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Tag Archives | Heather Vogel Frederick

Skinny Dip with Heather Vogel Frederick

7_8patienceWhat is your proud­est career moment?

I don’t think any­thing will ever beat get­ting that phone call over a dozen years ago from Simon & Schus­ter (edi­tor Kevin Lewis, to be exact) let­ting me know that they were going to pub­lish my first book, The Voy­age of Patience Good­speed. I hung up the phone after­wards and burst into tears. I’d worked so hard on that nov­el, for so many years! I was float­ing on air for weeks. In some ways, I still am.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever.

I was five, they were leop­ard print, and I thought I was the coolest thing ever. I loved those jam­mies to shreds. I had match­ing leop­ard print slip­pers, too—which met an untime­ly end when I acci­den­tal­ly stepped in the toi­let. But that’s anoth­er sto­ry.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Curl­ing. Just to see the looks on people’s faces when I told them.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Twen­ty-three years ago, my hus­band and I picked up and moved from the East Coast to Port­land, Ore­gon, sight unseen, no jobs. Friends and fam­i­ly thought we were nuts. We prob­a­bly were, but it was also a fab­u­lous adven­ture. We fell in love with Ore­gon the minute we drove across the bor­der. The Pacif­ic North­west is absolute­ly gor­geous, and it’s been a great place to raise our boys.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

7_8WestWindOn my own? This is a tough one, because my mem­o­ries of read­ing on my own are so tight­ly inter­laced with night­ly read-alouds with my father. I remem­ber him read­ing Thorn­ton Burgess’s Old Moth­er West Wind sto­ries to me, which were his favorites when he was grow­ing up, and I also remem­ber sound­ing the words out myself and read­ing them back to him. As a solo read, though, I think it was either Gene Zion’s Har­ry the Dirty Dog or Vir­ginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mul­li­gan and His Steam Shov­el (both of which I lat­er read to my boys, who also loved them—isn’t that one of the best things about books?).

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Believe it or not, The West Wing. Some­how we missed it the first time around when it aired over a decade ago, and now we’re stream­ing it on Net­flix and can’t pull our­selves away. It’s held up remark­ably well, and in many ways is still top­i­cal and time­ly. And the writ­ing! Don’t get me start­ed on the writ­ing. Sharp, fun­ny, smart, infor­ma­tive. I can’t get enough of it.

 

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Mother-Daughter Book Club

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

Mother-Daughter coverIn a meta-move (we’re not usu­al­ly so cool), our moth­er-daugh­ter book club has start­ed the Moth­er-Daugh­ter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick.  We read the first book last month and the sec­ond is sched­uled for our next meet­ing. I’m not sure we’ll be able to stop there. It was good we held them until the girls were the age of the girls in Frederick’s first books—the tim­ing is per­fect now.

The form­ing of the fic­tion­al moth­er-daugh­ter book club was dif­fer­ent than ours. The moth­ers in Frederick’s books pret­ty much coerced their girls into com­ing togeth­er in sixth grade to read Lit­tle Women. The series fol­lows the daugh­ters through their pre-teen and teen years as they read var­i­ous lit­er­ary clas­sics togeth­er with their mothers—not always hap­pi­ly, but always enter­tain­ing­ly. 

Our moth­er-daugh­ter book club start­ed when our girls were in sec­ond grade.  We start­ed with George Selden’s The Crick­et in Times Square. I sent the orig­i­nal inquiry/invitation. I sim­ply looked around my girl’s class­room and play­ground and sent an email to a few of the moth­ers I knew. Some of the girls were friends, some were not…yet. I don’t believe any were coerced into par­tic­i­pat­ing. If they were, at least they’ve stayed. And I’ve over­heard them claim they start­ed the book club, and we moth­ers were sim­ply allowed to come along for the ride. This revi­sion­ist his­to­ry is fine by me.

Cricket in Times Square coverToday, we are five moth­er-daugh­ter pairs and the girls are in sev­enth grade. I would guess we’ve read close to fifty books togeth­er. Frederick’s moth­er-daugh­ter book club focus­es on one clas­sic for months—sometimes a year. Ours reads one book every 4–6 weeks or so.  We take turns pick­ing books, moms gen­tly encour­ag­ing books the girls might not oth­er­wise find and devour on their own (no Har­ry Pot­ter books, Hunger Games, Diver­gent etc.), and girls insist­ing on books moms might not oth­er­wise have giv­en a chance. We’ve read sev­er­al that were pop­u­lar when the moth­ers were the daugh­ters’ age, which they find interesting/hysterical. We’ve had a cou­ple of author vis­its. We’ve even done some events that have noth­ing to do with books—we won a prize for our Brown-Paper-Pack­ages-Tied-Up-With-String cos­tumes at the Sound of Music Sing-a-long! 

Our daugh­ters are friends in that sus­tain­ing sort of way that makes it through (we hope) the some­times tumul­tuous mid­dle school years; which is to say there are no cliquey BFF’s in the group, but rather known-each-oth­er-for-quite-awhile friend­ships. The moth­ers are friends in that sus­tain­ing sort of way that comes when you raise your daugh­ters togeth­er. We are lis­ten­ing ears for one anoth­er, glad cel­e­bra­tors, co-com­mis­er­ates (clothes shop­ping with pre-teens—OY!), and con­fi­dants. The girls talk of con­tin­u­ing our book group through their high school years, and we moth­ers cross our fin­gers and say a lit­tle prayer this will be the case. It’s get­ting more and more dif­fi­cult to sched­ule our meetings—busy girls, busy moms, busy fam­i­lies. But we work hard to make it work when we can with­out stress­ing any­one out.

In short, it has been a tremen­dous thing in our lives, this moth­er-daugh­ter book club.  Read­ing about a moth­er-daugh­ter book club that is so dif­fer­ent from ours is a hoot. And in the hands of Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick, ado­les­cence is not only well drawn, but help­ful­ly drawn. The moth­ers and daugh­ters in her series go through many of the very same things we do, for there is noth­ing new under the sun with regard to ado­les­cence and the moth­er-daugh­ter relationship—just vari­a­tions on sim­i­lar themes. It’s good to read about oth­er lives that have touch points with yours—sparks great con­ver­sa­tion.

 

 

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From the Editor: Welcome

by Mar­sha Qua­ley

Wel­come to Bookol­o­gy.

WelcomeWhat began almost a year ago as a con­ver­sa­tion among col­leagues has now tak­en shape and arrived on your vir­tu­al doorstep: an e‑magazine ded­i­cat­ed to nur­tur­ing the essen­tial con­ver­sa­tion about the role of children’s books in the K‑8 class­room.

That meet­ing was con­vened by Vic­ki and Steve Palmquist, own­ers and founders of Wind­ing Oak and per­haps more famil­iar to many of you as the founders and heart­beat of Children’s Lit­er­a­ture Net­work, an orga­ni­za­tion they rolled up last year after pro­vid­ing 12 years of lead­er­ship as well as an unpar­al­leled online plat­form for com­mu­ni­ca­tion between children’s book cre­ators and the adults who love those books.

Vic­ki and Steve want­ed to cre­ate a sim­i­lar online pres­ence, one that would not only high­light the work of Wind­ing Oak’s many clients, but which would also invite a larg­er net­work of read­ers, writ­ers, illus­tra­tors, teach­ers, and librar­i­ans into the con­ver­sa­tion.

A quick guide to what you’ll see each month:

A Book­storm ™.  Each “storm” begins with one book. From there we spin out a cross-cur­ricu­lum array of sub­jects and pro­vide titles for each cat­e­go­ry. Com­mon Core, STEM/STEAM, state standards—any cur­ricu­lum struc­ture will be served by the Book­storm™ bib­li­og­ra­phy. But we also go beyond a sim­ple list, and each month much of the Bookol­o­gy con­tent we present will emanate from the Book­storm™ titles.

Columns.  Whether writ­ten by one of our reg­u­lars or a guest writer, these posts are intend­ed to share the voic­es of peo­ple immersed in the world of children’s lit­er­a­ture. We are espe­cial­ly delight­ed to launch “Knock Knock,” a blog col­lec­tive from Wind­ing Oak’s many clients that will appear on alter­nate Tues­days. Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick game­ly accept­ed the assign­ment to write the inau­gur­al col­umn; she’ll be fol­lowed up lat­er this month by Melis­sa Stew­art and Avi.

Inter­views and arti­cles. We will be vis­it­ing with illus­tra­tors, writ­ers, teach­ers, librar­i­ans and oth­ers in order to expand what we all know and under­stand about children’s lit­er­a­ture. We’ll also be offer­ing a lighter, more humor­ous get­ting-to-know-you inter­view venue: Skin­ny Dips, in which we ask about almost any­thing except the cre­ative process.

We will scat­ter about the mag­a­zine fea­tures and inci­den­tals we hope will be of inter­est, such as Lit­er­ary Madeleines—dis­cov­er­ies that even the vet­er­an read­ers on the staff savored—and Time­lines, quick at-a-glance looks at sem­i­nal books in a genre or sub­ject. Con­test, quizzes, and book-give­aways will also appear through­out the month.

What you won’t see are book reviews. While many of our arti­cles and columns will of course dis­cuss and rec­om­mend books, those rec­om­men­da­tions will always be in con­text of a larg­er top­ic. There are plen­ty of book review forums avail­able, and we weren’t inter­est­ed in adding to those voic­es.

And for now you won’t see “Com­ments” sec­tions. This is iron­ic of course in view of our stat­ed mis­sion of nur­tur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion; we’ll open those, and soon. In the mean­time, should you have a com­ment or sug­ges­tion or request, send me a note.  marsha.qualey@bookologymagazine.com

Thanks for your time and inter­est. Now please go explore Bookol­o­gy.

 

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Heather Vogel Frederick: Borrowed Fire

In Absolute­ly Tru­ly, my new mid­dle grade mys­tery set in a book­shop in the fic­tion­al town of Pump­kin Falls, New Hamp­shire, a first edi­tion of Charlotte’s Web goes miss­ing. There’s a rea­son this par­tic­u­lar book fea­tures so promi­nent­ly in the story—it’s a nod to my lit­er­ary hero, E. B. White.

E.B. White

E.B. White and friend

E.B. White and I go way back. He’s one of the rea­sons I became a writer, thanks to Charlotte’s Web, which was one of my all-time favorites as a young read­er (it still is). It tops a short list of what I con­sid­er per­fect novels—a list that includes Harp­er Lee’s To Kill a Mock­ing­bird and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prej­u­dice, among a hand­ful of oth­ers.

The year I turned 12 and declared my inten­tion of becom­ing an author, my dad slipped a copy of Ele­ments of Style into my Christ­mas stock­ing. It was an inspired present, as the book on writ­ing and gram­mar that Mr. White co-wrote with William Strunk, Jr., made me feel both val­i­dat­ed and grown-up. I dis­played it promi­nent­ly on my desk, and if I read it with more enthu­si­asm than com­pre­hen­sion, at least I felt very sophis­ti­cat­ed as I did so. Lat­er, in col­lege, I would dis­cov­er White’s col­lect­ed let­ters and essays, which helped inspire my ear­ly career as a jour­nal­ist.

Of all the gifts that E. B. White has giv­en me, though, the one I trea­sure most are his char­ac­ters. I can’t even imag­ine a world with­out Char­lotte and Wilbur, or with­out Fern Arable, and Lurvy, and Tem­ple­ton the rat. Mem­o­rable char­ac­ters such as these are what make for mem­o­rable sto­ries. Sure, set­ting is impor­tant, research is impor­tant, and a sto­ry with­out a plot is a hot mess (any­body sat through Wait­ing for Godot recent­ly?), but for me, mem­o­rable char­ac­ters are the main course, the engine that dri­ves the train, the beat­ing heart of a book.

Charlotte's Web coverChar­ac­ters like Char­lotte and Wilbur don’t just spring full-blown onto the page like Athena from the head of Zeus, how­ev­er. Writ­ing is a delib­er­ate act. It is arti­fice; it is craft; it is inten­tion­al. While the con­cept for a char­ac­ter may come to a writer in a flash, the con­struc­tion of that char­ac­ter is the result of much effort and care.

So how does a writer go about cre­at­ing char­ac­ters that walk off the page and straight into a reader’s heart?

It comes down to some­thing I call “bor­rowed fire.”

There are oth­er tools writ­ers employ in cre­at­ing char­ac­ters, of course—tools such as descrip­tion, dia­logue, and voice. But all of these ingre­di­ents would be noth­ing with­out bor­rowed fire. With­out this ele­men­tal flame, char­ac­ters remain as life­less and cold as the paper on which they’re print­ed.

I live in the Pacif­ic North­west, just a few miles from the end of the Ore­gon Trail. While read­ing about the ear­ly set­tlers at one point, I learned just how cru­cial fire was to sur­vival. The pio­neers depend­ed on it for warmth, for cook­ing, for light, and for cheer. If a camp­fire or cook stove went out in a log cab­in or along the wag­on train, some­one would be rapid­ly dis­patched to a neighbor’s with a lid­ded pan to “bor­row fire”—a few embers or coals with which to rekin­dle their own.

In writ­ing, we, too, need fire. We need the blaze of emo­tion to light up our sto­ries and stir our read­ers, ignit­ing in them a sym­pa­thet­ic response. 

But from whom do we bor­row this fire? 

Fiery HeartFrom our­selves. From our own lives, our own expe­ri­ences. Robert Frost once said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the read­er.” Writ­ers have to be will­ing to dig deep. I’m not talk­ing about spilling dark secrets onto the page. I’m talk­ing about tap­ping into your own unique well of emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence and shar­ing it with your read­er. We all know what it’s like to be anx­ious about some­thing, to be envi­ous or fear­ful or alight with hap­pi­ness or crazy in love. Invest­ing our char­ac­ters with these emo­tion­al truths cre­ates the point of con­nec­tion. That’s the moment at which a char­ac­ter walks off the page and into a reader’s heart.

E.B. White was nev­er an eight-year-old girl named Fern. He was nev­er a wor­ried piglet or a lit­er­ate spi­der or a schem­ing rat with a soft under­bel­ly of kind­ness. But he knew about friend­ship, and love, and loss, and he bor­rowed those embers from his own life to kin­dle his char­ac­ters, and the light and warmth they radi­ate have touched the hearts of read­ers down the years.

Bor­rowed fire is where the mag­ic hap­pens in a sto­ry. It’s by the light of this fire that mem­o­rable char­ac­ters are made.

 

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Discussing the Books We’ve Loved: Déjà Vu

As I ready this arti­cle for pub­li­ca­tion, I am sit­ting in the cof­fee shop where I first met Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick, now a much-admired author of some of my favorite books. I still enjoy get­ting caught up in a series, accept­ing the like­able and not-so-like­able char­ac­ters as my new-found cir­cle of friends, antic­i­pat­ing the treat […]

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Fan Fervor for 70-Year-Old Books

Yes­ter­day we attend­ed the Bet­sy-Tacy Con­ven­tion pre­sen­ta­tions at the Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture Research Col­lec­tions at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta, a/k/a the Ker­lan Col­lec­tion. There was SRO in a room that was set up for about 150 peo­ple (best guess). Kath­leen Bax­ter was the host of the soirée, enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly wel­com­ing every­one to this mean­ing­ful set­ting for the […]

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Writer’s honor

I’m read­ing Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick­’s newest book, Pies & Prej­u­dice (Simon & Schus­ter), the fourth book in the Moth­­er-Daugh­­ter Book Club series. The girls are four­teen in this book. Their book club is read­ing Jane Austen’s Pride & Prej­u­dice this year and a num­ber of excit­ing plot devel­op­ments make this a page-turn­er. Near the end […]

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Summer reading

Every good inten­tion of post­ing every week­day … and then a vicious flu attacks and all plans go astray. Flu trumps blog. Now I know. One good thing to come out of hav­ing a week-long flu: my to-be-read pile isn’t as high as it once was. In fact, it brought back mem­o­ries of a per­fect […]

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