Where I’ve Been/ Announcement!

Hi everyone!

Long time, no blog post — but I’ve got a good reason!

I’ve been hard at work planning the Teen HQ at the Louisiana Book Festival, and boy do we have an amazing lineup of authors & panelists this year. On the MG & YA front, we have:

  • Lauren Allbright, author of Exit Strategy
  • Alys Arden, author of The Romeo Catchers
  • Alton Carter, author of Aging Out
  • Judy Christie, author of Wreath, in College
  • Neil Connelly, author of Into the Hurricane
  • Heather Demetrios, author of Bad Romance
  • Laurie Devore, author of How to Break a Boy
  • Michael Fry, author of How to be a Supervillain
  • Frye Gaillard, author of Go South to Freedom
  • Claudia Gray, author of Defy the Stars
  • Jesse Haynes, author of Special
  • S.F. Henson, author of Devils Within
  • Linda Williams Jackson, author of Midnight without a Moon
  • Brendan Kiely, author of The Last True Love Story
  • Laurent Linn, author of Draw the Line
  • Joanne O’Sullivan, author of Between Two Skies
  • Richard Peck, author of The Best Man
  • Caleb Roehrig, author of Last Seen Leaving
  • Michelle Schusterman, author of Olive and the Backstage Ghost
  • Corabel Shofner, author of Almost Paradise
  • Ronald L. Smith, author of The Mesmerist
  • Sarah Tolcser, author of Song of the Current
  • Jasmine Warga, author of Here We Are Now
  • Jeff Zentner, author of Goodbye Days

We’ll also have a podcasting panel featuring Kassiah Faul of the Swoony Boys Podcast, Jesse Haynes of the Mazie Meadows Morning Show, and Nicole Jorge of the Alexandria Archives, moderated by Katherine Downey of the Swoony Boys Podcast. Finally, we’ll have an #OwnVoices  panel featuring Laurent Linn, Caleb Roehrig, and Jasmine Warga, moderated by Brendan Kiely.

LBF Books

Just a few of the amazing books we’re featuring this year.

Join us on October 28th in downtown Baton Rouge! For more information and to check out the full schedule, go to http://www.louisianabookfestival.org.

LBF Wall

The “Wall of Awesome”. See how many MG & YA titles you can spot!

In other news, I’m very excited and pleased to announce that I’m starting a podcast on youth services in libraries with the amazingly awesome Nicole Jorge! We’ll be discussing programs and services for kids and teens, featuring tips and tricks on how to score various goodies such as ARCs and even author visits, as well as featuring the occasional author interview! The show won’t premiere until mid or late November, but we’ve already hard at work and will be announcing the title soon. If children & teen librarianship floats your boat, keep an eye on this blog for more information and also follow Nicole over at That Girl Jorge!

 

Till next time!

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Author Interview – Brooks Benjamin

Hello readers!

Today we have a special interview with Brooks Benjamin, author of My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights.

The Spork Review: Why write for middle-graders?

Brooks Benjamin: The twelve year old in me won’t let me write anything else. Maybe it’s because because he knows that age is such an important time in our lives–it’s when we begin to figure out stuff like who we’re going to be, who we’re going to like, what we’re going to enjoy, fear, and need. Or maybe it’s because he knows it’s the perfect mixture of being a kid and becoming a young adult that makes that age a wonderfully delicious emotional and behavioral soup. Or maybe it’s because he’s an immature little turd that won’t let go of the fact that he still giggles over fart jokes sometimes.

TSR: The main theme of My 7th Grade Life in Tights is “Find the moves that fit.” Why do you feel that it was important to tell Dillon’s story?

BB: Middle school is a jungle we’ve all explored but will always remain unconquered by human beings. There’s an air of incivility that surrounds it which makes those three years some of the worst years in many people’s lives. It wasn’t any different for me. I had an idea of who I wanted to be but was so scared to allow myself to become that person. So I wanted to write something that spoke to that and to any human who has ever felt that way. I wanted to tell every one of them that it’s fine to be scared and it’s fine to be worried but it’s not fine to let others tell you who or what you should be. “Find the moves that fit” is my dancetastic way of sharing that no matter who you are, there’s a style out there for you, even if you have to make it all up yourself.

TSR: Tell us a bit about your writing process.

It always starts with interesting characters. I hear them say something, I see them do something, I imagine their reaction to something. They’re nothing more than an idea at this point, but while I begin to throw out problems and stories and allow them to speak to it and about it, I learn who they are and who they want to be. Their personalities grow and deepen and the rose-colored glasses come off when I see their flaws. But they become very real to me after that. As I begin to write out their stories, there’s always a fear that I’m getting it wrong, but they always let me know if I am. And as their story progresses, I continue to learn things about them. There’s never a time when I know it all. The difference is that by the time that particular story is finished, I’ve grown to love each of them and appreciate their quirks, their worries, their problems, and their needs, about as much as I can appreciate my own.

TSR: Where is your favorite place to write?

My desk beside the big window that overlooks the woods. And when it’s raining outside I love it even more.

TSR: Can you tell us about what you are working on now?

BB: Sure! I’m working on another MG. This one’s about two friends, one who is very real and is trying to find a way to disappear and one who isn’t quite real and is trying to keep from vanishing altogether.

Lighting Round:

TSR: Favorite NKotB song?

BB: HANGIN’ TOUGH!

TSR: Favorite thing to do to relax?

BB: Play video games while eating pizza.

TSR: Salty or sweet?

BB: You mean salty AND sweet? Yes.
TSR: What is one thing you never leave home without?

BB: My underwear. If I ever have to sacrifice my pants to save someone’s life I want to do it with some dignity.

TSR: Any hidden talents?

BB: I can impersonate a ton of actors or characters from cartoons. When I was a kid, I wanted so badly to be someone else that I tried on different characters all the time. The result was a talent for sounding like, but never being anyone else but me. And that’s pretty cool, I think.

Thanks so much to Brooks for answering some questions for us! Your new book sounds great – I can’t wait to read it!

My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin – Book Review

​Buenos Dias from sunny Progreso, Mexico, folks!

As part of my amazing job, I get the pleasure and privilege of selecting middle grade & young adult books to be featured at the Louisiana Book Festival every year. This past January,  while researching recently published and upcoming books for the 2016 LBF, I ran across a book called My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin. Intrigued by the description, I added it to my list of books to check out.

A wonderful, moving story about being true to yourself, My Seventh Grade Life in Tights is about a boy named Dillon who is part of a dance crew called the Dizzee Freeks.  Unlike his two friends in his crew who have been classically trained in dance, Dilion has had no formal training. His dance style is what’s known among his friends as ‘ninja freestyle’, featuring a series of kicks and punches. (I can’t help but imagine he looks a bit like he’s having a seizure when he dances.)  Dillon is desperate to learn how to ‘properly’ dance so he discovers an opportunity to earn a scholarship to a prestigious dance academy. There’s just one small hitch – dance studios are for sell-outs, at least, according to the rest of his crew.  

Through an ingenious plan (cause you know those always work), Dillon’s crew hatches a plan for Dillon to try out for the scholarship, win, then tell the studio to stick their scholarship where the sun doesn’t shine.

Well you know that’s going to go off without a hitch, right? 😉

Very well-written and perfectly paced, My Seventh Grade Life in Tights  is an encouraging story about ‘finding the moves that fit’.  With a diverse set of characters (yay for diversity!), all with their own struggles and issues, this book will dance its way into the hearts of both kids and adults alike.

Final rating: 5 Sporks

PS: Stay tuned for another author interview!