This Sunday, April 7, will be Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although it might be a time some people don’t want to remember because of the terrible things that happened, that’s exactly why we need to stop and remember — to honor those who went through it, and to remind ourselves that we don’t want to go down that path again.
If you don’t know much about the Holocaust during World War II, there are lots of books that bring the time to life while still being interesting (and OK for tween/teen readers). Here are three of my favorites I think everyone should read:
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry: The fifth graders at my kids’ elementary school read this every year. It’s told through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie, whose family takes in Annemarie’s best friend Ellen Rosen and conceals her as part of the family when German Nazis begin their campaign to “relocate” Jewish families in Denmark. We learn how the Danish Resistance smuggled almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark across the sea to Sweden — almost 7,000 people. Real people can become real heroes.
Someone Named Eva, by Joan Wolf: Milada’s village in Czechoslovakia is invaded by Nazi troops looking to either kill or imprison citizens. Milada is “lucky” because she has blonde hair and light-colored eyes. She’s taken with some other children to a special camp where they’re “refashioned” to become like German children who can be adopted by German families. Milada’s new name becomes Eva, and she joins the family a high-ranking Nazi official. It was based on actual events, and brought out a side of Nazi Germany that I’d never known. I had the chance to interview author Joan Wolf on another blog a few years ago, if you’re interested in learning more. Read Day 1 of her interview and Day 2 of her interview here.
Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank: This real-life story of surviving the Holocaust has been a classic for years. She and her family lived in the “secret annex” of a government building for 2 years, until they were betrayed to the Germans. It’s a vivid look at how life was when they were cut off from the outside world — hungry, crowded, under constant threat of being discovered and imprisoned or killed. But it’s also a tribute to human courage and determination (and best for older middle school readers instead of younger kids).
Your turn: Have you read any of these books? Or have you read others about the Jewish people during the Holocaust that you would recommend? Share with us!
Tomorrow — March 14 — is International Ask a Question Day. Did you know that? (See, there’s our first question LOL) I’ve never been afraid to ask questions, which I think is partly because I come from a family full of teachers. Wish I had a nickel for every time I heard, “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask” or, “If you have a question, chances are someone else does too.”
So, in the spirit of International Ask a Question Day … what’s your question? What do you want to learn about writing? Or what MG or YA books do you want me to review? Feel free to ask anything, though I won’t guarantee answers. I look forward to hearing from you!
It’s OK to be a little nervous before interviewing someone, but don’t let it worry you too much. If you’ve followed the steps from last week about preparing for a great interview, you’re already moving in the right direction. Now that it’s time to talk with the person, follow these five things to make your interview a success.
1. Be the reminder. Just like you can’t remember every possible question without writing them down, the person you talk with might not remember why you’re interviewing him or her. Take a minute to remind him or her that this is for the school newspaper or a history class assignment or whatever. If you have certain things you’re supposed to include in the interview, mention that, too. It will help your interviewee to know the kinds of questions you’ll be asking.
2. Double check everything. Once you’re ready to begin the interview, take one very important step before asking the first question on your list. Ask the person how to spell his or her name, and verify other details you’ll be including in your article. For example, if you’re interviewing an author about her new book, you’ll want to get the title right. If the new coach says he went to college at USC, ask whether he means the University of South Carolina or the University of Southern California. Every detail matters.
3. Let them talk. You don’t want the coach to talk about his vegetable garden when you’re trying to learn his plans for basketball season. But you also don’t want to be so focused on your list of questions that you don’t give him the chance to talk about some things he enjoys. You might learn some great stuff once he starts talking about something a bit different, but don’t let him hijack your whole plan.
4. Ask the best question. Even after many years of writing, I’ve learned that no matter how well I prepare, I’ll still probably leave a question off my list. That’s where my “one best question” comes into play. When we’re nearing the end of the interview, I ask, “What would be the one thing you’d want people to know about _________?” I fill in the blank or maybe change the question a little, depending on the situation. For an author, I might ask, “What’s the one thing you hope people will learn by reading your book?” For the grandfather who flew in World War II, I might ask, “What was the one thing that surprised you most about flying during a combat mission?” The “one thing” question has given me some of the best answers during interviews with all sorts of people. It can work for you, too, no matter who you interview.
5. Leave the door open. Just because your time runs out doesn’t mean the interview ends. Once you sit down to write, you might think of other questions or you might need help remembering something. That’s OK – professionals can find themselves in the same situation. As you end the interview, thank the person for his or her time, and ask if you can call or email if you have questions once you start writing the article. I can virtually guarantee they’ll say “yes.”
Your turn: If you could ask one person one question, who would it be and what would you ask?
Interviews aren’t just for people on the news. You need to interview people sometimes, too, even if you don’t think of it that way. Maybe your teacher wants you to talk to your grandparents about something for history class. Or maybe you’re supposed to write an article for the school newspaper about the new basketball coach.
Find the answers for yourself – and make sure it’s a success – by following these 5 steps to prepare for interviewing the person.
1. Research things ahead of time. Learn about the person you’ll be interviewing and some basic things about the subject you’ll be discussing. You don’t have to know everything (that’s what the person you’re interviewing is for), but you need to know enough to feel comfortable asking questions.
2. Remember the point. Know why you want to talk to this person – what you want to learn – and keep the interview focused on that. Be sure the person you’ll interview also knows the purpose so they won’t talk about everything else. The other stories might be interesting, but if they don’t relate to your assignment, they won’t do you any good. If you’re supposed to write about your grandfather’s experience as a pilot during World War II, talk about that. Save the recap of last week’s fishing trip for another time.
3. Create your list. As you decide on the questions to ask, write them down – preferably all in the same place, so you can keep track of everything. The list will grow and change as you prepare, and that’s OK. Try to write questions that can’t just be answered with “yes” or “no,” because that will give you much better information to work from when it’s time to write.
4. Prioritize. Once you have all your questions written, prioritize them so you’ll always be able to cover the most important points. Years ago, I scheduled an interview with a retired professional athlete for an article promoting things for a local hospital. We scheduled a 30-minute time slot and I researched and organized things again and again to prepare. When I called for the interview, I learned that my time had been cut from 30 minutes to 10 minutes because some other commitments had filled the athlete’s calendar. Oh no! I didn’t even have enough time to panic. But I had prioritized my list, so I was able to get answers to my top three questions before our time ran out. If I hadn’t rewritten my questions in order, I would have wasted precious minutes trying to figure out a game plan.
5. Confirm details. When you schedule the interview, confirm all the details before ending the conversation. Verify the time and date you’ll be talking and whether you’ll talk over the phone or face-to-face. If you’ll be calling, get the best phone number to use. If you’ll be interviewing in person, get directions to the place you’ll meet (unless you’re absolutely sure). Also write down the person’s email if possible, so you have a back-up way to contact him or her if needed.
Your turn: Who’s the most interesting person you’ve ever interviewed? Or, who would be the one person you’d love to interview more than anyone else?
Next time: Now that you’ve done the prep work, make sure the actual interview goes smoothly. I’ll share 5 ways to make that happen – including my best interview question, no matter who the person is or what we’re talking about.
Here are the books fighting for the top spot on my “read me next” pile. Which do you think I should go with, and why?
In case you can’t read all the titles, here’s the rundown:
- Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK, by Betsy St. Amant
- The Fairest Beauty, by Melanie Dickerson
- Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
- The Curse of Captain LaFoote, by Eddie Jones
- Storyteller, by Patricia Reilly Giff
- The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., by Kate Messner
- Matched, by Ally Condie
- House of Dark Shadows, by Robert Liparulo
- Unstoppable, by Tim Green
Yes, the old saying is definitely true at my house — so many books, so little time! Happy weekend. — and happy reading!
From the back cover: Ex Feds Diane and David Munson crank out high velocity suspense as Glenna and Gregg Rider adopt Blaze, a mature dog. The teens are shocked when Blaze confronts shady criminals making counterfeit money. They discover what their parents never told them: Blaze is a retired law enforcement dog. The crooks are arrested, but Glenna and Gregg must flee to their grandparents’ home in Treasure Island, Fla. Danger follows them from Skeleton Key in the darkness of night as they put Blaze to work fighting crimes. Blaze reveals a surprising twist, so hold on for the thrilling end.
My thoughts: Glenna and Gregg definitely get more than they expected when their parents let them adopt Blaze. They think he’s a regular “old” dog, but he soon proves them wrong. The book is packed with multiple plot lines from tracking down criminals to dealing with a friend’s illness to learning to watch for – and help – people less fortunate. The pieces seemed rather jumbled in some spots to me, but everything came together in the end.
I liked that the authors’ real-life experiences as Federal agents/prosecutors came through when they explained about different procedures or agencies. They handled those things well — they educated their readers without sounding like a text book. The details they were able to include helped make the events even more realistic and kept the story interesting. What kid doesn’t want to see some ins and outs of folks who catch international bad guys?
Some of Glenna’s and Gregg’s actions and lines of thinking seemed younger than their ages, but maybe they’ve just led very sheltered lives. Themes such as helping the people you love, trusting God to be in control, and being honest with your parents were clear without being preachy — always a plus in kids’ books.
The publisher categorizes Night Flight as young adult, but I see it as more appropriate for middle grades. Kids in 4th-6th grades would probably enjoy it the most, thanks to the “kid spy” factor, super sleuth dog, and level of plot.
Today we’re taking a closer look at the senses, specifically how to incorporate the sense of taste in your writing. What do your characters taste? Do you ever think about that when you’re putting that story to paper?
But … food isn’t always the only thing we taste, is it? What if your character gets in a fight and the other guy busts him in the mouth? Think your guy will taste blood? Pretty likely. How does that blood taste? I’ve often read stories when the author described the taste of blood as metallic. Do you know why your blood tastes like metal? It’s because of the iron in it (your science tidbit of the day). Saying the blood tastes “metallic” or “like metal” might be accurate, but the next time your character’s mouth is bleeding, try to push your creativity to the next level and come up with a description of your own instead of one borrowed from another story. How about:
- like the keys your character stuck in his mouth when he was 3
And then there are the times when your character does actually eat something. That’s the perfect time to slip in a couple of details about the food and add another layer to your storytelling.
Imagine it’s a cool fall day, and your character plucks an apple from the tree. She bites into it. Yum, it’s crisp and juicy. How does it taste? Tart like a green Granny Smith apple? Smooth and mellow like a Golden Delicious? Or in between like a Fuji – with a little kick to it, but not sour?
Just like when you include details about the other senses, whatever you write about taste doesn’t have to be long or super involved. It just needs to get the idea across, so your reader gets pulled a little deeper into the story.
And, who knows? Writing about food just might call for some taste testing of your own so you can describe it just right.
Your turn: Imagine you’re eating your favorite food. How would you describe its taste to someone who’s never tried it?
January 29 is National Puzzle Day!
So, just for fun — and since I’ve always loved nearly any kind of puzzle I’ve met — I’ve made online jigsaw puzzles of my book cover. It’s a devotional book for girls called Divas in Disguise, and you can learn about it by clicking on the “Leigh’s Book” tab above.
Here are the puzzles:
Click here for the 20-piece classic style puzzle.
Click here for the 22-piece wavy style puzzle.
Have fun with them! And, you can also check out some other online sites for crosswords, Sudoku and more to keep celebrating the day:
But before you hop off to play, answer my poll to let us know your favorite type of puzzle. We’ll see how many of you agree with my personal favorite.