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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 of stay­ing with the book as I open the pages of the sec­ond and third and fourth vol­umes in the series.… more
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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 treats to fol­low.… more
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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 of the book, Emma, the girl who has aspi­ra­tions for becom­ing a writer, talks with her father, who has just had his first nov­el pub­lished.… more
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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 sum­mer day.… more
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