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Tag: Cat Winters

What to read on November 11th

Veterans Day

Remembrance Day

Armistice Day

On November 11th, one hundred and one years ago, the Armistice was signed to bring the First World War to an end. So far removed from that time and place, it can hard for readers to connect to the holiday unless they have a friend of family member in the military. Of course, there are some great books to help teen readers understand what happened so long ago.

 

  

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2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: Book Blitz!

On the Schedule at a Glance in the Symposium’s program, Saturday’s list of events included a “Book Blitz” from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The only information about this event were a few pages in the program dedicated to Book Blitz Author Bios and a small box that stated: Each attendee will receive 6 tickets to exchange with these authors for free signed books!

ya_symposium_2015

Symposium veterans knew what to expect from the Blitz, but newcomers could be heard Friday evening and Saturday afternoon pondering, “What is this Book Blitz all about?”

This tweet from attendee Lauren Regenhardt sums up the experience pretty well:

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Is This Just Fantasy?: Highlights of Early 20th Century Historical Fantasy

Just Fantasy Hist FantasyHistorical and fantasy fiction have been two of my absolutely favorite genres to read since I was a child.  So it follows that historical fantasy–fiction that combines elements of both genres–is one of my greatest literary weaknesses.  I’m completely incapable of resisting a good historical fantasy novel!

There are already some excellent guides exploring this growing subgenre available online.  Over at their fabulous blog Stacked, Kelly Jensen & Kimberly Francisco have created a number of great genre guides including this one focused on historical fantasy.  Additionally, on her blog By Singing Light,  Maureen Eichner has an entire page devoted to historical fantasies with middle grade, young adult, and adult titles organized by their chronological settings.

So instead of offering an overview of historical fantasy, I’m going to highlight a few titles that fit into a recent trend.  Over the last couple years, I’ve noticed something of an uptick in historical fantasy exploring the first few decades of the 20th century–time periods that have sometimes been underrepresented in this particular subgenre, especially when compared to the medieval and Victorian eras.  But if these recent novels are anything to go by, the years between 1900 and 1940 are especially well-suited to the creation of rich, genre-blending stories.

cure for dreamingThe Cure for Dreaming – Cat Winters (2015 Amelia Bloomer Project List)
 It may be the dawn of the 20th century but for an intelligent and independent young woman like Olivia, living life on her own terms still feels like a distant dream.  She sneaks to suffragist protests and reads literature challenging the traditional vision of docile & subservient womanhood.  But her domineering father, convinced that she’s heading for trouble, hires famed stage mesmerist Henri Reverie to hypnotize Olivia into forgetting her rebellious ways.  But the hypnosis instead leaves Olivia both gifted and cursed; she can now see people’s inner darkness or goodness clearly–and she cannot speak her mind without feeling ill.  But her new vision makes Olivia even more determined to work for her independence and the rights of women.

In the Shadow of the Blackbirds by Cat WintersIn The Shadow of Blackbirds – Cat Winters (2014 William C. Morris Award Finalist, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
In 1918, the United States has become a country besieged by death and fear as a virulent influenza epidemic rages at home and a global war rages across the Ocean. Even a scientifically minded young woman like Mary Shelley Black can’t completely resist the aura of paranoia—especially since her father has been arrested for treason and her sweetheart Stephen is trapped somewhere in the European trenches. Living in San Diego with her young widowed aunt, Mary Shelley can’t escape the surgical masks, the pervasive scent of onions, or the preoccupation with séances and spirits, particularly after news of Stephen’s death arrives—only to be followed by the appearance of his ghost.
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Get Ready for Season 5 With These Great Books for Downton Abbey Fans

Downton Abbey Season 5 cast photoThis weekend Season 5 of Downton Abbey will debut in the U.S. and for UK readers, the season has just ended with the annual Christmas special, so hopefully fans everywhere are ready to delve into some new Downton readalikes. Whether you read them throughout the season or save them for the long period between Season 5 and Season 6 (which has already been confirmed!), these books will help you to dive further into the time period and themes of Downton Abbey.

Emeralds and Ashes by Leila Rasheed – Debuting next week, this is the third book in the At Somerton trilogy, which follows those who live at Somerton as World War I breaks out. Lord Averly leaves to fight on the Western front, Rose remains in Egypt, and house staff begin to move out of service and into the military or new types of employment. This final installment promises to wrap up many open plot points and introduce a new era in British history. It is a perfect option for fans of Downton, particularly those who enjoyed the early seasons.

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ALA Annual 2014: YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch

Lalitha_SarahDessen_ALA2009
Oh, the memories! With Sarah Dessen at the 2009 YALSA Coffee Klatch.

For the past few years, one of my favorite events at the ALA Annual Conference has been YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch. A ticketed event, the Coffee Klatch provides attendees with the opportunity to chat with fabulous young adult authors about their books, youth literature in general, and- in the case of Internet Girls author Lauren Myracle- most overused emoji. Most of the authors participating in the Coffee Klatch have had their work recognized on at least one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists and/or have been recipients of one of YALSA’s five literary awards.

Similar to speed dating, there are approximately 30+ round tables set up around the ballroom at which 8 or so people are seated. Every 5 minutes, a whistle goes off and a new author joins you at your table. To give you an idea of how memorable this event is: my husband reminded me of the 2008 Coffee Klatch we attended at ALA in Anaheim, along with our tiny infant son strapped to his chest (“Hey, that’s where we met John Green!”). This year, I brought along my sister, Nirmala, who happened to be experiencing ALA and Las Vegas for the very first time (!). She’s a writer, and getting to sit with fellow authors and commune about literature and the writing process engaged her on a whole new level. As a librarian who regularly reads and shares these authors’ works in a professional and personal capacity, the Klatch is basically my chance to fangirl them (but not in a creepy way, of course…yeaaaaah).

Authors at the 2014 YALSA Coffee Klatch!
Authors at the 2014 YALSA Coffee Klatch!

This year’s literary line-up included Josephine Angelini, Paolo Bacigalupi, Jessica Brody, Ally Condie, Jim Di Bartolo, Matt de la Pena, Matt Dembicki, Becca Fitzpatrick, Jonathan Friesen, Carol Goodman, Alan Gratz, Claudia Gray, Collen Gleason, Ryan Graudin, Nathan Hale, Jenny Han, PJ Hoover, Katherine Howe, Lindsey Leavitt, Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, Lauren Myracle, Blake Nelson, Jandy Nelson, Caragh O’Brien, Mary Pearson, Jason Reynolds, Graham Salisbury, Neal Shusterman, Jon Scieszka, Marcus Sedgwick, Clare Vanderpool, Scott Westerfeld, Cat Winters, and Meg Wolitzer.

Here are some highlights from my table:

Blinding Us with Science

YALSA Coffee Klatch 2014: Jon Scieszka and Claudia Gray
YALSA Author Coffee Klatch 2014: Jon Scieszka and Claudia Gray

Jon Scieszka’s new middle-grade Frank Einstein series is STEM-based with a lot of appeal for reluctant readers. Claudia Gray discussed A Thousand Pieces of You, the first book in her forthcoming Firebird series, featuring time-bending, parallel universes, and a healthy dose of romance.

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Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers, Part 3

I love historical fiction.  The drama, the intrigue and, oh– the fashion.  I just assume all the period details regarding clothing are accurate.  Or I did until my friend Liz shared it was her secret delight to troll the adult fiction section and find anachronistic apparel.  Curious to know how Liz knows all that she does about fashion?  Check out her bio in the first post Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds  by Cat Winters
In the Shadow of Blackbirds
by Cat Winters

The jazz age of American history is very popular right now in TV and books. Recent Hub posts like Get Ready for Downton Abbey Season 4 With These BooksThe Glamour and Greed of The Great Gatsby and Prohibition Era: Ohio Roots in History and YA Lit highlight our current fascination with the 1920s and 1930s. While imitation is meant as a sincere form of flattery, this only works if the copy is accurate, no matter the intention.

Here are some  Young Adult historical fiction novels sent during the Roaring Twenties with covers that try and sometimes fail to reflect accurate costuming/

Hit: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (Morris Award Finalist: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters)

Set in 1918, bombarded by the war and Spanish Influenza Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black is mistrustful of popular fad spirit photography until a seance takes on personal meaning.  This dress is a bit short length-wise, at this time you would expect to see a longer hem. Overall style is decent.  The fashion of the time often featured a waist that was accentuated with a belt or sash.

 

American dress, 1916-1917
American dress, 1916-1917

This cotton dress was a gift of Mrs. Edwin Stewart Wheeler in 1956 to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This costume is not on display and can only be viewed online.

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ALA Midwinter 2014: YALSA’s Morris/Nonfiction Award Program & Presentation

morris_nonfiction_program_alamw2014The morning of Monday, January 28th, at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia was filled with excitement. Right on the heels of the ALA Youth Media Awards came YALSA’s Morris/Nonfiction Program & Presentation, and the whole room was abuzz to celebrate this year’s finalists and winners of the William C. Morris YA Debut Award and the Award for Excellent in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

Emceed by YALSA President Shannon Peterson, the program began with the Morris Award winner and finalists, introduced by Dorcas Wong, 2014 Morris Award Committee Chair.

Sex & ViolenceCarrie Mesrobian, author of Morris finalist Sex and Violence, gave a heartfelt speech recounting the significance of libraries in her formative years. She was an avid library user during her youth, but never interacted with librarians as a teen. Despite this, she said, “No matter that I never spoke to a single librarian, the librarians kept the shelves stocked… Librarians regularly and reliably provided me with the books I needed.” And for that, she said, she is “forever grateful.”

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad PoetsEvan Roskos, author of Morris finalist Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, had everyone in stitches by observing that being honored for the Morris is a truly a once in a lifetime opportunity because, well… he can only debut once. He then told a story about how his book empowered a teen reader to get help for their mental health concerns. Of course, the inspiring nature of this anecdote turned to hilarity as he observed that “Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets actually caused someone to seek therapy.” He concluded by sharing his four-year-old son’s reaction to seeing his book cover. “Daddy, YOU wrote Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus?” This author is just as hilarious and thoughtful as his book.

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Morris Award Finalist: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of BlackbirdsIn 1918, in the heart of World War I and the influenza epidemic, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black finds herself living in San Diego in the care of her widowed aunt, a woman only ten years her senior. All around her, the world is responding to the tragedies occurring overseas and at home by seeking answers in the paranormal. Mary Shelley, a scientist and skeptic, does not buy into the concept of “spirit photographers” and seances, believing that these are ways for people to take advantage of the grief of others. However, a personal loss leaves her with experiences that cannot be explained through her normal scientific mind.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is Cat Winters’ debut novel. It is historical fiction built on an intriguing tale that is part mystery, part ghost story. The book is full of beautiful prose with vivid descriptions. As I read, I felt as if I could taste, see, and feel the scenes playing out on the pages. With the theme of spirit photography running through the plot, Winters’ storytelling mimics the creepy, yet beautiful feel of this art. While many novels use World War I as a backdrop, Winters has added a layer of threat by placing her characters in the middle of the influenza epidemic. Mary Shelley’s world is a very real, very frightening one. Far from the battlefields, she has to arm herself with a gauze mask before leaving her home. With doors and windows kept shut tight, her world is both literally and figuratively stifling.

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An Interview with 2014 Morris Award Finalist Cat Winters

In the Shadow of the Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Continuing our author interviews of the 2014 Morris Award Finalists, we turn to Cat Winters, author of In the Shadow of the Blackbirds. Winters takes readers to deadly 1918, when the Spanish influenza spread rapidly across the globe even as World War I continued to rage. Sixteen year-old Mary Shelley Black has been send to live with her aunt in San Diego after her father is arrested for treason. The scene is inconceivable to contemporary teens; ordinary girls covering their faces gauze masks, ordinary boys returning from war with shredded minds and bodies. Winter’s use of historical photographs delivers an additional wallop to this powerful portrayal.

Congratulations! It’s quite an accomplishment to have your debut novel selected for the Morris Award.  In the Shadow of the Blackbirds is an excellent book on so many levels, most particularly the detailed historical setting. Is that where your inspiration for the book started, with the time period? Or was it something else?

Thank you so much! I was incredibly honored to learn In the Shadow of Blackbirds was selected as a Morris Award finalist. The news still feels surreal to me.

This book definitely started with the time period. Way back when I was twelve years old, I saw a Ripley’s Believe It or Not TV episode about the Cottingley Fairies, a real-life story of two English girls who fooled the world into believing they had photographed fairies during the tumultuous World War I period. Years later, I came across more Cottingley Fairy info, as well as the history of séances, in the 1997 Smithsonian magazine article “The Man Who Believed in Fairies,” by Tom Huntington. Ever since I read that article, I’ve been fascinated with the way WWI, the deadly Spanish influenza, and the Spiritualism craze intersected in 1918 to create a tense atmosphere of fear and paranoia. It took me quite a while to figure out how to successfully incorporate that history into a novel, but once I started focusing on the spirit photography fad of the era and decided to make my protagonist a sixteen-year-old girl, everything fell into place.

Why “Mary Shelley” Black? Is this a personal tribute to the author Mary Shelley?

Mary Shelley Black was always a strong, vivid character who first tried making her way into a couple other plot possibilities that never actually progressed beyond the idea stages. She seemed like a person whose name should start with an M, so I toyed with “Mary” and “Moira.” Once I decided she’d make the perfect narrator for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, she insisted on being called Mary Shelley Black. I know that explanation makes me sound a little like one of my spirit medium characters, but that’s truly how her name came about. I studied and loved Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a college undergrad, so once I knew I’d be writing from the point of view of a girl named after the author, I let a few other nods to the classic horror story slip into the book.

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Jukebooks: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat WintersThis week the link between our book and our song is romance of the spirit. Cat Winter’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds is set in San Diego, California, in 1918. World War I has been droning on for years, killing and maiming young soldiers abroad, while a deadly influenza virus claims victims in the United States. Our heroine, Mary Shelley Black, has secretly pledged her love to Stephen, just before he leaves to go fight. When Stephen returns to her, their love affair moves in a completely new direction.

The lovely song Fade Into You is from the television show Nashville and is sung by Clare Bowen (who plays Scarlett) and Sam Palladio (who plays Gunnar). It has such a haunting melody and expresses an all-consuming love, much like I think of Mary Shelley’s and Stephen’s intense connection.

An interesting side note, both Bowen and Palladio, who sing in such luscious Southern accents, are Australian and British, respectively. In the video below they speak naturally about their singing backgrounds and picking up the Tennessee twang.

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