Blog Tour: Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata – YA Reads Blog Tours

Published April 6, 2014 by gaijinmama

Happening now! The blog tour for my next novel, Screaming Divas, is now underway. Click on the link below for the full schedule of guest posts, excerpts, giveaways, and interviews:

Blog Tour: Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata – YA Reads Blog Tours.

 

Screaming Divas FINAL.indd

 

Kirkus Reviews on Screaming Divas: “Kamata’s (Gadget Girl, 2013) sensitive, restrained prose shines during small character moments—like Cassie’s fierce recitation of Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” during English class”

A poem for March

Published February 24, 2014 by gaijinmama

Because March mornings

were so blustery

I felt I had to hold on

to everything

with both hands

and all of my strength

or I would lose

the world.

In my black rubber boots

with my mittens on a string

I wanted to walk up the hill

become taller

larger

big and broad enough to

block the wind.

I wanted to part the clouds

with a swish of my arms

to be

the king – or queen

of the universe.

Gadget Girl named the APALA Honor Book for YA Literature!

Published January 31, 2014 by gaijinmama

GadgetGirl_FinalSome happy news! Gadget Girl was named the APALA Honor Book in the young adult category at last weekend’s ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia. I am extremely grateful to the Asian Pacific Librarians Association, as well as my publisher, GemmaMedia, my fellow SCBWI-Japan members, and everyone else who has given this book a chance. I am thrilled to find myself in the company of honorees Linda Sue Park, Gene Luen Yang, Ruth Ozeki, Leza Lowitz, Shogo Oketani, Cynthia Kadohata, and Jennifer Cody Epstein, among others.  Here is the full list of this year’s winners and honor books.

Of course you can purchase copies at Amazon, Powells, The Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore (though you may have to ask them to order it). You can also check it out of your local library (or ask the library to order a copy if it’ s not yet in the collection).

 

How to Get a Book Deal: Timing is Almost Everything

Published December 6, 2013 by gaijinmama

Screaming Divas FINAL.indd

I can still clearly remember the phone call that I thought would change my life. I was in the bedroom, standing next to my infant twins’ crib, listening to one of the top children’s and young adult agents in the business telling me that she was passionate about my novel about an all girl punk rock band in 1980s Columbia, South Carolina, and that she would be persistent in finding a publisher. This is the big time, I thought. I’m about to publish my first novel!

I’d originally written it as an adult novel, but I was happy to revise it for the young adult market, and I foresaw devoting myself to angsty teen fiction. But the big-time agent couldn’t sell my novel. Well, if she can’t sell it, then nobody can, I thought.

I stuck the novel in a drawer. I wrote and published another novel, this one for adults. I compiled and edited two anthologies. I published a picture book, and a different young adult novel. But every now and again, I’d open the drawer, pull out that other novel, and revise it yet again.

Nobody would buy it since it was set in the 1980s, I thought. And the only books agents seemed to want at the time were paranormal and dystopian novels. Still, I couldn’t quite leave Screaming Divas alone. I decided to chop it up and sell it for parts. I placed a chapter in an anthology called Woman’s Work: Stories edited by Michelle Sewell. I placed another chapter in the literary journal Hunger Mountain.

A writer friend who’d read and loved Screaming Divas when I’d first written it, encouraged me to give the novel another try. After all, the editors who’d rejected it the first time around were no longer employed. And there seemed to be a resurging interest in the 1980s and in the riot grrl movement. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was on the New York Times bestseller list. Rainbow Rowell’s 1980s novel became hugely popular as well. And recently I came across no fewer than three young adult ballet novels set in that same time period. It looks as if the 80s are back.

Okay, I’ll give it one more try, I thought. A couple of new presses, headed by two of my favorite famous writers, had cropped up. I submitted to both on the same day. Little did I know, one writer/editor, Jacquelyn Mitchard, of Merit Press, had just started teaching at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the publisher of Hunger Mountain. Noting that part of my novel had been previously published in the journal, she immediately invited me to send more pages. (She was online when I hit “send,” so by immediately, I mean within an hour.) Within weeks, Jackie offered to publish my novel. The famous writer/editor of the other press sent me a list of revisions with an eye to the adult market and invited me to resubmit. By this time, however, I was pretty sure that I wanted to publish Screaming Divas as a young adult novel, and I was thrilled at the prospect of working with Jacquelyn Mitchard.

My infant twins are teens now, so it’s taken awhile, but the book will be published in May, 2014, by Merit Press.

Gourmet Girls in YA Fiction

Published November 7, 2013 by gaijinmama

I’m sharing a post that originally appeared on Christine Kohler’s blog:

ANYONE BUT YOU is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet in Chicago Italian restaurants. Mmm…pizza, anyone? To get a taste of how cleverly creative Kamata plays with food and cooking utensils, here’s a quote from GADGET GIRL: “Luckily, Gadget Girl has brought along her crème brȗlée torch. She’s been planning on using it to make a surprise dessert for Chaz’s victory dinner, but she whips it out early to melt the golem.”

Warning: You might want to wear a bib in case you drool while reading.

ANYONE BUT YOU by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes

The inspiration for Askew and Helmes’ third Twisted Lit novel, ANYONE BUT YOU, was the Montague and Capulet animosity in Romeo and Juliet. Why did the families despise each other in the first place? The authors’ re-imagined saga revolves around a bitter rivalry between two family-owned Italian restaurants in Chicago, and the mystery of how their feud began. Naturally, Askew and Helmes were influenced by the ongoing debate over who makes the best Chicago deep-dish pies: Gino’s East? Giordano’s? Lou Malnati’s? Pizzeria Uno? (Uh…they’re opting not to weigh in with a verdict on that, lest any diehards out there come after them with pizza-cutters!) The star-crossed lovers, Roman and Gigi, find forbidden love against the backdrop of homemade pasta and pizza dough. Going back in time—1933, to be exact—to explore the imagined history of their families’ epic impasse gave the authors an opportunity to tell the fascinating history of pizza in America. The dish wasn’t always standard fare in the States, but like the works of Shakespeare, it’s become a classic readers would be quite reluctant to live without.

GadgetGirl_Final

 

GADGET GIRL by Suzanne Kamata.

For me, food is an integral part of culture. When reading a book set in a foreign country, I’m always interested to know what people eat. I’m sometimes even inspired to cook food mentioned in the book in order to add to my reading experience. I recently read a book set in Japan, which is one of the most food-obsessed cultures on earth, in which there were virtually no references to food. It made me distrust the author of that book a bit. How much did the author really know about Japan? I wondered.

In GADGET GIRL, my heroine, Aiko, visits France, another food-obsessed culture, so there are many references to cooking and various types of cuisine reflecting Paris’s multi-culturalism.

Food is also associated with love and affection…and motherhood. The mother in this book is not terribly interested in cooking. She is raising her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, single-handedly while pursuing her art. She doesn’t like cooking. My intention was not to write a bad mother, but to show that there are different ways of being a good mother. I think it’s important to teach kids the value of art, of having a consuming passion, of pursuing one’s art. Aiko and her mother take turns cooking (which allows the reader to see that even a person with “challenges” can put dinner on the table and be independent).

I also wanted to play a bit with expectations about gender. In my house, my Japanese husband makes breakfast every morning, cooks most meals on weekends, and packs our son’s lunch. Although this is atypical in Japan, I don’t think it should be. Aiko’s mom’s boyfriend, Raoul, is a big foodie. He loves cooking and produces fabulous meals for Aiko and her mother. And why not?

What other food-related YA novels can you recommend?

An Open Letter to the Parent Action League of Anoka-Hennepin County

Published September 29, 2013 by gaijinmama

Dear would-be book banners:

I understand how you feel. Sort of. When my babies were born, fourteen weeks premature, no less, I was working on a novel about an all-girl punk rock band in 1980s Columbia, South Carolina. The girls in my book did not always make the right choices. They got mixed up with bad boys. They did drugs. They stole things and used fake I.D.s and disobeyed their parents. And there were consequences - occasionally very severe ones, as there are in real life. The girls in my book were like so many girls that I knew (like me) – smart, middle-class girls from good families who were curious and adventurous and who sometimes made the wrong choice.

Although these girls were not evil, I didn’t want my innocent, vulnerable babies anywhere near them. When it didn’t sell right away, I stuck the novel in a drawer. I hid it. I didn’t let my babies watch any TV for the first two years of their lives or look at newspaper photos.  I did my best to shield them from any news of war, crime, and 9/11. I wanted them to be safe, happy, secure.

I wrote stories about children going to the zoo, or playing baseball in the backyard, or meeting mermaids underwater. I read stories to my children, including stories from the Bible (except for the one about Abraham intending to sacrifice his son). But as my children got older, they wanted to know things. How are babies made? Why do people do drugs? Why did the Americans drop an atomic bomb on Japan?

Of course I tried to talk to my children about all of these things. I still do. But after a certain age, kids begin to ask their friends about what they want to know instead of their parents. Or they search for the answers online. Or maybe, they read books.

Nothing makes me quite so happy as seeing a kid with a book. What better way for a kid to explore the world, to try out new identities, to travel, have adventures, than to dive into a well-written novel in the safety of home? Fiction gives readers a means of exploring possibilities. A book can give a kid hope. Some books inspire others to take action.

I think that the average kid who reads about teens involved in risky behavior in a realistic, contemporary novel would come to understand that there is fall-out. A novel might help a reader make  go down another, better path if faced with similar (bad) choices.

My kids are now fourteen and they have read books banned in both the United States and Japan, and that’s fine with me. They’re learning about the hazards of world in the safest way possible.

I recently dug my girl band novel, Screaming Divas, out of a drawer. It’ll be published in late 2014. You’ll probably want to ban it, but believe me, dear reader, nothing is quite so dangerous as ignorance.

Yours sincerely,

Suzanne Kamata

I Won an SCBWI Multicultural Award for a Work-in-Progress

Published September 22, 2013 by gaijinmama

SCBWI Announces the Winners of the Annual SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grants

Awards honor unpublished works

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in conjunction with a generous grant from Amazon.com, congratulates the winners of the 2013 Work-In-Progress Grants in the following categories:

Contemporary Category Mary Ann Scott – The Unfolding of Ripley Kent

Runner-up Margo Rabb – Kissing in America

General Category Jocelyn Leigh Rish – The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf

Runner-up Rebecca Louie – Tru U

Multicultural Category Suzanne Linn Kamata – Indigo Girl

Runner-up Natasha Tarpley – Alchemist Bread

Nonfiction Category Patrice Sherman – The Vitamin Sleuths: A Tale of Mystery, Medicine and Nutrition

Runner-up Suzanne Slade – The Music in George’s Head

Anna Cross Giblin Award Caren Stelson – Sachiko

Barbara Karlin Award Elizabeth Coburn – Captain Bilgewater and the Buccaneer Ballet

Runner-up Karol Ruth Silverstein – Other

Unpublished Author Award David Arnold – Mosquitoland

“Amazon.com shares SCBWI’s commitment to supporting the creation of great new works,” said Jon Fine, director of Author & Publisher Relations for Amazon.com. “We are proud to be able to support the SCBWI’s work as it nurtures new voices in literature for children and young adults.”

About the Work-In-Progress Grant

The SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grants are designed to assist children’s book writers and illustrators in the completion of a specific project and are awarded in seven categories. To learn more about the Grant, visit http://www.scwbi.com under the “Awards and Grants” section.

About SCBWI

Founded in 1971 by Stephen Mooser (President) & Lin Oliver (Executive Director), the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 22,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia.

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