Friday, April 29, 2016

Interview with Tone Deaf (2016) author Olivia Rivers


Tone Deaf (May 3, 2016) by Olivia Rivers
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (May 3, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 163450707X
ISBN-13: 978-1634507073



I first started learning about Olivia Rivers and hernovel Tone Deaf in 2013 when a former student tipped me off about this text that was available to readers on Wattpad.com. If you're interested in checking it out, you can find Tone Deaf here.
Rivers' last book was published by Red Sparrow Press and available through Amazon as an eBook.

Years ago, I noted that on Goodreads she explained,
I have to be honest: "Tone Deaf" was never intended to be read by others. I wrote the story out of frustration, when I was unable to find a book that featured a realistic main character with disabilities.
One day, on a whim, I posted the first chapter of “Tone Deaf” on Wattpad.com. The response I received was absolutely amazing and humbling. Apparently, I wasn’t the only reader frustrated by the lack of disabled main characters. “Tone Deaf” received over 1,000 hits within a week of being posted, and to this date, has over 750,000 hits.
Some readers have ventured to call “Tone Deaf” a “diverse” book, but I have another word for it: Realistic. In reality, not every person is perfectly healthy or functional. And not every person is white, straight, and good-looking. And, honestly, who would want that? The world would so boring without the diversity it presents us.
I truly hope "Tone Deaf" presents this diversity and reality in a way that readers can relate to. And, most importantly, I hope readers enjoy the characters and love-story within the book!" http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/637547093


Then in 2015, I offered to give feedback on the manuscript. From there, Olivia and I corresponded several times. I was even able to send pictures of a few items that would benefit Olivia’s Deaf character. I’m being purposely cryptic because I do not want to spoil a thing.

Olivia is certainly a writer who is open to feedback and to the revision process so I’m looking forward to reading this book again. You’ll have a chance to do so as well since Tone Deaf will be released on May 3rd in both Kindle and hardcover format. In the meantime, here is my interview with the author. 

Pictured with Olivia is her dog Romeo, who was the inspiration for the giant pit-bull in the novel.
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SP: What inspired you to include a deaf character that uses sign language?
OR: I have a neuromuscular disease, so I’ve always been interested in characters who have atypical physical abilities. They’re often completely absent from Young Adult books, or if they’re present, the entire plot revolves around them struggling with their physical condition. Don’t get me wrong, some of these books are gorgeous and much-needed. But I really wanted to tell a story where the main character has accepted their physical differences and moved on to face other issues.
At the time I started writing TONE DEAF, there was a huge trend of books featuring bands. Reading a few of them sparked the basic set up for TONE DEAF—one hearing main character who is a musician and convinced that deafness would be the end of the world, and one deaf main character who shows him that there's so much more to life than whether or not you can hear.

SP: What research did you do to make your character believable?
OR: I didn’t do enough research for the first draft of the book, which I definitely regret. But I ended up doing a lot more research for future drafts. I found the most helpful resource to be online forums for Deaf individuals, because I could read about personal experiences with both the medical aspects of deafness and also Deaf culture. I also watched a lot of YouTube videos of people using ASL so I could get a feel for the language. This was some of the most fun research I’ve ever done! One YouTube channel I found translates famous poems into ASL, and it let me view poetry in a whole new, beautiful light.
Of course, Professor Sharon Pajka provided a huge amount of help by beta-reading TONE DEAF and giving me lots of advice on how to make Ali’s deafness more realistic. Her suggestions gave me quite a few light-bulb moments, and I’m so grateful I had her feedback during the editing process.

SP: Ha ha, thanks. I’m glad to help. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
OR: I was twelve when I wrote my first novel, but that book is buried away deep on my old hard-drive, and it will never see the light of day! But I’ve been happily addicted to writing ever since. I began writing TONE DEAF at fifteen, and as I wrote it, I started posting chapters on Wattpad.com. The story ended up getting over a million hits, which eventually led to me signing with my agent at seventeen and receiving my book deal a few months after.

SP: Where do you get your ideas for your books?
OR: I draw my ideas from a huge variety of sources, and it’s very rare that I can pinpoint exactly where they come from. In the case of TONE DEAF, I’d been listening to a lot of music, reading books about bands, and brainstorming new ideas for characters. It all kind of mashed together in my mind to form the plot that currently exists. At first, I actually didn't plan on sharing the story with others. But then stories with bands started to get increasingly popular, so I figured I'd try sharing mine on Wattpad. I'm so glad I did, because posting the story has allowed me to connect with tons of fantastic readers from all over!

SP: What do you hope that readers will take away or learn from Tone Deaf?
OR: I hope readers will walk away realizing how empowering it is to take charge of your own future and defy expectations. And I also hope readers receive the message that it’s perfectly okay to ask for help as you start to forge your own future.

SP: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books?
OR: Publishing takes an extremely long time. Until I started working on TONE DEAF, I never realized that the publication process can stretch on for multiple years, even after the writing portion is complete. However, I also learned that this long journey is well worth it in the end!

SP: Do you have opportunities to meet your readers? When you do, what kinds of things do they say?
OR: No, I generally don’t meet readers in-person. However, I do have readers email me, and it’s always so much fun to hear from them! I’ve gotten emails from all over the world, and it’s really been an honor to connect with so many different people who all share a love for stories. One thing that always surprises me is how some people write to me very formally, as if they’re addressing an important scholar. It always confuses me a bit, because even though I’m an author, I’m definitely just a normal girl.

SP: What advice do you have for young readers?
OR: Never be ashamed to embrace your love for books, no matter what others might think. I used to be really embarrassed that I read and wrote Young Adult books, because many people in the book world turn their noses up at the genre. But ignore those book snobs! Stories of all types have the potential to positively impact people, and it doesn’t matter what genre or label they fall under. 

SP: Anything you'd like to add...
OR: Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Sharon! I’ve had such a fantastic time these past few years working with a Deaf character and getting to know and appreciate Deaf culture. While I’m a little sad that I won’t be working on Ali’s story any longer, I'm so grateful for the chance to share TONE DEAF with readers!
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For more information about Olivia Rivers, visit http://www.oliviariversbooks.com/
For a copy of Tone Deaf, click below:

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Myron Uhlberg will be in the Washington, D.C. area

Author Myron Uhlberg will be visiting Gallaudet University tomorrow, Monday, April 4, 2016, as part of the Battle of the Books competition. He will talk about his new picture book The Sound of All Things and his experiences creating books that are a part of deaf culture.

If you're in the Washington, D.C. area, Uhlberg will also have a public reading of his new picture book The Sound of All Things along with a book signing at Hooray for Books! at 6 p.m.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

The Sound of All Things by Myron Uhlberg-- an open fan girl letter instead of a review



I cannot believe it’s been seven years since I saw my friend Myron Uhlberg. In 2009 after a whirlwind of events over his memoir, Hands of My Father, Uhlberg finally came home to Gallaudet University. I’m pretty proud that I helped make that happen. 

He touched so many of our students and community members. I saw the former provost shed a tear when Uhlberg and he spoke of their fathers who were both from Brooklyn. 

I encourage you to search his name in the top left corner of this blog to share in the experience.

Last year Myron emailed me about his life and his forthcoming children’s book, The Sound of All Things. In his email, he wrote, 
“The book is scheduled for publication March 1, 2016, to coincide with Deaf History Month.  Which is most fitting—since SOAT (and its two sequels) cover a crucial period in that history.” 
Of course he planned it this way. His love for the Deaf Community resonates in all of his publications. I could go on and on about what a beautiful human he is but I’m supposed to be reviewing his new book. 

I'm afraid this is going to be more of an open letter from a fan girl.


I cried when I received it. Before I even opened the package, I teared up because I know the story. Here is a man who in his later years (ha, he’ll give me the stink eye for that phrase) he’s still writing about his parents. I once read that our loved ones who have passed are kept alive when we remember them. Myron’s parents are looking down at him still and beaming with pride over their son. 

The Sound of All Things is the story of the hearing boy with Deaf parents. They go to Coney Island and one of the first scenes is the boy and father riding a roller coaster. The father asks the son to describe what things sound like and through Sign Language the son does his best… but how does one describe such things as the waves. In all good children’s books and in life, the best way to answer this question is to ask a librarian. So the young boy goes to the library, finds the more-than-competent librarian who finds a book of poetry. “Some of the poems are about the ocean”, she tells the young boy (no citation since my review copy does not have page numbers). They find the perfect passage.

I don’t want to give away all the precious details of the story but it ends with the visuals of fireworks and a young boy reading a library book so that he can share another aspect of his world with his father.

Myron ends his book with a note from the author. 

I'll end with this. Myron, I miss you. We miss you!  And, we do look forward to you coming home again.