Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Science Fiction series + New Book _The Fifth Vertex_ (August 2014)

Thanks to Kim Marie Nicols, a professional with experience in human services and educational programs working with individuals with hearing loss and who is fluent in American Sign Language, for contacting me about these books.

In July, she pointed me toward a Science Fiction series by A.C. Crispin and Kathleen O'Malley. The StarBridge series includes
“a terrific Deaf heroine whose deafness is an asset in creating a relationship with an alien race”. 
 She recommends that we check out Silent Dances (#2) and Silent Songs (#5) in the series and notes that we don’t need to read the first book in order to understand the premise… plus, that first book doesn’t include a deaf character.  

Kim just sent me an email this week about the The Fifth Vertex by Kevin Hoffman which she highly recommends.   

She writes,
“I am a huge fan of Sword and Sorcery fiction, and this book really delivers, faintly reminding me of The Belgariad series by David Eddings. In The Fifth Vertex, the lead hero, Urus, is deaf and fluent in 'Tradesign', a Gestuno-like sign language used throughout his world. Using signs also has a correlation to when he casts spells with his hands or looks at ancient runes on a vertex stone (one looks like the sign for 'open' and touching it brings him to another location). My only complaint is his amazing lipreading capabilities in multiple languages, especially when looking over his shoulder going up a dark spiral staircase. This is so farfetched from reality that it must be part of his magic - in the best of circumstances, only 30% of English words can be lipread. It is definitely a page-turner, with well developed characters and plot, and you won't want to put it down. Just be prepared for the cliff-hanger ending, since this is the first book in a series (which is still unwritten).”

Aside from reading novels, one of her others interests is collecting comics and cartoons pertaining to hearing loss. You can find some of these here:

Thanks Kim!

Friday, September 12, 2014

No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie Screening Next Week at Gallaudet University

If you’re close to Washington, D.C., Gallaudet University will be screening the award-winning film No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie September 17 and 18 with a special guest Superdeafy himself! This screening is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the Theatre and Dance Program.

No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie opened at the Rome International Film Festival last week in Rome, Georgia and won the Shepard Award for innovative film-making.

SUPERDEAFY must reveal the man behind the cape to find true love and inspire a young deaf boy to believe in himself. The movie follows the evolution of this unique hero. A beloved character and role model, SuperDeafy has a worldwide following. He has been turned into t-shirts, posters and dolls… and now a movie. This film marks the first time in cinematic history that a SAG commercial feature film is being executive produced exclusively by deaf executive producers and directed by a deaf director. The film will be 100% open captioned every screening.

The film is rated PG and is subtitled.

Tickets are free and open to the public and can be reserved at (Wednesday, September 17) and (Thursday, September 18).

If you're not in the Washington, D.C. area, check out the website for other screening opportunities.


Tugg's Overview Video
No Ordinary Hero - Tugg Informational Video from Hilari Scarl on Vimeo.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Interview with Invisible author Cecily Anne Paterson

The 2014 Kindle edition of Invisible caught my eye and I could not put down this book. In fact, I pretty much read this book it two sittings and probably would have finished in one if I didn’t need to sleep. 

The story is told from the perspective of Jazmine Crawford, a 13-year-old deaf girl who functions as a pretty hard of hearing teen when she’s wearing her hearing aid. She is being raised by a single mother and has learned to not complain or share her problems (or even state that she has problems). She doesn’t have any friends and author Cecily Anne Paterson does a great job making the reader feel as small as Jazmine must feel. Jazmine isn’t exactly alone though. She is surrounded by the meanest of the mean girls. I have to admit that I was torn between being an adult who is sympathetic and hoping things work out for one of the mean girls, and my inner-teen who thankfully didn’t experience the wrath of such abuse but was secretly hoping she gets what’s coming! Jazmine does experience a temporary break where she makes some completely amazing friends and finds that she really likes cute boy Liam Costa. This was very much the kind of book that I found myself talking back, “Go Jaz!” and "Come on!" and even a few gasps here and there.

As I mentioned, Jazmine functions pretty much like a deaf girl who can’t hear at all without the use of a hearing aid. With her hearing aid, she can hear somewhat if there isn’t much background noise. She and her mom use Australian sign language (Auslan) but Jazmine also speaks. It really depends on the situation and their comfort level at the time. She attends a mainstream school, actually quite of few of them since this is her fourth school in four years (p. 17), and knows exactly what it means to be an outsider. The author even goes into specifics such as in one instance Jazmine discusses that she can’t hear the doorbell because of the chime being the wrong frequency (p. 235). All of this made me very curious. So, I contacted the author! Read my interview below with Cecily Anne Paterson.

Invisible by Cecily Anne Paterson
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: May 25, 2009/ Kindle version 2014
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1291259007

Book description
Jazmine Crawford doesn't make decisions. She doesn't make choices. She doesn't make friends. Jazmine Crawford only wants one thing: to be invisible. For Jazmine, it's a lot easier to take out her hearing aid and drift along pretending that nothing's wrong than it is to admit that she's heartbroken. She starts to come out of her shell when she's forced to be in the school play and even makes friends with bouncy Gabby and chocolate-loving Liam. But can she stand up to the school bully, and is she strong enough to face the truth about what really happened to her dad?

SP: What inspired you to include a deaf character who is fluent in Auslan? A follow up is if you know the language or any deaf users of Auslan.

CAP: Let me be completely upfront. I certainly didn’t set out to write a book about a deaf girl. It all came about because I needed a plot device to stop Jazmine finding out that her father committed suicide. A few generations ago it was possible that children could go through their lives never hearing adults talk about such things, but in our society today, we talk about everything. I knew it wouldn’t take long for a regular, curious nine year old to figure out what happened to her dad, so I needed some reason why she might not overhear those sorts of conversations.
It occurred to me that if she literally couldn’t overhear them, it would work, and hey presto, Jazmine had a hearing disability. However, I needed her to be able to hear most things for the rest of the book, so I gave her a hearing aid which got lost in all the confusion of finding out her father had died while she and her mum were on holidays.
After that, it just seemed a nice thing that her friend Liam would be able to connect with her by knowing a little bit of Auslan. It became an immediate shared experience to help them bond.
I don’t actually know any deaf users of Auslan myself and I’m feeling nervous about this whole interview because the deaf experience is not something I have any first-hand knowledge about. I assured myself when I was feeling some trepidation, writing it, with the thought that perhaps I might step on people’s toes, or people might say it’s complete rubbish, that all writers write about things they haven’t experienced. It’s all about doing reasonable research. Plus a bit of common sense imagination.

SP:  There was only one instance when Jazmine was in the garden and her mom called to her from the house asking where she was that made me think “hmmm” but then I figured that my version of the house layout and their house could be different and her mom could be quite close… plus, windows could be open. Overall, I found her quite believable.
In the About the Author section, there is a statement that you attended an international boarding school and understood the feeling of being an outsider. I'm sure this gave you a great deal of experience relating to Jazmine. Could you tell me about your research process for making her a realistic deaf character? I should ask the same about your research process for "mean girls" but I'm almost afraid to know. 

CAP: I read a few websites of different Deaf associations to learn a little about the culture. I also had a long conversation with a friend who is an audiologist. She explained a little about how children react to hearing aids. I asked her, “So, do you think this bit is realistic?” about different parts of the story and she said yes or no according to her experience. I did try to get some deaf people to read the story before I published it to get their feedback and quite a few said yes but none actually got back to me. I took that as meaning that I was at least in the ballpark.
I’m very aware that there is a whole deaf culture out there and I was totally intrigued to watch the communication between a few deaf families holidaying at the same place as us a few years ago. However, I didn’t want Jazmine to be immersed in that world because that wasn’t the story I was writing. I imagined that if I was her mum, knowing nothing about deaf culture and having a child with hearing loss, how would I help her to see the world? I decided that if she was my child, I’d get her as much hearing aid help as I could, learn a bit of Auslan and use it at home, but still think and live, and expect her to live, in the mainstream culture.
As for the ‘mean girls’ research, all I can say that if you’re a girl and you’ve ever been to school between the ages of 10 and 15, you don’t really need to do any research on that…

SP:  Jazmine has a difficult time expressing herself even though she's bilingual (English and Auslan). Miss Fraser was able to offer her several outlets to express herself. She's your creation, could you speak on Jazmine's behalf and explain why these tools worked for her? 

CAP: Jazmine’s family never talked about anything that mattered. Her mother, especially, is awkward and nervous with her own communication and prone to cut herself off from other people, so it’s no wonder that Jazmine prefers to be invisible in everyday life. She’s literally never learned another way. Miss Fraser introduces her to journaling and gives her words to say on a stage and all of a sudden, it’s like Jazmine’s world opens up. I think she simply never knew that you could do any of it. And, more importantly, she never thought that anyone would ever think she was important enough to listen to and interact with. After being told all her life that she should keep her true feelings from other people to avoid being hurt, Jazmine is amazed to find that actually, that’s not true at all.  

SP:  What do you hope that readers will take away or learn from Invisible? Aside from The Secret Garden is a great book and teachers like Miss Fraser rock! 

CAP: I hope that readers will find their own voice and learn to use it. I hope they’ll look for great mentors and good friends. I hope they’ll find a love for nature. I hope they’ll look beyond their bad circumstances and be able to see a future. Mostly, I hope they’ll understand that sadness and hardship doesn’t have to become a cage of pain for the rest of their lives.

SP:  What advice do you have for young readers ?  

CAP: Be brave. Don’t just follow what everyone else follows. Really seek out what’s truly good in the world, and who’s behind it. Honesty and love should always go together. Be mindful and act, rather than just react. Seriously? I could go on and on and on.
If you want to be a writer, I would say ‘try and give it up’. If you can’t and you must write then write something that’s honest and real. We need more of it in the world.

SP: Anything you'd like to add... such as maybe a bit about a sequel?
CAP: Yes. There is a sequel to Invisible and it’s coming in November 2014. When people first started asking for a sequel I was reluctant. I couldn’t honestly see what else could happen to Jazmine. I mean, she’d reached her mountain top. Where else was there to go? But then it occurred to me that you can’t just live on a mountain top the rest of your life. You’ve got to go down again sometime.
In many ways, Jazmine’s good experiences were given to her. Miss Frazer gave her the gift of believing in her. Gabby adopted her as a friend. Liam picked her out of a crowd. Yes, she had to fight a bit, but it was still only fighting to be able to accept what she’d been given. I had to ask myself: what would happen if she lost the gifts she’d been given? If good things turned out to be not so good?
The new book is called Invincible. It’s about Jazmine facing her fears and finding her own way. All the old characters are there (except Shalini) but they might not be there in the ways you expect. And there are a few new ones too.
For news about the new book and an opportunity to read it before it’s released, readers can sign up on my website:
SP: Thank you so much! I can’t wait to read about Jazmine’s adventures!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

New Book ***Flying to the Fire*** released today + Author Elyse Salpeter Interview

Elyse Salpeter’s Flying to the Fire: Book #2 (Flying Series) is told through the perspective of a grown up, teenage Danny. Danny is Deaf and communicates through American Sign Language. In the first book in the series, Danny was just a kid who happened to have a special ability—knowing what happens to people when they die. This ability attracts the attention of a dangerous scientist and when Danny’s parents are kidnapped, it is up to his older brother Michael to seek help, and outwit and outrun a mad scientist and the FBI. Fortunately as readers learn in the first book, Danny also can communicate with birds and he’s going to need them again in Book 2. The beginning of the story has Danny looking forward to his older brother, Michael coming home for a visit from college. Danny’s scientist parents, The Andersons, are safely back home and they have even had a young daughter, Katie, who is an important character and I must say one of my favorites since the time of the first book.

Weird events have been happening and Danny needs his brother’s advice. Both a teenage Danny and little sister, Katie, are having terrible nightmares that aren’t staying confined to dreamland. There is an evil black mass that appears in their dreams but when they wake there is evidence that the injuries that occurred while they were dreaming really happened. But is this monster coming for Danny or is it trying to get him out of the way to get to another family member who can’t communicate with the birds but can communicate with bugs. There isn’t much time to figure out how to stop the black mass so the entire family is going to have to work together to find a solution which means that Michael may have to stop sucking face with his new girlfriend, Charity, whom he brought home from college. And geez, will Danny and Michael ever get any brother time??? I hate to admit that Charity is also one of my favorites. She’s smart; she’s in college studying Science; and, she’s taken ASL classes so she’s able to communicate with the family.  See Danny, girls are not all bad :p
Such a serious writer!
I first interviewed this author in 2012. Here’s my recent interview with Elyse Salpeter who has been crazy busy this week and especially this morning since it’s the Book Release Party Day!
Signing with a class
SP: While Flying to the Light has a great deal to do with our understanding of communication and the journey of adolescence, it is very much about the relationship of brothers. Flying to the Fire adds a younger sister, Katie, along with Michael’s new girlfriend, Charity. I love both of these characters by the way. Adding these female characters also adds a good amount of drama and tension between the brothers. What is your message to readers?

ES: This is a great question. I wanted to add a different dynamic to this novel. In Book #1, Danny was only six years old and solely relied on his older seventeen year old brother, Michael, to keep him safe. Throughout the book, Michael had to grow up and mature if he was going to be able to keep himself and his brother alive. In Book #2, I wanted it to be Danny who needed to mature and drive the story. I set it up so that Michael was no longer going to be his “out” to safety because he’s otherwise preoccupied with his new girlfriend. Bad things are once again happening to Danny and he needs Michael’s help, but now Michael is suddenly not there for him. It creates a lot of stress on their relationship.

SP:  I’m much more sympathetic to Evil Scientist Samuel Herrington (and his family) in this book than I was in the last. Is it just me? His wife Marta isn’t exactly a loving character but Samuel’s sadness over her dying really struck me.

ES: I believe Samuel Herrington is inherently selfish and evil, but there was one thing in his life that meant something to him, and that was his wife. This man wants to rule the world, but he always thought Marta would be there with him, right by his side. With his interest in the afterlife, he is searching for any way to reach her and bring her back to him.

SP: Danny has a special connection to birds in both books. Little sister’s Katie’s connection to bugs includes a much different tone. Would you discuss why or how this book is much darker than the first? It’s even frightening at times! But, I mean that in a good way... some of those descriptions of the forest were chilling.  

ES: I knew taking on “the opposite of heaven” was going to make this a darker story. How can you discuss the underworld without discussing the evil that inhabits it or why souls go there? When I think of the underworld, I think of “the earth” and what comes from the earth? Bugs, worms, dead things. When I created the younger sister, I wanted her to have another unique connection, one that would test Danny’s own powers and abilities beyond his limits.

SP: Flying to the Light had Michael and Danny running all over to escape Herrington. In a sense, Flying to the Fire seems more about staying put. I’m not sure if I really have a question here but I’m thinking about some themes of “grounding”. Michael is coming home but not quite himself. Danny has to bring him to in some ways…to actually ground him; the necklace from Charity has its own way of grounding; and, the family deciding to stay put during the storm.

ES: It’s true, in Book #1 I have the boys frenetically running everywhere. It was a constant “Go, go, go!” I wanted Book #2 to have the “action” actually come to them. The dark mass, the evil that lurks in their midst, can move through the air. No matter where they run, it can find them – even when they’re dreaming. I thought that would make the book scarier, as well. How do you fight something that can travel anywhere? With Danny now being thirteen and Michael twenty-four, I wanted to up the ante a bit and thought I could make the novel a bit darker.

SP: Because my focus is always on the portrayal of deaf characters, I’m curious about how Danny can hear when he’s in the other “lands”. While both of the books include issues of science, they each include religious aspects as well. What was your decision to have Danny hear when he’s in the other dimensions?

ES: This is going to be a tricky to answer because it may seem like me making Danny hearing in level fifteen means there was something wrong with him in the first place and now he’s “normal” which is completely not the case. Neither novel discusses Danny’s deafness as a disability. What I wanted to imply about him being able to hear in the other lands is that whoever you are, you go to this “land” one way, but once you’re there, “everyone is on the same playing field.” The fact is, if a character is blind, he’ll be able to see. If he’s maimed, he can walk. You are injured, shot, bleeding in our realm, you’re not hurt if you travel there.

SP:   Without giving anything away, have you set up another sequel, a book 3 with the mother, Maddy?

ES: I have a working outline of Book #3 that I’ve tentatively called FLYING HOME. And yes, Maddy is definitely going to play a part – a big one. In this book, Danny is going to have to test his abilities to his very limits and possibly make some decisions that some might find startling. I’m expecting Book #3 to be more emotionally scary, to be honest.

SP: Wow, I can’t wait! Anything you'd like to add :) 

ES: I’d love to say that it’s been so much fun living in Danny’s world and learning about the Deaf culture. I’ve been so fortunate to meet with students in the community to discuss these books. I met with kids from Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf and St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf and they allowed me to pepper them with questions so I could make Book #2 as relevant as possible. Having a room full of teens who “live” in Danny’s world really helped!  

SP: Awesome! Thanks so much for doing this interview.

Be sure to check out her book on Amazon and her Facebook Book Party that is going on now!