Silver Birch!!!

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Wow!! Kari and I are so insanely thrilled… Margaret took home the Silver Birch Express Award in Toronto last Thursday! What a fantastic way to end of this whirlwind tour of Ontario. For those who aren’t familiar, the Silver Birch Express is a provincial readers’ choice award in Ontario. With over 100,000 kids voting across the province, we couldn’t be prouder to have been selected as this year’s winner in the middle grade category. The fact that we were chosen for this award by our readers makes it so meaningful to us — so much so that we are now hard at work on our next book! 

As Kari and I said on Thursday, we’re so grateful to the Ontario Library Association for having us as part of the amazing Forest of Reading program. And to all the kids who took part in the program and voted: you guys are the BEST!!! Keep reading!

Marvelous Margaret Mayhem!

Kari and I have just returned from a full week of touring with the Forest of Reading, and after visiting Parry Sound, North Bay, and Thunder Bay we have reached a very exciting conclusion… We have the BEST. FANS. EVER!!! Not only did we get to meet and talk with hundreds of great readers, but we heard some amazing feedback about the book–including some things we hadn’t even thought of ourselves! Needless to say we couldn’t be happier about the way Margaret has been received, and it’s made us really enthusiastic about getting to work on our next joint book.

Plus, after winning the regional voting in each of those cities, we’re getting even more excited for the main event in Toronto this Thursday. Can’t wait to meet even more amazing readers!!

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Some Very Exciting News…

Well, in the midst of moving to Jolly Old England, starting a Master’s degree, and working hard on my upcoming projects, Kari and I have received some wonderful news about Margaret and the Moth Tree…

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While this news is a little overdue here (though not if you’ve been following us on Facebook), I’m very pleased to announce that Margaret has been nominated by the Ontario Library Association for the Silver Birch Express Award for 2012-2013! This award is part of the OLA program Forest of Reading, which is “designed to cultivate a love of reading for people of all ages” — our nomination is in the Grades 3-4 category. We can’t wait to attend the award ceremony next year to hear the winners!

If that wasn’t exciting enough (which it really is), Margaret has also been nominated for a Cybils Award in the “Science Fiction and Fantasy” category! (Quick note: this page loads very slowly on my computer… but it could just be my slightly shoddy internet connection.) The Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) are nominated by the public and given out by children’s bloggers — we couldn’t be more proud to be included among the nominees!

Partly to celebrate, we’ve put together a trailer that should give you a bit of a taste of the book if you haven’t yet had a chance to read it. Feel free to share this or drop us a comment!

I’ll let you know how everything goes!

From C.S. Lewis, with love

C.S. Lewis is known for writing one of the most enduring and magical series for children, The Chronicles of Narnia. But for anyone interested in writing, his advice on the topic is also a must-read.

In a letter to a young admirer in 1956, Lewis summarized his philosophy on writing in these five concise points:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

At one point he takes an existential turn:

“If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.”

The full letter can be found here.

When it’s too hot to go outside…

Stay inside and write a new blog post!

The weather here in New York has been less than enjoyable these past few weeks. On a scale of one to “lava-freely-flowing-through-the streets”, I’d place it somewhere in the range of “OMG-shut-the-window-you’re-letting-out-the-AC!!!”

Give or take a degree or two.

Meanwhile, it’s been just over three months since the release of Margaret and the Moth Tree, and we’ve had some fantastic responses!

As a bit of a catch-up for anyone who doesn’t follow us on facebook (a situation you can easily rectify), here are some highlights from the reviews so far:

“A charming story of magical realism… The Trogens breathe new life into the old trope of the plucky orphan in dire straits.” — School Library Journal

“An impressive literary debut… Margaret’s spirit never flags, while the narrator’s archly humorous voice never fails to bring a smile.” — Richard Helm, Edmonton Journal

“There is a classic feel to the writing that makes the story sink right into your soul… I think this could easily make my top Middle Grade book of the year list.” — Claire Johnson, YA Books Central

Not to mention we received (via Twitter) our first ever fan mail! We’d love to hear back from anyone else who’s read the book, so feel free to drop us a comment or email.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go submerge myself in a bathtub filled with frozen peas.

Launch Week

The big day is finally approaching… Or has it already passed? Our “official” launch date for the book was, as far as I knew, April 1st. This is also the date Kari and I have planned for our “launch party” (our lemonade- and cookie-fueled shindig for friends, family, and anyone else who’d like to attend!)

But to my great delight, I’ve already had the pleasure of seeing the book on the shelf at Chapter’s… and so have several others! I’ve been getting messages and even photos from friends who have already purchased the book across the country! Quite a pleasant feeling, I will say.

So… Margaret has landed! Can’t wait to start hearing back from people when they’ve actually had a chance to read it.

Info on the book release:

Word of the Day: Watermeloncholy

Thanks to a fantastic Christmas present from Kari, I’ve recently acquired an entire book of fanciful words! From what I can tell, most of these aren’t widely available online, so when it comes to their definitions you’ll just have to take my word for it, or pick up a copy of Bingo Boys & Poodle Fakers for yourself.

Today’s word selection is: Watermeloncholy!

This is one of those wonderful words that takes two unrelated words, and combines them into something new. For example, melancholy is a sad and gloomy state of mind, and watermelon is a red and juicy piece of fruit.

But watermeloncholy is neither of these things. Watermeloncholy is a craving for watermelons! Now you’ll know what to call it when you have it.

Three Wishes and Fairy Tales

What would you wish for if you were given three wishes? To be rich and famous? World peace? For three more wishes?

A post on Kari Trogen‘s website caught my attention a couple weeks ago, and I thought I’d elaborate on it here. In her post, A few wise words:

“… Many fairy tales—and most of Dahl’s work—are complex narratives of wish fulfillment. They teach the reader, Bettelheim writes, that “a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence—but if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious.”
-Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker

There are countless fairy tales that center around the concept of wishes, often in groups of three. But in classical fairy tales, wishes don’t often help a character master all obstacles and emerge victorious. Usually, it’s quite the opposite.

Take the following whimsical tales:

The Fisherman and His Wife - in which the wife of a fisherman is never satisfied with the outcome of the wishes granted by a magical Flounder.

The Sausage – in which a man with three wishes wastes them quite accidentally in sausage-related mishaps.

In these and other stories, wishing for an improvement in life, by wealth or social standing, will either end up backfiring, or leading you right back to where you started, no matter how much thought and planning you might put into them. So what is the purpose of wishes?

In a recent discussion with author Karen Heuler, she suggested that wish-related stories were originally meant to warn readers against striving for an improved lot in life. In the old days, wishing to be a prince when you were born a street-rat was not something that society approved of, so “wishers” in stories always came to bad ends.

Nowadays, though, it’s more acceptable for people to wish for better social standing, or increased wealth or power. This could explain the shift in modern stories towards happy endings for wishers, like the kind we see in Disney’s Aladdin (Though the original Aladdin story in 1001 Arabian Nights, didn’t include wishes at all.)

So if you do happen across a genie or magical elf, feel free to wish away! Just be sure you’ve thought your wishes through before you make them.