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'This Author's Life': Amy's Blog

On Memorial Day, a World War Two Dad’s Legacy: Never Take a Day for Granted

My dad always had a strange reaction to Memorial Day Weekend, or so it seemed to me as a little girl. Yes, it was the beginning of summer and we celebrated (if that is the right word) with hamburgers on the grill and root beer floats.

But I realized from an early age that the so-called “holiday” was a time when my dad, a World War Two Army veteran and normally a very upbeat person, was also quietly grieving.  Read More 
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Earth Day 2017: Look to Your Elders

If we want to take environmental concerns seriously, most of us can start by emulating the habits of our elders. Few people threw things out the way we do today, and wastefulness is a huge part of the problem.

When I met the Delany Sisters, they were surprised that their small city – Mt. Vernon,  Read More 
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How to Stay Focused During Times of Great Change

The news has been breaking at an astonishing pace since Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidential election. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Trump and the Republican Congress, it’s a time of turbulence. If you’re an artist of any sort, it can be distracting.

At the same time, it’s vital that we all pay attention. As an American citizen, Read More 
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“Freedom! Freedom! I Am Free!”

Although he was only a little boy, Henry B. Delany, the Delany Sisters’ beloved Papa, would never forget the day in 1865 that Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union at Appomattox Court House. Henry Delany and his family were slaves in St. Mary’s, Georgia.

“He remembered being in the kitchen and wearing a little apron, which little slave boys wore in those days,” the Delany Sisters recalled in the book we created together, Having Our Say. “It had one button at the top, at the back of the neck, and the ends were loose. And when the news Read More 
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My Word of the Year for 2017

A friend just posted that her personal word for the new year is “confidence.”

I’m not sure if she’s feeling confident or hoping that she will. Either way, that would not be my word for 2017.  Read More 
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Saying Goodbye to a Dearly-Loved Father through Storytelling and Song

My beloved father died earlier this month at the age of 92. Thank you to all of you who prayed for Dad and sent condolences on his passing. My mother, who turns 91 in a few days, is doing as well as can be expected. She is very settled in their apartment and has lots of attention from her extended family as well as devoted aides who love her and loved Dad, too. Dad's life is proof that people who are happy and kind spread happiness and kindness  Read More 
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What Holocaust Survivors Can Tell Us About the Use of Language

Eighteen years ago I interviewed a brilliant Holocaust survivor named Leo Petranker. He shared many observations about life, democracy, and the nature of human beings. One of his comments, in particular, sticks in my mind:

"Always watch the language of a people," he said. "When people use extreme words, like 'assassinate', this is a sign of trouble to come."

In the years since I interviewed Mr. Petranker, American culture has become much more coarse. Read More 
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Violence, Race, and America: What You Can Do to Make Things Better

Many people are deeply distressed and grieving about race relations in America. There is a feeling of utter helplessness among countless Americans who don’t know what to do to make things better. As someone who has studied and written about race in America for years, I have some suggestions that I’d like to share with you.  Read More 
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How to Show Support for Your Favorite Authors

I don’t have a new book coming out on the Spring or Summer schedule but I know many, many authors who do. A word on their behalf: There are ways you can help.
1) Pre-order the book. Publishers factor in the number of pre-orders when deciding on the print-run and preparing a book tour  Read More 
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Five Questions for Audrey Vernick, Author of Books for Young Readers

I met author Audrey Vernick fourteen years ago when she was working on her first book, BARK AND TIM: A TRUE STORY OF FRIENDSHIP, written with her sister, Ellen Glassman Gidaro, and illustrated with the paintings of Mississippi folk artist Tim Brown. Since that book’s publication her career has exploded: There are now a baker’s dozen of Audrey Vernick books with more on the way. She will be among the faculty this July in Helen, Georgia at a week-long WOW Writing Retreat. http://www.wowretreat.net/

Q. You have two new books in the stores right now – THE KID FROM DIAMOND STREET (Clarion Books, March 29), which is nonfiction, and a fiction picture book with the delightful title, I WON A WHAT? (Knopf, April 12). Would you tell us a little about these two very different books and how they came about?



A. I am a fan of baseball history, but not in a statistics way. I love the stories. THE KID FROM DIAMOND STREET is my third nonfiction book about baseball. The second was titled BROTHERS AT BAT, a true story about a team comprised of the 12 Acerra Brothers of Long Branch, NJ. When I was working on that book, I was in touch with the director of research at the Baseball Hall of Fame who mentioned something about an all-sister softball team. When I asked for more information on that, the file was nowhere to be found! But he suggested I check out the Bobbies, a Philadelphia women’s baseball team (named for the hairstyle all players shared).
Edith was the team’s star player. When she was only ten years old, she was playing shortstop on a professional team! She was a true phenom, grabbing all the headlines from her much older teammates (which was not her intention. That girl just loved to play). It’s possible I became a tiny bit obsessed with Edith when I saw a photograph of her. I remember when I showed it to you, you said she looked like a cross between Scout Finch and Mary Pickford. Thinking about Edith’s fierce determination consistently impresses me and fills me with awe. I could talk about her all day.
I WON A WHAT? is a story about a kid who has always wanted a pet. He talks his parents into letting him keep whatever he wins at the goldfish booth at a carnival. And then he wins a whale. I remember having the idea for this one--written as “Kid tries to win goldfish but wins whale--which may be the best synopsis I have ever written. (It’s not my strong suit.)
The challenge came on, say, page five. He won a whale. Now what?
I needed a little spark of inspiration to help me find the rest of the story. So I started reading about people’s experiences interacting with whales. Many people wrote, in describing whale-watching expeditions, of having the feeling that they were being watched carefully by the whales. Somehow, that little observation was a spark for me—it helped me understand the friendship, based primarily on watching and understanding and thinking, between the boy and his pet. And I got lucky with this book—the ending (which can be such a hard thin) just came out my fingers without me even thinking about it. And I think it’s my favorite ending of all the books I’ve written.

Q. What is it about writing for young readers that appeals to you?

A. I am sure it has to do with the connection I felt to the books I loved as a child. My love for those books—Ursula Nordstrom’s THE SECRET LANGUAGE, Louise Fitzhugh’s HARRIET THE SPY, France Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN and many others—was akin to the love you feel for a real best friend. I was a serious re-reader in those days. I have always been one to read purely for pleasure, never analytically, but I believe a brain begins to sort things out, to understand structure, when you reread books, particularly when you’re young (and your brain isn’t yet cluttered with lyrics to every Beatles song). Without having to give it thought, you start to understand, intuitively, how a story is told when you reread books. But I digress. I wanted to say that with THE SECRET GARDEN, I must have read the scene in which they first discover that garden hundreds of times, awed by the way words created magic. Read More 
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