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Monday, April 4, 2016

How to Encourage Empathy



Thank you to Imagination Soup for including BEHOLDING BEE in your list of books that teach empathy!

"We MUST read stories that help us become empathetic to what it’s like to have a physical disability; stories that show not just our differences but more importantly, our similarities.

We MUST talk about physical disabilities (differences) with children. If we don’t, they become the elephant(s) in the room. As a result, children mistakenly interpret that these topics are wrong or taboo.

Disabilities are NOT wrong. Nor taboo. As we’ll see in these stories, everyone notices differences. Especially curious children. So it’s up to us to discuss and help our children learn about the similarities. It’s up to us to answer questions and to help kids see what it might feel like to have a physical disability. This is the a way to ensure that we raise compassionate, empathetic, and kind children."

Imagination Soup recommends several great books for young readers, including BEHOLDING BEE:

imaginationsoup.net

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Where I Write

Thank you to the talented Andrea Skyberg for this interview on Tuesday Tours! 

Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Studio Tour


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Today on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to welcome Kimberly Newton Fusco, the author of three of my favorite books. My daughter and I’ve read The Wonder of Charlie Anne more than once, and we always tease each other with one of the reoccurring lines, “A proper lady…” If you haven’t read The Wonder of Charlie Anne, what are you waiting for? Head out to the bookstore or library and dive it. Kimberly’s other book Tending to Grace is a beautiful short and poetic read. It’s a book I could easily have finished in a day, but I wanted to savor it, so I forced myself to only read a chapter each night. Beholding Bee is one of my first encounters with magical realism and it definitely had me thinking long after the final page. Today Kim shares her writing spaces in her home in Rhode Island, where she tends to her family, her sheep, the cat, a new puppy, and her books, but not always in that order.
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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium. 
I am a fiction writer for young people and I feel unbelievably lucky that I get to do what I have wanted to do since the sixth-grade.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We built a new house ten years ago with an office in the front so that I could watch my children getting off the bus. But, I can write anywhere, and I do: outdoors in our sheep field, in a coffee shop, in one of several lawn chairs I have set up in the woods behind our house. When I’m outdoors, I use a journal. Indoors, I bring my laptop to a comfy couch in our living room—my favorite spot because I can make a big roaring fire in fall and winter. I know some people love writing retreats, but I can make my own retreats at home and I wonder, what could be better than this?

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start writing?
My alarm rings at 5:30 and after a cup of coffee I make breakfast and lunch for my husband and daughter (my other three children are in college or grad school or graduated from college and working).  I drive my daughter to school, take some quiet/spiritual time, run a couple of miles on my treadmill, care for our animals (two sheep, a cat, and a new puppy), and then begin writing. I write throughout the morning and often return to it in the afternoon after some exercise.



Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Pictures of my children growing up cover my office. They remind me that love and family are truly the most important things and both are important themes in all my books.

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If you had the chance to live inside the world of one of your stories, which one would you pick and why?


 I love them all, but I guess I would pick the novel I am working on now because I am so involved in the lives of my characters in Me and Gloaty Gus. In order to write a novel, I become my characters and walk around in their shoes.  It’s the only way I know how to write fiction.


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 What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
Right now it’s our new golden retriever puppy, Harper. She is three months, and a handful.  We have her crate-trained so when she is in the crate, I write. There’s always a distraction when you work from home, though, and I think it’s a matter of coming up with creative solutions that work for everyone in the family.


If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?


mary oliver

What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I am very inspired by the poet Jane Kenyon and the advice she gives me each day:
“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”

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If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?

Well, we had a particularly rough winter last year in New England, so as much as I love writing by a crackling fire with the snow coming down outside my window, too many days of this gets a little daunting, so perhaps someplace warmer, but I would miss my family so much that I would be back the next day
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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?

It is nice to have a spot, but I think it is even more important to be flexible and write wherever and whenever you can. I wrote my first novel, Tending to Grace, in bits when my children were napping or playing in the treehouse. A little time can go a long way if you are disciplined. I try and live by the advice: “People first.” Our children grow up much too quickly to always be looking for solitude.


What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new novel,  Me and Gloaty Gus, is under contract with both Knopf and Faber & Faber, London. Publication is planned for  2017. My website is http://kimberlynewtonfusco.com.

Monday, July 27, 2015

THE PROUST-ESQUE QUESTIONNAIRE: KIMBERLY NEWTON FUSCO

Kim_FuscoOur guest: Kimberly Newton Fusco is an award-winning Rhode Island-based author of young adult fiction, including 2013’s Beholding Bee (Knopf), which is being released in paperback July 28, 2015.
The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.

Blue_dolphins

WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?

As a child my favorite reading spot was my tree house, and I spent hours there with piles of books. I walked the mile to our town library every few days for a new supply. My favorite books were Harriet the Spy, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Where the Red Fern Grows.
People used to wonder if there was something wrong with me because I read so much! I laugh about that now. I read so much because I wanted to be a writer and I’ve never wanted to be anything else.
 
Harriet the Spy
 
 WITH WHICH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY?
 
Harriet in Harriet the Spy.  First of all (of course) she was a true writer and so she made sense of her world and the people in it (and their absurdities) by putting everything to paper. Second, she was very brave and I admire courage and bravery and the willingness to stand up for what you believe in – even when it is all very confusing.
 
midwife's apprentice
 
 WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
 
I have so many!  When I give writing workshops in classrooms I am usually asked by students who my favorite writers are, so for the last ten years I’ve been keeping a list.
I would definitely put Karen Cushman at the top because the first paragraph of The Midwife’s Apprentice is so gorgeous I could read it every day and still get goose bumps.
 
 IF YOU WERE THROWING A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
JK-Rowling
Photo credit: Andrew Montgomery

I would invite my four children and  J.K. Rowling (left) because Harry Potter turned my adventurous young readers into reading lunatics! We had to buy several copies of each novel as it was published so that everyone could be reading at the same time. Plus, my husband needed a copy to read out loud to the younger children. Harry Potter made my children forget everything else and want to gallop breathlessly to the finish line — what a gift!
 
 WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
 
Hope. My editor says we should not be in the business of dashing the hopes of middle grade readers, and I agree with her.
 
 
beholding bee
 
 IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
 
I am very interested in writing about people who have been marginalized in some way. I am drawn to strong young people who face adversity and through their own determination, press on.
In Tending to Grace, Cornelia must confront her stuttering and in The Wonder of Charlie Anne, Charlie Anne must battle her reading disability and the racism around her.  In Beholding Bee, Beatrice has a birthmark on her face, which she calls her diamond.
 
 IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A CHARACTER FROM CHILDREN’S LITERATURE, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE?
 
jo march little women
 
 
Jo March (left) in Little Women.  I love her character – she’s blunt, opinionated, and quite hot-tempered.  She hopes to do something important with her life when she grows up, and of course she chooses to do that in the very best way possible, by becoming a writer.
 
 IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
 
I would have the courage to start writing fiction earlier, to believe that I really could do it.
 
WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
Jane_Kenyon
 
I never met the poet Jane Kenyon (right), but each day I try and remember her wise advice:
“Be a good steward of your gifts.  Protect your time.  Feed your inner life.  Avoid too much noise.  Read good books, have good sentences in your ears.  Be by yourself as often as you can.  Walk.  Take the phone off the hook.  Work regular hours.”
 
DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
I am an early morning writer. After my husband and children leave, diary of anne frankI get right to work and usually write until lunch, then take a break and go for a long walk, and in the afternoon I will do some tweaking or rewriting. I write until a sentence is as perfect as I can make it and then I go on to the next sentence.  For this reason, I write slowly.  When I write something that I know is good, I have been known to get up and dance across the floor.  What can be more fun that this?
 
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AND WHY?
 
The Diary of Anne Frank. When you read that book you can’t help but become a kinder and more compassionate person, even in small ways. 
 
 
 



 


Thursday, July 9, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

Sometimes, to write a better sentence, you just need a little time to daydream, a little time to do nothing ... My favorite place to do this is in the field where our sheep graze ....


The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The paperback is coming!

The paperback edition of BEHOLDING BEE is being released on July 28.  I am thrilled!

This is what the back cover will say:

“Fans of Kate DiCamillo, Jennifer Holm, and Polly Horvath will find this an enjoyable and engrossing read.” —School Library Journal

Bee is an orphan who lives with a carnival and sleeps in the back of a truck. Every day she endures taunts for the birthmark on her face, though she prefers to think of it as a precious diamond.

Then one day a scruffy dog shows up, as unwanted as she, and Bee realizes she must find a home for them both. She discovers a cozy house with gingerbread trim that reminds her of frosting, where two mysterious women, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Potter, take her in. Whoever these women are, they matter. They matter to Bee. And they are helping Bee realize that she, too, matters to the world—if only she will let herself be a part of it.

Kimberly Newton Fusco is the author of two other novels, Tending to Grace and The Wonder of Charlie Anne, both of which garnered many accolades, and of the upcoming Me and Gloaty Gus. Before becoming a novelist, she was an award-winning reporter and editor for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Ms. Fusco lives in Foster, Rhode Island, with her family. Learn more at kimberlynewtonfusco.com.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

What's that light?


I believe a writer needs a questioning mind, determination, a lot of faith, and a hopeful heart.

And, by the way, my camera's flash reflects off the window of the 100-year-old outhouse that sits in our yard. This (unused for decades!) two-seater inspired a chapter in my first novel, TENDING TO GRACE, which received the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award for its empathetic portrayal of a young girl who stutters.

www.http://www.ala.org/awardsgrants/awards/1/all_years

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thoughts on the The Writing Life

 
 

"I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.'' -- Emily Dickinson