taking readers both above and below the ground, both the plants and animals that are essential to a balanced environment are included here.

Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book
Britta Teckentrup

Teckentrup's picture books are beautifully designed, interactive pieces of art. This newest book, Bee, features die-cuts that allows readers to follow a bee as it pollinates flowers and buzzes around colorful meadows. The inside of a bee hive is also explored. This book begs to be read again and again.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

An Interview with Melissa Savage, author of Lemons

Melissa Savage visits The Hiding Spot today to talk about healing from grief, Bigfoot, finding inspiration in the ways kids view the world and communicate, and her upcoming novel set in Roswell, New Mexico!

I quickly fell for your characters and was especially charmed by the relationship between Lemonade and her grandfather. Can you speak about the development of these characters and their relationship?
I have worked as a therapist for many years with children and families and wanted to write about a little girl who struggled with a very unexpected loss, as some children do. And I also wanted to provide some very understanding adults to help her navigate that loss with gentle guidance and love, with the ability to embrace the memories of the past versus trying to forget to ease the pain. Research today tells us the best way to heal from grief is to have a new kind of relationship with the person we’ve lost. By holding special rituals and by celebrating those people instead of trying to forget. Mostly, I wanted this story to contain a great deal of hope, regardless of the lemons that come your way in life to help kids to start to learn coping skills early in life. Charlie represents that very special and safe adult every kid should have in their life to support them and help them with their hope. Not everyone is so lucky. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a Charlie in our lives for the times when our lemons feel just too hard to carry all by ourselves? 
Lemonade becomes fast friends with Tobin Sky, the young CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc., who spends his days responding to Bigfoot sightings and dreaming of finally coming face to face with the legendary creature. Why did you choose Bigfoot as the elusive creature Tobin and Lemonade spend their days chasing? Did you conduct research about Bigfoot? 
I’m a Bigfoot geek! Mostly because I am fascinated when I see news articles about scientists who have located an animal or species of animal they either thought to be extinct or didn’t know existed at all. Or even when they find the bones of an ancient species they didn’t know about. And I find Bigfoot intriguing for that same reason. Although we possess a fossil record of Gigantopithecus from ancient Asia, they are thought to be extinct for millions of years. Wouldn’t it be exciting to find out there was a group of descendants still in existence today? 

Yes, I have done a great deal of research on the elusive creature and even had my scientific facts in the story edited by Dr. Jeff Meldrum, author, Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology at Idaho State University and a collector of Bigfoot prints. The last thing in the world I want is to have my dermal ridges or mid-tarsal break facts off kilter! 
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? I absolutely use an outline, more specifically a plot line to navigate my story, characters, themes, etc. 
I generally start at the beginning and I often don’t have an ending in my mind yet. I write out a very rough first draft and then fill in during the editing process. In the end, my first draft is hardly recognizable in comparison to the final product. As I continue to write and get to know my characters, more ideas come up and the story truly forms through the editing process, which is also my favorite part of writing. For me, writing the first draft is the most difficult part of writing. The end of the story generally comes to me as I’m editing as well. It’s usually the very last thing that happens for me and it often comes in a very aha moment as I become more acquainted with what my character needs, wants and feels deep inside him/or her. 
Inspiration comes in many forms. Share three people, places, or things that inspire your creativity.
Kids! Kids! Kids! I am inspired by kids and how they look at and communicate with others within our world. I find kids to have a quiet wisdom about them and I find myself learning from them every day. There is an innate sense of hope and endurance in childhood that we can lose as we grow up. I love the middle grade genre and I find the sensibilities of childhood are what keeps me writing and how I try to remember my own hope when presented with tough lemons. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Name a notable book that provided you with a hiding spot. 
I love when I find a book that actually reaches my soul so deeply that I cannot put it down. A book I carry around the house and read whenever a free moment comes around, like when I’m leaning against the kitchen counter while I’m waiting the two minutes for my tea to heat up in the microwave. One book that I couldn’t put down was a YA novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, Winter Girls. It wasn’t a happy escape book, yet the dialogue, characters and storyline were so intriguing I couldn’t stop reading it. I found myself completely engrossed until the dreaded last page and then there’s that sense of loss having to leave a world you have been so invested in. But lucky for all of us there is always another special hiding spot book waiting to be discovered that will speak to you in a totally different way! 
What can readers look forward to next? 
My next book is also a middle grade novel about two ten-year-old boys, Mylo and Dibs, who come upon the 1947 UFO crash site in Roswell, New Mexico. In 1947, the military announced to the world that they had recovered a real flying saucer and by the next day they had retracted the story, stating it was just a weather balloon. To this day, so many years later, many people still believe it was more than a weather balloon and witnesses still swear by what they believe they saw so many years earlier. Some even reporting to have seen the creatures themselves. Another interesting adventure! I thought it would be fun to write a story about kids finding the wreckage in the field, and even more importantly a story about who they find amongst that wreckage!

More About the Book
What do you do when you lose everything that means anything?

Nine-year old Lemonade Liberty Witt doesn’t know the answer to that question, except what her mom taught her. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what if those lemons are so big that you forget how?

How do you make lemonade out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California and live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? In a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. With tall pines instead of skyscrapers and dirt instead of sidewalks. Not to mention one woolly beast lurking in the woods.

That’s right, Bigfoot.

A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town like he’s someone real important, like the mayor or something. And the people here actually believe he’s real and hiding somewhere out in the pine filled forests.

How can anyone possibly be expected to make lemonade out those rotten lemons?

Everything is different and Lem just wants to go back home. And then she meets Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. and sole investigator for the town. He invites her to be his Assistant for the summer and she reluctantly agrees. At least until she can figure out her escape plan.

Together, Lem and Tobin try to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film and end up finding more than they ever could have even imagined.

 Purchase a copy of Lemons below!