Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Author Cecily Paterson's 3rd book will include multiple deaf characters & she needs YOUR help!!!

Last November, I reviewed and challenged author Cecily Anne Paterson to not only write a third  book in her series but to include at least one other deaf character.  Tonight, I’m a bit giddy because Ms. Paterson and I have been discussing this and she’s ready for some input on her third novel! Read that as her Deaf Character Jazmine is ready to meet some other deaf characters!!! (Okay, my excessive use of exclamation points might be annoying but I'm super excited about this.)

If you haven’t read Invisible or Invincible, you’re going to want to do so quickly especially if you’re interested in helping out with this project! Of course, reading her books isn’t required but I certainly encourage it!

How many chances do you have to help an author do research for an upcoming book and how many chances do you get to have a say in the journey of a fictional character such as the Jazmine, a teenage girl who is deaf and fluent in Auslan?! 

Well, here’s your chance! Click on the picture below, or follow the link here to answer a brief survey. She's even offering to acknowledge your help in her forthcoming novel.  


Please feel free to share this with anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing who might be interested in participating in this important research.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Interview with Deborah Lytton, author of Silence (2015)

Silence by Deborah Lytton
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (March 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1609079450
ISBN-13: 978-1609079451

I’m going to start this a bit unconventionally because I’ve been in that kind of place this week. It all began when a new member of the book club that I’m in made the statement, “it must be horrifying to not be able to hear.” This was completely off topic and not at all related to deaf characters. In fact, this was part of a discussion about horror fiction.  I’m afraid that my reading falls into the categories of Deaf characters and dead characters a bit too often. Don’t think I didn’t roll my eyes at her remark. I pressed her a bit because I just couldn’t let it go. Her response included words mostly associated with loss. That’s just not where my mind goes when I consider deaf characters or deaf people but it seems to for some.  

Deborah Lytton’s novel Silence has been described as a book about friendship and hope. It’s one of the most loving YA stories that I’ve read and it very much has to do with perseverance and well, loss… or perhaps more specifically, the actual coping of loss.  It isn’t what you might think. Yes, the story begins with Stella who has the most beautiful singing voice so that she actually (SPOILER ALERT) lands the lead in her school performance. She even has hopes of making it on Broadway. But then tragedy strikes (which is not hearing loss although that is the result). There is an accident resulting in Stella being unable to hear. What Stella finds difficult and what I found difficult to read about especially while having just had a Ménière's disease attack of vertigo, was how much the character had to cope with her own vertigo. So when I explain that Lytton’s book made me a little nauseous, please understand that this has nothing to do with the plot of her story or the author’s writing style. She was simply able to convey the reality of severe vertigo in just a few short scenes such as when Stella attempts to lace her shoes but pauses because she’s dizzy.

Stella’s loss is that of the future she thought was going to be possible. Joseph Campbell writes, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Of course if anyone is going to have read Joseph Campbell in this book, it is Hayden.

Hayden is the guy with whom Stella has a crush. He is an outcast because he stutters. Hayden’s own loss is what leads him to help Stella cope with all of the changes she’s going through although honestly I think these two would have found their way to each other even without tragedy.

As far as Stella’s deafness, I think Lytton is able to show how an adolescent would cope. When I was 15 being diagnosed with Ménière's, my doctor told my family and me that I would never ride roller coasters again because of the vertigo and that I would most likely lose my hearing before I was 30. As a teen, I focused only on the roller coaster because to me that was the real tragedy. Family members especially our mothers (including Stella’s mother) focus more on the medical side. They cry while attempting to cheer you up because they are grieving the loss of the perceived futures of their children. Teens rely on their friends such as Hayden and his 17-day challenges while Stella is waiting for the processor for her cochlear implant. Lytton’s description of Stella receiving her processor and “hearing” is quite fair too but I don’t want to give away any more of the story than I have to.

I do feel that Stella is able to understand Hayden through lip-reading a little too easily and quickly. When the story begins, she has just met Hayden. They do not have a lifetime of knowing one another.  And while she struggles understanding family members and friends, Stella understands Hayden almost perfectly presumably because he stutters and that slows down his speech. To be fair, there is a good amount of communicating via text messaging.  Other than that, and other readers might either overlook this aspect or argue that I’m wrong which is perfectly alright,  I think this was a pretty honest portrayal of a girl losing her hearing. 

I enjoyed Stella and Hayden's alternating chapters so that readers can access each of their thoughts.  

*****Below is my interview with the author of Silence, Deborah Lytton*******
The author on Hayden and Stella's beach.
SP: What inspired you to include a deaf character in your novel?
DL: I had this dream of a story where the characters could listen without hearing and speak without words.  I wanted to tell a story about a girl who loses her hearing, and how becoming deaf challenges her to find herself. Stella begins the book very much focused on the way things sound. In fact, the first time she hears Hayden speak, she is disappointed because his voice isn’t beautiful to her ears. She changes into a much stronger and more complete person because she is deaf.   

SP: What research did you do to make your character believable?
DL: I began with research about head injuries and resulting sensorineural hearing loss. I read a lot of articles and interviewed a pediatrician and a pediatric nurse practitioner about my medical questions. Specialists from the House Ear Clinic answered specific questions from me about cochlear implants. I watched videos and read first-hand accounts from people having their implants programmed to understand what that experience would be like for Stella.

SP: What do you hope that readers will take away or learn from Silence?
DL: My greatest wish is that readers will find hope in the book. That they will relate to Stella and Hayden’s journeys to overcome obstacles in their lives and that this will inspire readers to seek their own voices.

SP: What advice do you have for young readers?
DL: Find your own voice in creativity. Paint, draw, take photographs, write stories or poems, dance, just express yourself. Your voice needs to be heard.
And keep reading!

SP: Anything you'd like to add...
DL: The most important lesson I have learned in becoming a writer is to never give up. If you believe in yourself and you keep going even when things seem impossible, you can accomplish anything.
Thank you, Sharon for bringing books to readers and for hosting me on your blog today.  
 For more information about the author including her fascinating background as an actor and singer (performing back up vocals for Belinda Carlisle and Frank Sinatra!) and her other books, visit: http://www.deborahlytton.com.
To purchase the book, click the link below.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

New Kindle edition- Let's Play It By Ear

Let's Play It By Ear by Jared Lopatin
Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 22, 2013) Kindle Version January 2015
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1483935582

Jackson Fearn has always been an exemplary student. He takes every assignment above and beyond the call of duty. So when he's given the assignment to behave as a person with hearing loss for two weeks, he goes all out, borrowing his roommate's hearing aids and communicating only through sign language. All is going well...until he meets Topher and tries dating. Despite the warnings of his friends and his attention-seeking sister, he decides to keep quiet about his hearing abilities. Secrets are okay if they're for school...right?

About the Author
Jared R. Lopatin is a native Philadelphian living in New York City. While his original plan was to be a professional actor, a chance conversation led him to graduate school to pursue a degree in Deaf Education. Enchanted by the new world he found, he immersed himself in the culture, moving in with Deaf roommates and taking a position as an instructional assistant at Lexington School for the Deaf. Now, he teaches high school writing, theatre, creative arts, and science. When he is not teaching or playing with his cats, he is writing. More information can be found at http://jaredrlopatin.com 

Monday, February 02, 2015

ALA announces Winners!

The American Library Association (ALA) announced the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards today during its Midwinter Meeting in Chicago.

The Newbery Medal is award to book for “the most outstanding contribution to children's literature”. This year there were two Newbery Honor books. One of the two named includes deaf author Cece Bell' s El Deafo. In September, I wrote a review for the Washington Post and posted this on this blog.

Bell is a children's author and illustrator who has written books such as Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover (2014). El Deafo (2014) is her memoir that covers some pretty serious issues that can be found in other autobiographies written by deaf and hard of hearing authors. The graphic novel includes bunny people (just the ears unlike Rabbit and Robot that includes the main character with a bunny-body, teeth, etc.) who recount her childhood struggles with hearing loss. The story tackles the challenge of finding friends when you feel different; yet, the focus is on her ears and how they don’t function the way they did as “a regular kid”.

While it reads more like an adult memoir about the struggles of growing up with hearing loss, it is marketed to kids with recommended ages 8-12. As I mentioned previously, if you're not familiar with graphic novels, don't let the layout and pictures mislead you; they can contain some heavy content. For example, the cover illustration is of “El Deafo”, Cece’s alter ego, flying through a bright blue sky. Within the first few pages the colors are muted to sage and hospital blue as Cece contracts meningitis and subsequently loses her hearing. Bell portrays a frightening medical view of deafness with three separate panels depicting large needles, one being inserted into the child’s back. As always, I recommend that you screen the book before recommending it to any young person.

Another winner that I want to recognize is no stranger to this blog. The Coretta Scott King Book Award recognizes an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults. This year’s winner is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. In 2007, I interviewed her about her book Feathers which includes Sean, the first African-American Deaf character who communicates through sign language in adolescent literature. I’m still not-so-secretly hoping that Sean will find his way in another one of Woodson’s books.

Congratulations to all of the winners! As always, I encourage you to all pick up your pens, pencils, typewriters, word processors, laptops, etc. and start writing! The portrayal of realistic deaf characters benefits young readers who wish to find character role models with whom they can relate and who wish to learn about a culture and community to which they may not have been previously exposed. These books can pique students’ interests so that they continue to read and learn about diverse cultures.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Silence by Deborah Lytton's Advanced Reader arrived!

On Friday, Deborah Lytton’s forthcoming novel Silence arrived in university mail. The publication date is March 3, 2015. This is the third week of the semester and I have to be honest that last semester’s sabbatical has made me a commuting wimp. I’ve been exhausted and now fighting a cold but at least I’ve been making good use of my train commute by reading. 

I’ll keep you posted about this book and look forward to interviewing the author.

Silence In Center (2014) by Jody Studdard

Silence In Center (Softball Star) (Volume 5) (March 2, 2014) by Jody Studdard

Series: Softball Star
Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; First edition (March 2, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1496143671
Book Description:
Melody Gold is a fourteen-year-old fastpitch player who wants to make the move from Little League to select ball. But none of the select coaches want her since she has a hearing impairment and must wear hearing aids at all times, even during games. Unwilling to take "no" for an answer, Melody becomes determined to prove her hearing impairment is irrelevant and she can play at the highest level.

An inspiring tale for readers of all ages.

Silence in Center is the newest book in Jody Studdard's Softball Star series.

All of the books in the Softball Star series are unique, independent stories. They are not sequels. As such, they may be read in any order.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Interview with _Silent Starsong_ author T.J. Wooldridge

When I first began my sabbatical and started catching up on reading my pile of books with Deaf Characters, I mentioned Silent Starsong by  T.J. Wooldridge which had just been published a few weeks before (in July).  This was a quick and interesting read that is certainly appropriate for young adolescents.While this is a chapter book, there are some illustrations included along with the text.
Main character Kyra is supposed to follow her mother’s line of interpreting the future by listening to the stars’ songs but Kyra is deaf and her mother is broken-hearted because she doesn’t see how Kyra will be able to continue this legacy. That’s a great deal of pressure for a young adolescent.  Even the doctor’s note states that Kyra is “permanently deformed”.
Fortunately, Kyra’s father finds a book of “secret hand codes” and is able to communicate with her by signing.  Kyra’s mother doesn’t pick up on the “hand-signs” so easily and they have a difficult time communicating. But this doesn’t stop Kyra’s father from continuing to try to bring the family together. 

When they go to a market, Kyra discovers Marne, an alien servant in the Naratsset culture. While these alien servants are typically quite skilled at telepathy, Marne’s telepathy is considered weak; yet, Kyra is able to communicate with Marne just fine. Marne has never been treated so nicely and Kyra may never have felt so understood. They become quite close and supportive of one another...  But don’t let this make you think the book is all about happy relationships and adventures. There is much sadness, death, and frightening adventures in store. Marne and Kyra have to find ways to keep one another safe among the ensuing danger.
About the author:
T.J. Wooldridge is the child-friendly persona of Trisha J. Wooldridge, who reviews dining establishments in Faerie for her local paper, much to the natives' confusion, and writes grown-up horror short stories that occasionally win awards. (EPIC 2008, 2009 for anthologies Bad-Ass Faeries 2 and Bad-Ass Faeries 3.) She often gets injured while trying to ride her horse, save the planet, interview famous movie and music people, or wear heels. She swears she loves her Husband-of-Awesome for more than his health insurance (he's also pretty cute). She has co-produced the Spencer Hill Press anthologies UnCONventional and Doorways to Extra Time.  Her novels include The Kelpie and The Earl's Childe in the MacArthur Family Chronicles series and Silent Starsong in the Adventures of Kyra Starbard series.

******Check out my interview with author T. J. Wooldridge below*****

SP: What inspired you to include a deaf character that uses sign language?
TW: When I write, my characters come to me.  I got the idea of Kyra and Marne while I was working for a horse rescue and I saw a mailbox with the name of “Starbard,” and I thought, “That would make an awesome name for a science fiction character.” And with that, both Kyra and Marne appeared in my head, and I could see Marne helping Kyra and her story and challenges formed in my brain during the rest of the ride to the rescue barn.
So, I didn’t go out to specifically write a deaf character; I met a character who happened to be deaf.  And one of the things I like in books is when authors create a character, not a ________ character. So, a character who has these awesome adventures and happens to be deaf in the case of Kyra, or who happens to be black or who happens to identify as queer or a combination thereof... because, you know, people have many facets. The character comes first; they are defined by who they are, their culture, and many, many things.
For Kyra, as I got to know her culture, her family, her world, I had to learn how she would navigate.  How she would communicate. What challenges she’d have and how she would overcome them.  In this case, the culture she lived in was far more intolerant to “disabilities” than the one we currently live in; her father came from a more tolerant culture and he knew sign language because he had a grandfather who was deaf, so he taught it to his daughter as their “secret language.” He could make it a game, and since there wasn’t anyone else using sign language on their planet, it didn’t matter what branch it was or if they had to make up some of their own signs. Using their game and “secret language,” he nurtured communication however Kyra found a way to do so.
So it wasn’t so much a specific intent to have a deaf character or to use sign language, it was an exploration of “what if” for the character that came into my head.

SP: What research did you do to make your character believable?
TW: At the time I was writing Silent Starsong, one of my old college friends had a sister that was getting her degree in teaching music to the deaf, so I would frequently pick her brain about communication and music and her experiences teaching.
I also broke out all my old Girl Scouts books on ASL and did a lot of online research and watching videos of deaf children communicating and operations used to help the hearing impaired. I pretty much read anything I could get my hands on.
As for telepathy, I grew up watching television shows like Unsolved Mysteries, Sightings, and all the early paranormal stories.  I always had an interest in the supernatural as it leaked into reality—who believed what and why. How people thought it worked. Military experiments on ESP, telepathy, telekinesis and more.  It was actually something my dad and I shared an interest in; so we’d take books out from the library or buy them from old book stores and share them, leaving notes or bookmarks for each other.
Another puzzle piece in the believability was a fair amount of research about stars, astronomy, and NASA articles about the sounds stars make, all of which I found fascinating.
Besides that, I’m a stickler for research on culture, engineering, science, and more. I do a lot of research, write, edit, do more research, ask people who know more than I do, and edit even more.

SP: Kyra’s relationships are complicated by her mother’s profession (and the family traveling) as well as her deafness. Could you talk a bit about the role of Marne without giving away any spoilers?
TW: Marne appeared in my head at the same time as Kyra; they were partners and friends from the moment I knew them both.
To an onlooker, it looks like Marne—the small pink alien—is a communication assistant/servant. After all, the pastel colored beings of his race are slaves, sold off their planet to keep their genetic line clean of any weakness. 
From the moment Kyra touches Marne, connects with him telepathically, she understands his pain and fear. He’s locked in a cage, for sale, a thing because he is “not good enough,” and she feels the wrongness of that to her core, so she convinces her father to bring him home. She’s the first person to ever show Marne affection, to defend him, and that moves him profoundly. They awaken a friendship in each other that neither expected to feel from another person—and that both fiercely protect with everything they have.

SP: What do you hope that readers will take away or learn from Silent Starsong?
TW: That’s a tough question; I hate to have expectations of what someone will take away or learn, specifically.  I’ve grown up with stories that were “there for me” for many reasons that the author probably never suspected.  When I get feedback from people about my writing, I’m always learning myself and surprised what people do get.  Who am I to say if that is right or wrong?  If that’s what the reader needed from the story, let it be there.
I guess, for anything I write, be it Silent Starsong or anything, I hope it’s exactly what the reader needs when they pick up the book. A comfort, a challenge, an adventure, an escape, a family, a friend, a mirror, a confidence boost, a lesson they felt they needed, or just a good, fun read.  I hope it’s to each reader what the books I read were to me—everything and anything.

SP: What advice do you have for young readers?
TW: Keep writing. Give yourself permission to write for fun, for yourself, and just for friends.  Have fun with writing, and writing will have fun with you.  Realize that not everything you write is meant to be shared.  It’s okay to write stories about your favorite characters if you need to—don’t try to sell or plagiarize, but have fun with them.  I have a huge handwritten collection where I’ve gone on adventures with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Aslan from the Narnia books, with my own versions Meg and Charles Wallace from Madeleine L’Engle’s Time series.  When you’re young, it’s okay to try and write like your favorite authors, to take chances and discover your voice.  And it’s okay to do that when you’re older, too. Always have fun, and never stop creating and playing in your worlds.

SP: Anything you'd like to add... such as maybe a bit about a sequel?
TW: I do have edits back on the sequel, Touching the Pulse, which takes place pretty much exactly where Silent Starsong leaves off.  We’re hoping it will come out December 2015.  Kyra and Marne are learning even more dimensions and facets of friendship and their abilities.  And they’re still in some serious danger that they have to escape. 

One of my proudest moments with the sequel, though, is having written a lot more space-ship engineering and science with Kyra—and my husband, who is an engineer, found no errors in my science and plausibility for what she is able to do!

For more information about the author’s book, check out her official website.