13th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference: Introduction

April 24, 2012

by Carol Lynch Williams

This June 18-22, 2012 is the 13th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference. This week-long, writing intensive conference has helped many writers and illustrators on toward their own publishing careers. Many of you may know that the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (WIFYR) has joined with The King’s English—our amazing book store—to offer the novels and picture books our faculty has written. We love working with The King’s English!

Over the next few weeks we plan to have several interviews with the authors, illustrator, agents and editors that will be at the conference. Here’s who we having coming:

  • A.E. Cannon (Introduction to Writing for Kids and Young Adults)
  • Trudy Harris (Writing the Picture Book)
  • Julie Olson (Illustration Class)
  • Tim Wynne-Jones (Writing the Middle Grade Novel)
  • Kimberley Sorenson (Introduction to the Young Adult Novel)
  • Matt Kirby (Writing the Fantasy Novel)
  • Mette Ivie Harrison (Writing Science Fiction/ Fantasy)
  • Kirk Shaw (Writing the Contemporary Novel)
  • Greg Leitich Smith (Advanced Class)
  • Carol Lynch Williams (Advanced Class)
  • Ann Dee Ellis (Boot Camp)

Agents are:

  • John Cusick from Scott Treimel NY
  • Jenni Ferrari-Adler from Brick House Literary Agents

Editors are:

  • Alexandra Penfold from Paula Wiseman Books from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Ruth Katcher from Egmont USA

If you have further questions, please visit our website HERE or email me at carolthewriter@yahoo.com for help choosing a class.

2012 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference: Introduction


World Book Night=Pure Joy

April 24, 2012

by Betsy Burton

I just got back from the Indian Walk-in Center in downtown Salt Lake City where I gave away 20 copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in a little over 20 minutes. I would have given anything to have twice as many books—there’s a youth program there that would have cheerfully taken 30 and a new book club of Junior High kids who would have given anything to have enough copies to make it their first “read.”  They want to read all Native American writers—especially people writing now (so if there are any extra copies of Alexie’s book in the warehouse please send them their way!)

But the best part was handing copies of the book to people who had nodded doubtfully to the question, “would you like a free book I think you’re going to love” (or, in the case of the mothers who were there, “that your older children are going to love—and probably you too”)? One “customer” was a grizzled biker who said cheerfully, “Ya, I’ve got a kid in Junior High I’ll give it to.” Then he flipped through it, read part of the first page, and grinned. “I think I’ll read it first, though.”

I left feeling pure joy—at being part of something that can help spread this contagion of book love around the world, at being allowed to connect a specific book with a person who will love it and whose life it might change (over and over again—twenty times over), and for being part of the world of books. Who could have guessed, all those years ago when we started our store, that it would lead to such a life? Thank you Jamie and Carl and the ABA and the ALA and all you wonderful authors and publishers and booksellers and librarians! We did it.


Mattie, A Woman’s Journey West

March 22, 2012

March is National Women’s History Month and we’d like to take a moment to call your attention to a book by a local author…

Mattie, A Woman’s Journey West, Nan Weber

Not unlike today, life for women in the nineteenth century served up hearty challenges on a daily basis, though the burdens of 100 plus years ago certainly were of a different flavor. Mattie, A Woman’s Journey West offers a taste of that life through the story of Martha “Mattie” Shipley Culver, whose life passage took her from her childhood in industrial New England and work in the New York textile industry to her role as the wife of a winter caretaker in Yellowstone National Park, where she died and was buried in 1889, at the age of 32.

Like other visitors to Yellowstone National Park, author Nan Weber discovered Mattie’s fenced grave at the confluence of Nez Perce Creek and the Firehole River. Weber followed her own curiosities through years of research to trace the steps of this mystery woman’s spirited life.

Home sources were a key element to uncovering Mattie’s past. Weber’s careful research enabled her to find, in particular, an autograph book that opened the door to Mattie’s past including her family members and work friends and acquaintances. The result is the inspiring story of a strong woman trying to better her life during difficult times.

For more information about Mattie, visit The King’s English Bookshop HERE or visit the author’s website HERE.


Evolution of a literary distraction

February 13, 2012

by Louis Borgenicht

Since the advent of the Internet my reading habits have dramatically changed.

Truth to tell I never learned the proper lessons from childhood: my mother was a voracious reader consuming several books in a day. As a youth I recall wallowing in Nancy Drew mysteries and the historical novels of Geoffrey Trease and would actually sit for lengths of time in bed before falling asleep.

Trease was a British writer of 113 books; the Nancy Drew mysteries were written by a variety of authors under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, a fact I recently learned from  Wikipedia. But the lessons learned in childhood did not last long; I rarely read for extended periods of time.

Readers of this blog have learned about my New Yorker angst, long ago making my peace with being behind.

Similarly, I have had problems with the Sunday New York Times. The drive to read it on the day it is tossed unceremoniously onto my snowless driveway is just not there. Years ago, when I lived in New York City, I would make a special effort to read the news of the week in Review immediately feeling I had to get the heady stuff out of the way first. If I waited until the end of the week to read it I would likely not.

Now I have become more lackadaisical. I glance at the front section, peruse the Arts section mainly to see if some spectacular television offering is coming up, and then relegate the business, sports, and travel section (unless there is an article on some destination we hope to visit) to the recycle bin. Living in SLC there is no urgency in getting through the Times at one sitting; years ago living in NYC there was a hip pleasure buying the Sunday Times on Saturday night along with fresh real bagels,
going to bed shortly after midnight, and awakening leisurely on Sunday morning knowing I had everything I needed.

The Internet has exacerbated my tendency to literary distraction. Emails were the first step. There are decisional issues: you read an email and have to decide whether to erase it immediately or retain it for future reference. This is particularly true if a friend sends you something with the subject “FYI or I thought you might like this.” You can open the attachment, give it a quick glance and file it somewhere for future reference.

That is the problem: future reference. It feeds into possibility and hope. Will I read it? If so when? Where will I find it if I finally decide to read it?

Unless you are incredibly disciplined you will forget about it, discovering days or months later when you accidentally open a file you did not know existed. The moment of truth arrives as your guilt wells: read it or delete it sight unseen.

This short-order reading has affected my dealing with real books. I rarely take the time to sit down for upwards of half an hour in a comfortable chair and just read. It would be lovely to do so, meditative even. But my brain has been programmed for distraction.

Even at night I am only able to read for five minutes before falling asleep. It is clearly the fault of the computer. I have often thought that Apple should give every new customer a prescription of Ritalin with each new computer to minimize attention deficit.

Only then might I get back to the good old days of my youth.


All That I Am by Anna Funder

February 2, 2012

by Betsy Burton

Once in a while a novel comes along that rocks your world. All That I Am rocked mine. I picked it up expecting a WWII thriller and in terms of suspense and believability it’s exactly that. But it’s also much more than just that. It begins in Berlin in the ‘20s. The glamorous and decadent Weimer Republic is in full swing, feminism is a proclaimed ideal, the left is on the ascendant, and their journalists skewer the nascent Nazi movement mercilessly. Hans is one such journalist. And when 18-year-old budding photographer Ruth Becker visits her cousin Dora, the three friends, Hans, Ruth, and Dora, work in tandem to secure the release of a political prisoner, Ernst Toller.

Wait a minute, Ernst Toller, I think. I know that name. Toller has a voice in the book, as do Ruth and Dora, and as I read on, as Toller meets Auden I’m sure I’ve remembered correctly. Toller was a famous intellectual, a poet and playwright, bitterly anti-fascist, friend of Auden, Erika Mann, and other  intellectuals of the time. And suddenly I’m not just reading a thriller. If Toller is real, then so, presumably, is Dora. And Ruth. And Hans.

I flip to the Afterword and it’s true—they were real. The action isn’t plot manipulation in an effort to create suspense. All of this actually happened. All at once I’m above as well as in the narrative, bearing witness. But why this reaction? I’ve read plenty of so-called  historical fiction before. What makes this seem so different?

The Nazis come to power and Toller is exiled. Dora, displaying breathtaking bravery, rescues his manuscript and his papers. Hans and Ruth are by now married and they, too, are ordered to leave. And so we get a picture of German émigrés who have fled to London in the early ‘30s and who are trying desperately to convince a disbelieving country—a disbelieving world—of the evils of Nazism, all three taking unbelievable risks to do so. In their respective voices we hear the boundless courage and determination of Dora, the deeply intellectual and as deeply depressed world view of Toller, the confusion and growing awareness of the observer, photographer Ruth, as she watches those she loves struggle with their fear and their inner demons, struggle with the closer and closer incursions of the Nazis on their London haven while the world remains willfully blind. What might, in a typical thriller, be predictable, becomes, in this slow, lethal unlayering of character, both inevitable and unbearable.

Perhaps herein lies the answer to my question about the difference between mere historical fiction and the act of bearing witness. Because bearing witness is more than just seeing—as Toller himself says, it is an act of imagination. One that creates understanding.  Funder has, in All That I Am, wrested four characters from history, in the process pulling us back and forth from their realities to their memories so convincingly that the reader knows all from the inside, is witness to what they bear, what they can no longer bear, and what it makes of them. Oh, suspense, suspicion, abound, but All That I Am is more than merely spellbinding. Like Hillary Mantel’s brilliant Wolf Hall, Funder’s new book is not just a novel or thriller, and is also far more than mere history. Because thanks to the characters she’s brought to life, and to the opportunity she’s granted us to bear witness to their lives, we understand our own in a different way, understand history in a new way.

Anna Funder is an Australian write who grew up in Melbourne and worked as an international lawyer and in public relations for a German overseas television service in Berlin. Her first book, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, won the UK’s most prestigious award for nonfiction, The Samuel Johnson Prize.

On February 7, this book is available for immediate download. CLICK HERE

Recently aired on KUER, 90.1 fm


Spread the Joy of Reading with World Book Night

January 16, 2012

By Mona Awad

How would you like to give away free copies of your favorite book?

Sign up now to be a giver for World Book Night 2012, an annual celebration designed to spread a love of reading and books. Following its highly successful launch in the U.K. in 2011, World Book Night will be held in the U.S. on April 23, 2012, and will see tens of thousands of people go out into their communities to spread the joy of reading by handing out free World Book Night paperbacks. You’ll help promote the value of reading, printed books, bookshops and libraries to everyone all year.

How you can do it:

Sign up to be a giver. Receive free books. Give them away.

It’s as easy as going to the World Book Night website. Need some ideas? Consider these… Distribute Peace Like a River at the Trax station near the main library. Hand out The History of Love at the Senior Centre. Give out Wintergirls at your neighborhood school.

By signing up to be a giver, you’ll join thousands of givers on April 23rd in spreading the love of reading and books in your community. Remember, sign up only throughout the month of January.


A Gently Told Fairy Tale

November 2, 2011

By Betsy Burton

Oracle of Stamboul, Michael David Lukas

Early one morning Eleanora, an 8-year-old girl whose mother has died, stows away in a trunk of carpets, intending to follow her father to Stamboul where he means to spend a month with an old friend, Moncef Bay. Eleanora is a savant and has already attracted the attention of an American, Yale-educated spy and the admiration of her Turkish host when her father dies in an explosion that might or might not be an accident. The spy becomes her tutor, her host a kind of father, and rumors of her prodigious intelligence begin to drift across the city, ultimately attracting the attention of the Sultan himself.

The year is 1877, the Russians are baiting the Turks in hopes of acquiring more territory, the Germans are attempting an alliance for their own reasons, the British hover, alert for advantage and the Americans are in the game as well. The game in question is the ravaging of the Sultan’s once-vast Ottoman Empire. And at the heart of all this intrigue is Eleanora.

If all of this sounds like some improbable fairy tale, that’s exactly what it is: a gently told fairy tale set in a real world in real time yet embracing the enchanting improbabilities of magical realism. The Oracle of Stamboul is not just a great read for those in the mood to be swept away, but a perfect book for young readers as well, the ideal stocking stuffer for just about anyone.