great day!

•May 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

We got some very good news yesterday: BIRD has won the West Virginia Children’s Choice Award! Last year Diary of a Wimpy Kid won, so I’m really honored that the children found merit in our book. The competition is open to books published within the past three years that meet the literary standards adopted by the Children’s Services Division of the American Library Association for Notable Books:

  1. Have high literary merit.
  2. Have qualities of originality, imagination, and vitality.
  3. Have an element of timelessness.
  4. Reflect the sincerity of the author.
  5. Have sound values.
  6. Have a theme of subject worth imparting to and of interest to children.
  7. Have factual accuracy.
  8. Have clarity and readability.
  9. Be appropriate in subject, treatment and format to the age group for which it is intended.

Then I looked on Amazon and noticed that a new review of WISH had been added. It’s actually from a teacher who allowed her two students to post these evaluations of my novel:

Review 1: A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot was an interesting book. It is about a girl, Genna, and how she is in a bad neighborhood and she wants out. She gets more than she bargained for when a wish sends her back to 1863. This book gives you a good look at some of the things that happened around the Civil War-era.

When Genna is in the world of 1863, she has to learn to fit in, work, not say what is on her mind, and find a way out. In the book, it shows you how everyone who was not white was treated.

This book has good information about the Civil War and a good story!

Review 2: A Wish After Midnight was an eye-opening book. Even though some parts in the beginning were a little intense, the historical part gives a great view on the start of the Civil War. The main character, Genna, shines a light on the difficulty of being a black girl in the 1800s while continuing to hope and work toward a positive and educated life for herself. This book has so many twists and turns that it keeps you on your toes as you await the next turn of events. A Wish After Midnight is a great segue into thinking about the Civil War because the number of perspectives you get from people with very different backgrounds and ideas. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone 13 or older who is looking for a book that really brings out the tensions and worries of people during the Civil War. From: Books R. Cool


myth & magic

•April 30, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I hope you can join us for a night of “Myth and Magic.” In response to our world of natural disasters, strife and chaos, writers ALEXI ZENTNER (Touch), HELEN PHILLIPS (And Yet They Were Happy), ZETTA ELLIOTT (A Wish After Midnight), ANTHONY TOGNAZZINI (I Carry A Hammer In My Pocket For Occasions Such As These), and NED THIMMAYYA (Old Ghost Stories) present an alternate reality of time travel, witches, ghosts, and monsters.

The details:

Monday, May 9, 8-10pm
Franklin Park Bar and Beer Garden
618 St. Johns Place, between Franklin and Classon Avenues
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
FREE; $4 pints
Subway: 2/3/4/5 trains to Franklin Avenue

ALEXI ZENTNER is the author of the debut novel Touch. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic Monthly, Tin House, Glimmer Train, Narrative, The Walrus, Slice Magazine, Orion Magazine, on, and in other publications. His short story “Touch,” which inspired his novel, was awarded a 2008 O. Henry Prize and his story “Trapline” won the 2008 Narrative Prize. He holds an MFA from Cornell University and lives in Ithaca, New York with his family.

is the author of the debut novel And Yet They Were Happy and the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, the Meridian Editors’ Prize, and the Italo Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in PEN America, Brooklyn Magazine, Mississippi Review, Sonora Review, Salt Hill, and L Magazine, among others, and in the anthology American Fiction: The Best Previously Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Authors. She received her MFA from Brooklyn College, where she now teaches undergraduate creative writing and administers the MFA program. Originally from Colorado, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, artist Adam Thompson.

ZETTA ELLIOTT is the author of the novel A Wish After Midnight and a poet, essayist, and playwright.  Her poetry has been published in the Cave Canem anthology, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Check the Rhyme: an Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees, and Coloring Book: an Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers. Her essays have appeared in The Black Arts Quarterly, thirdspace, WarpLand, and Rain and Thunder.  She won the 2005 Honor Award in Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Contest and published a picture book, Bird, in 2008. Her play Nothing but a Woman was a finalist in the Chicago Dramatists’ Many Voices Project. She lives in Brooklyn.

is the author of I Carry A Hammer In My Pocket for Occasions Such As These, a collection of prose poems and short fictions. His work has appeared in Quarterly West, Mississippi Review, Denver Quarterly, Swink, Pindeldyboz, Puerto del Sol, Quick Fiction, the Alaska Quarterly Review, and other journals, and in Sudden Stories: A Mammoth Anthology of Minuscule Fiction. He was born in California and has lived in Texas, the Philippines, Spain, Germany, Indiana, and the Czech Republic. He lives in Brooklyn.

is a writer, law student, and former rapper.  His work has appeared in the Foundling Review, Up the Beanstalk, and is forthcoming in the Brooklyn Journal of International Law. He has written a short story collection, Old Ghost Stories, and is currently working on a new story collection and a novel. He has also written and recorded three rap albums: The Leap, Empire State, and The T-Notebook. Originally from Kinderhook, NY, he now lives in Crown Heights.

About the Franklin Park Reading Series:

Launched in March 2009, the Franklin Park Reading Series is held every second Monday at the Franklin Park Bar and Beer Garden in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. We feature emerging and established fiction writers, memoirists, poets, storytellers, and comedians (and the occasional musician). Whenever possible, we draw from the local talent pool. And we love to showcase a wide range of voices, reflecting the diversity of the Crown Heights community.

The series has been recommended by the New York Times, the New Yorker, New York Magazine, Time Out, the Village Voice, New York Press, The Brooklyn Paper, and other publications. The L Magazine gave the Franklin Park Reading Series a 2011 Brooklyn Bar Award for “best readings.”

Books are sold through the Prospect Heights independent bookstore Unnameable Books.

upcoming Toronto event

•April 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Diversity in YA Panel

•April 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Thanks to Amy Bodden Bowllan for bringing this May 23rd School Library Journal event to my attention.  I’m going to try to attend the morning panel, but I teach in the afternoon and then have a Book Expo reception to attend in the evening.  Book Expo’s always a busy time, so if you can attend the entire Day of Dialog, please blog about it and share a link!

8:30-8:35 AM WELCOME, Brian Kenney, Editor-in-Chief, School Library Journal
Katherine Paterson, National Ambassador for Young People’s LiteratureBreakfast & speaker sponsored by Candlewick Press
9:15-10:15 AM PANEL I: Diversity in YA Literature
Where we are and where we’d like to be.MODERATOR: Amy Bowllan, Director of Diversity and Educational Technology, The Hewitt School
Paul Griffin
, Stay with Me (Dial)
Malinda Lo , Huntress (Little, Brown)
Cindy Pon , Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow)
Rita Williams-Garcia , One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins)
10:15-10:30 AM BREAK
10:30-11:30 AM Publishers’ Pitch Part 1
11:30-12:30 PM PANEL II: The Children’s App Landscape
What is being produced and how can libraries use them?MODERATOR: Lisa von Drasek, Coordinator, School Services/Children’s Librarian, Bank Street College of Education
Linda Braun
, consulting coordinator for Libraries $ Educators Online (LEO)
Donald Crews & Virginia Duncan, Author & Editor Freight Train App (Greenwillow)
Deborah Forte, President of Scholastic Media
Scott Gordon, digital producer at Random House Children’s Books
12:30-2:00 PM LUNCH SPEAKER: Daniel Handler, aka Lemony SnicketLunch & speaker sponsored by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2:00-3:00 PM PANEL III: Picture Book BiographiesMODERATOR: Martha Parravano, Executive Editor, The Horn Book
Matt de la Peña
, A Nation’s Hope (Dial)
Meghan McCarthy, The Incredible Life of Balto (Knopf)
Patrick McDonnell, Me…Jane (Little, Brown)
Melissa Sweet, Balloons Over Broadway (Houghton Harcourt)
3:00-3:15 PM BREAK
3:15-4:15 PM Publishers’ Pitch Part 2
4:15-5:15 PM PANEL IV: Stellar Debut AuthorsMODERATOR: Brian Kenney, Editor-in-Chief, School Library Journal
Adam Gidwitz
, A Tale Dark & Grimm (Dutton)
Julie Kagawa, The Iron King (Harlequin Teen)
Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again (HarperCollins)
Dave Roman, Astronaut Academy (First Second)

Questions? Contact

spring releases

•March 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Thanks to everyone who came out to Bard High School Early College last night!  I delivered the inaugural Peterson Lecture in the Humanities and it was warmly received.  A lovely librarian gave me a ride home and I then had time to mull over an article my agent clipped from the New York Times.  Did you know the author of the Bluford High series was a white man from New Jersey?  You can read the article here.  Part of my talk focused on the evolution of my own urban aesthetic, and I insisted that,

For me, the greatest challenge in developing an urban aesthetic is…representing the varied realities of urban children without echoing and thereby reinforcing philanthropic or sociological narratives that figure urban children as pitiful, powerless, and/or pathological.

You can write about “the gritty reality” of urban life without glorifying violence and dysfunction.  I haven’t read any of the Bluford books but that article didn’t sit well with me.  One of the questions that came up last night was around giving kids books that are not simple mirrors—if you live in a neighborhood that’s plagued with violence and drugs, then you deserve a book that reflects that reality but you might NEED a book that offers some alternatives…art should reveal what’s POSSIBLE, not only what’s real.

Books like the Bluford High series have undeniable appeal, though, and maybe they can serve as a “gateway” to other kinds of books.  Edi over at Crazy Quilts has posted a great list of spring releases, including some adult titles that might appeal to teens.  Fans of urban fiction have plenty of options…

If you want to learn more about the RANGE of fiction by women writers of color, make sure you subscribe to Color Online.  And stop by Multiculturalism Rocks! because Nathalie’s running a series of interviews with CO’s contributors.  And have you seen Nathalie’s new logo?  She designed it herself and it’s beautiful…

unpacking the past

•March 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve got a new essay up at Hunger Mountain—here’s a short excerpt:

Canada is a former British colony, and so I grew up reading (and loving) British “classics.”  Looking back on it now, I am not at all surprised that my fifth-grade teacher would select a seventy-five year old book for her students.  What I cannot forgive is the book’s appalling depiction of “dirty” (yet “shiny”) “savages” who—with their “brown coppery” skin and Afros—just happen to match a description of me at age nine.  Did the video include this tropical scene with drum-beating, wildly dancing natives whose language sounds to the white children like “Oo goggery bag-wag”?

(illustration by HR Millar, from The Phoenix & the Carpet)

Women’s History Month

•March 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Of course, we celebrate women’s contributions all year round but the blogosphere’s abuzz with special features you won’t want to miss:

  • at Crazy Quilts, media specialist Edi is posting non-fiction titles about remarkable women of color
  • Doret at The Happy Nappy Bookseller joins the team of bloggers and authors at Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month
  • Nathalie at Multiculturalism Rocks! has interviewed yours truly about my feminist role models and fascination with the past…
  • later this month I’ll be giving a talk at Bard High School Early College; I’m their Visiting Scholar and will give the inaugural Peterson Lecture in the Humanities—if you’re in NYC, come out!