Saturday, October 27, 2007

Interview with Anne Colledge, author of Falling into Fear

Falling Into Fear by Anne Colledge
Paperback: 78 pages
Publisher: Back To Front (July 26, 2004)
ISBN-10: 1904529127

Anne Colledge was born in North Wales and educated in Cambridge. After thirty years in the field, she is a retired Deaf Education teacher. Her former students referred to her as “The Toy Lady” because her car was always filled with toys. Now, this Deaf author writes books for young people including the children’s book Northern Lights (2001). She is currently working on Playing Dead, a story about the First World War and her family.

Falling into Fear is the story of Catherine, a young deaf girl whose mother is seriously ill. Catherine and her brother Henry must leave their home for a while and stay with their grandparents. Oddly, Catherine slips back in time and experiences what live was like in the past. Gradually, she learns not to be frightened by these encounters even thought Catherine ends up in a war zone that is bombed, becomes a Roman slave and must protect a young child from wolves. These adventures help Catherine cope with her mother’s illness. Catherine isn’t the only Deaf character in the story. The story includes the Knowles family who are all deaf except the dog. James, the boy Catherine appears to have a crush on is fluent in sign language. The young characters also uses text messaging with their friends and a few of the characters wear hearing aids.

******Below read my recent interview with Anne Colledge***********

SPW: Will you describe how you develop your story ideas (particularly, the idea of time travel or falling into time)?

AC: I like to slip into another world for a time in my imagination and you can go anywhere for free! In North East England, where I live, there are 1,000 castles nearby. There are Roman Forts as well. In one there is a skeleton in the floor which gave me a fright, I felt as if I was being drawn into its eye sockets and falling, so that is why I called my book Falling into Fear because that is what happened to me.

When I was a child, sixty years ago, there was no television or computers. We just had the radio and books and we did have a lot of fun. The War was scary when we were bombed so I put that in the book as well. My father worked on the railways so we travelled a lot, often to the sea side, on the steam trains which rattled and hooted so we loved those journeys. It all goes into my books.

SPW: After being a teacher for thirty years, how did you transition into becoming an adolescent literature author?

AC: I enjoyed teaching deaf children very much and when I retired I missed the children so I joined a Canoe Club and when we were paddling on the rivers and the sea the children talked to me. Sometimes we laughed and sometimes they were worried, when their parents were divorced, or they had other problems. I began to put these into my books.

When I was teaching there were no books with characters who were deaf. I wanted deaf children to be the heroes so that is why I wrote the books.

I have always written but had more time when I left work to do what I always wanted to do.

SPW: Were your former deaf students your inspiration for your characters Catherine, James and the members of the Knowles family? Will you describe how you develop your characters?

AC: The characters are bits from my own grand children, deaf children I knew and people I have met.

Planning is not my strong point so I usually let the characters talk to me. It is like watching a film in my head and often the characters start arguing or behaving badly! The characters seem to grow as I write.

SPW: What do you hope young readers will gain from your books and its deaf characters?

AC: I hope the children who are deaf will use the characters as role models. It was a bit sad in a school I was visiting when a girl who is deaf asked me, "Could a deaf person write a book?" We have to say, "Yes," and put the books in their hands for them to read.

Formerly deafness was rarely mentioned in literature or if it was it was usually older people who were deaf, and it seemed to be regarded as a big problem. We have got to redress this.

I hope hearing children will gain an insight about what it means to be deaf and how small changes in how they treat deaf people can make all the difference.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

AC: I hope they will enjoy them and talk about them. More adults are doing this now through Book Clubs. Reading is an open door and can be done anywhere.
For more information about Anne Colledge and her work, visit:
To purchase the book,

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Interview with Megan McDonald, author of American Girl's Changes for Julie

Changes for Julie
(American Girls Collection)
by Megan McDonald
Reading level: Ages 9-12 Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: American Girl (September 2007)
ISBN-10: 1593693540
(first mentioned on this Blog September 8, 2007)

Changes for Julie is the last in a series of six historical books that take place in the 1970s. The book set includes: Meet Julie; Julie Tells Her Story; Happy New Year, Julie; Julie and the Eagles; Julie’s Journey; and Changes for Julie.

Joy, a new deaf student at school who uses sign language and lipreading to communicate, has trouble understanding what her teacher is saying when the teacher writes on the board. Julie understands what it is like to be new so she writes her new friend a note to Joy to tell her what was said. Unfortunately, there is a no note-passing rule in the classroom and Julie is sent to detention where she has to write ridiculous sentences over and over again. Determined to change the rules for detention and the system itself, Julie decides to run for student body president. Her choice for vice president is Joy. The two girls face several challenges. For starters, they are fifth-graders and the class president has always been a sixth grader; they are running against the most popular guy in school; and Joy isn't so popular. In fact, some of the girls in her grade say that "she sounds so weird when she talks" (p.28) and that her speech "sounds like she's inside a fishbowl" (p. 45). Will Julie compromise her principles? Will she win the election? Will sign language save the day? You've got to read the book to find out!

Megan McDonald is the author of numerous children's and young adult books, including the popular Judy Moody series. From her website, you will learn that she has two dogs, two horses, and fifteen wild turkeys; she begins writing her books on napkins; and, when she was a child, she collected bugs, toothpicks, scabs and Barbie doll heads. Now that she is an adult, she lives with her husband in California. She has a B.A. in English and a Masters in Library Science. Despite her busy schedule and book tour in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, I was able to interview Megan McDonald about her recent book, Changes for Julie. Check out the interview below.
SPW: How did you decide to include a deaf character who uses sign language? What kind of research did you do in order to make the character Joy appear like a real deaf adolescent and be historically accurate in the content?

MM: When I was growing up in the 1970s, my mother, a social worker, worked with kids with disabilities, some of whom were deaf. She was a great advocate for these children, and believed strongly in raising awareness about such disabilities. As a result, I grew up learning to have empathy, treat people with disabilities kindly and fairly, and not be afraid of kids who were "different" from me. In retrospect, disability rights was an important issue in the 1970s, and I felt strongly that this should become a theme of one of the Julie books. Research helped me to set Joy's deafness in historical context, and I did consult sign language manuals to help me with signs I could not remember from experience.

SPW: In the book, you describe some of signs that Joy and Julie use in sign language in great detail. How were you able to describe such signs? Did you take a sign language class, consult with someone, or learn from a book?

MM: From the time I was in high school, I tried to learn some sign language so I could hold conversations and sing songs etc with the kids my mom worked with. When I got to college, I took some classes in sign language. I went on to work in public libraries, where I often had the opportunity as a librarian to tell stories in sign for deaf children. And I had a friend who was deaf who worked at the library---even though she signed REALLY fast, she was very patient with me and my finger spelling, and we'd often laugh over funny mistakes I made when signing. When I was finished with the manuscript, a consultant did read and give feedback with an eye toward accuracy.

SPW: Has Joy appeared in any of the other American Girl books? Do you have plans for her character or any other deaf characters in future books?

MM: Since the character of Joy Jenner was not introduced until Book 6, she doesn't appear in any of the other Julie books preceding this one. I don't have any specific plans for another deaf character, but I find signing such a beautiful and appealing language, that you never know. Maybe Judy Moody will learn sign language one of these days.

SPW: What do you hope young readers will gain from Changes for Julie and its characters?

MM: I tried to realistically portray reactions to Joy. In other words, I did not shy away from showing that kids can be hurtful and unkind to someone with a disability such as deafness. My hope is that reading about such a character raises awareness and humanizes them so that kids don't have to be afraid of such differences. As in the story, once kids get beyond the "disability" and see the real person, true friendship can result.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

MM: My hope and aim is that readers will always be able to see themselves in a character or story they are reading about and identify with my characters. If readers are able to journey along with Julie, they will expand their minds and imaginations and world, alongside of my character. I hope kids will take away from my books the idea that they have it within them to rise to any challenge, no matter how difficult.***************************************************************************
For more information about Megan McDonald, visit
To learn more about the American Girl collection, visit
If you are in the New York area on November 16 (3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.), bring your book and attend Megan McDonald's book signing at American Girl Place, 609 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street, New York, NY 10017 (Free and open to the public).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Happy Birthday!

It was just one year ago today (at 3pm to be exact) that my dissertation was born, or rather defended. Since then, little PPDCAL (or her formal name The Portrayals and Perceptions of Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature) has reached several milestones from when she was just drafts of paper (and/or numerous CDs).
(Below- a picture of baby PPDCAL at my dissertation baby shower in January-- she wasn't even bound yet). ********************************************************
Milestones for this little dissertation:
*a Publication in The ALAN Review (Summer)
*a Presentation at the CAID Conference (June)
*a Presentation at the English-Think-Tank at Gallaudet University (June)
*Release of the YADC Newsletter (August); and
*This Blog (February) which has been featured by:
§ School Library Journal A Fuse #8 Production Review by Elizabeth Bird, a librarian who has served on Newbery and written for Horn Book (September 27, 2007)
§ Hands & Voices’ The Communicator (newsletter Fall 2007)
Sarah Miller Reading, Writing and Musing… (September 22, 2007)
§ Jinxworld (September 15, 2007)
§ “Deaf Characters in Literature Blog” (website post August 26, 2007)
§ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Inc. (website post August 12, 2007)
§ A Deaf Mom Shares Her World (Blog post July 19, 2007), “Gallaudet Teacher Shares her Love of Books”
§ EN/Sane World “Deaf Characters in Comics and Graphic Novels” (Blog post May 24, 2007)
Along the way, little PPDCAL has met many wonderful authors, including:
§ J.G. Martinson (October 13, 2007)
§ Clint Kelly (October 6, 2007)
§ Jacqueline Woodson (September 29, 2007)
§ Sarah Miller (September 22,2007)
§ David Mack (September 15, 2007)
§ Jamie Berke (August 25, 2007)
§ Delia Ray (August 23, 2007)
§ Jodi Cutler Del Dottore (posted August 13, 2007)
§ Penny Warner (posted July 27, 2007);
§ T.C. Boyle (posted July 23, 2007);
§ Jean Ferris (posted June 30, 2007);
§ Ginny Rorby (posted June 23, 2007);
§ Jean Andrews (posted June 20, 2007);
§ Doug Cooney (posted June 18, 2007);
§ Lois Hodge (posted May 5, 2007).
(Pictured above, on her first birthday). A mom (or a Ph.D.) is so proud of her little bundle of joy.
Thank you to all my family and friends who have supported me.... and thank you to the readers who keep coming back!
**please note that the author of this Blog is not disturbed... maybe a bit eccentric and very,very proud but not crazy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Interview with J.G. Martinson, author of Deception's Full Circle

Deception’s Full Circle
by J.G. Martinson
Publisher: AuthorHouse
(July 13, 2007)
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN-10: 1425986234
Reading Ages: Mature Teen to Adult (Adult Language, Gore, and Violence)

From the back of the book:
A young woman is found one evening on a residential street in critical condition. Her subsequent death remains a mystery; the only key to what happened is an assistive device found on her. Mara McEdwards, a third generation detective, is assigned to the case. In no time, she is swept into a new world she has never heard of. A world where communication is silent and challenges await her. At the same time Mara struggles to search for clues, an explosive campaign of terror grips the heart of the cochlear implant industry. Mara McEdwards finds herself in a desperate race against time to catch the suspects, a ruthless psychopath and a sinister terrorist. Her mission comes to a climactic and shocking conclusion.
In this CSI/ detective-style mystery, Martinson weaves in several plots that readers must figure out the characters’ connections throughout the novel. Only at the very end, are the plots truly concluded. Set in Maryland, Deception’s Full Circle introduces readers to detectives Mara and Eddie, a CODA and a fluent American Sign Language user. When several deaf individuals with Cochlear Implants suddenly die from mysterious causes, Mara and Eddie are on the case and begin investigating a psychotic surgeon who uses a series of pseudonyms and fake identities. Simultaneously, there is a Unabomber-type terrorist, self-identified as the Signbomber, on the loose who begins bombing medical centers that provide Cochlear Implants surgeries. How the two plots connect, you’ll have to wait and see.

***Below you can read my recent interview with J.G. Martinson***

SPW: How did you decide to become a writer?

JGM: Writing has always been an outlet in which I could express myself creatively. My interest to write all began during my preteen years and I kept writing all sorts of stories to keep the creative juices flowing ever since.

SPW: Will you describe your experience with publishing your first book?

JGM: Deception's Full Circle was produced with quite a few years of efforts in researching and understanding a great deal of information about cochlear implants and police procedures, and having live discussions with legal connections as well as experts to develop the book's theme. Naturally, there is no magic bullet in getting the book published because of its uniqueness but having it released to the public has been a great journey that I would encourage your young students to try it.

SPW: In the foreword, you write that the book may strike a nerve in those who support cochlear implants and that that was not your intent when writing the book. Can you share how you were inspired to write this novel?

JGM: When I was living in Maryland during the mid 1990's, the cochlear implant concept was taking off and I was increasingly curious about the mechanics of this new technology. Living in Bethesda, Maryland gave me the opportunity to look into the Institutes of Health and how the large deaf community in the surrounding areas responded to the issue and I was able to delve deeply into the device. At the same time, more and more debates began swirling around and this gave birth to Deception's Full Circle.

SPW: Was it difficult to write from the point-of-view of a psychotic surgeon and/or the Signbomber?

JGM: When I earned my degree in counseling, having the scope of knowledge in psychology and the sociological response to terror made it easy to interconnect abnormal behavior with the surgeon as well as certain pathological behaviors and installed in Deception's Full Circle. For example, the Signbomber exhibited psychopathological issues due to a sudden hearing loss during his SEAL training regimen that contributed to the development of a common form of post traumatic stress behaviors which progressed to a dangerously high level as the problem remained untreated.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your book?

JGM: Since, this is a highly charged, fast paced and somewhat graphic book in small tokens such as the description by the coroner of a young woman found dead in the forest and what exactly happened to her, and a few graphic words expressed by the Signbomber, Deception's Full Circle is readable for those 13 years old and upward. After teaching English to deaf high school students for many years, I feel this is a great book for young students to gain a wider understanding of the controversy and bring together worlds.

I think this book will elicit great discussions about cochlear implants, deaf culture and why it has been such a unique but important issue for more than a decade to the deaf communities. Radicalism that clash with moderates and liberal views are positively and entertainingly described in Deception's Full Circle for the sole purpose of educating deaf and hearing readers and hopefully will remain in their minds for years to come.

SPW: Anything that you'd like to add?

JGM: On a side note, I'd like to let young deaf writers know that they can make fantastic stories to publish and writing is a wonderful way to express themselves.
J.G. Martinson, is a Deaf author who has worked as an educator and counselor for the Deaf and deafened population for more than three decades in Maryland and Canada. Deception’s Full Circle is his first publication. The author is currently writing a historical novel based on his travels through Europe. Martinson has two children, a hearing daughter and a deaf son. For more information about the author, contact the publisher.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nobody's Perfect in the News

Washington Post Article 10/10/07 Music to All Ears
Explores Childen's Attitudes About Deafness
In a small rehearsal room deep in the Kennedy Center, four actresses playing 9- and 10-year-olds shriek in delight at an imaginary purple pizza: "Purple! Disgusting! Yeah!!!" Later in the scene they burst into song about their pal Megan's "perfect purple party" for her 10th birthday.

Deaf actress Tami Lee Santimyer plays main character, Megan.

View August 5, 2007 Blog post for more information about tickets and the performance.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Where do I find books with Deaf Characters?

Just last week, I took a break from work and went to the Deaf Stacks in Gallaudet University's library. All of those books that I have been unable to purchase or borrow through other university's library loan programs were basically sitting on the shelves waving me toward them. I thumbed through the section with Deaf Characters and thought, "This is so not going to be good for you Sharon" envisioning hours of time lost in the library basement.

I spend hours randomly searching for books with Deaf Characters; however, there are several publishing companies and websites that I use on a regular basis. I search Amazon, Barnes & Noble and, I search publishing companies like Butte Publications, Forest Books, Deaf Internet Bookstore, Gallaudet University Press, and Harris Communications who have published books with Deaf Characters. There are several sites that you may want to search to find bibiographical information and/or information about Deaf People in general including the Deaf Resource Library and RIT's Deaf in Literature page. Brenda Weeaks has created a Deaf Characters shelf on listing titles and summaries of books with deaf characters. I have used this as a reference for my own research. It's also nice to offer to students so that they can select their own reading materials.

Today, I stumbled upon Goodreads, a privately run website started in 2006 by software engineer and entrepreneur Otis Chandler. On Goodreads, when an individual adds a book to the site, all their "friends" can see their review of the book. I like this site because it is just another place for me to search for books with Deaf Characters.

Visit their site:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Interview with Clint Kelly, author of Echo

Echo by Clint Kelly (July 2007)
Age Range: Teen to Adult (labeled as a Christian Suspense novel-- no inappropriate language)
ISBN: 0310263042
(book first mentioned on this blog on July 8, 2007)

While Cassie and Nick Dixon's lives were consumed with their venture into the perfume industry (which ended in disaster), they lost touch with many of their close friends, including the Fergusons. Cassie realizes this all too well when she has a chance encounter with Andy Ferguson, who believes that their meeting is not so chance after all. He confides that his marriage to Sheila is a bit shaky and they could use the help of some friends. After a great deal of persuasion, the couples, along with the Ferguson’s 13-year-old deaf son travel to the Cascade Mountains to take a relaxing vacation and hopefully restore Sheila and Andy’s relationship. A great deal of the Ferguson’s relationship troubles revolves around how they each wish to raise their deaf son, Cody. Sheila is the overprotective mother who treats her adolescent son as a child who needs to be looked after constantly. Andy wishes that Sheila would just let the boy be a boy… but then he isn’t so perfect either. Andy spends much of his time avoiding the situation and his family by working long hours. When Cassie tries to encourage Sheila to loosen her grip on Cody’s life to give him some breathing room, Sheila feels that everyone is against her…. When Cody disappears, Cassie feels responsible. With signs of dangerous grizzly bears and rain, will the group manage to find the boy alive? And, how did he disappear in the first place?

Cody becomes deaf at a young age. He prefers to speak and read lips. Sheila encourages her son to use sign language, which he is initially against…but will that change?

Author Clint Kelly is a communications specialist for Seattle Pacific University and the author of Scent, the first book in the Sensations series, as well as novels for both children and adults. In a recent interview, I asked him about his latest book. Read below! ***********************************************************************
How did you get involved with writing a book about a deaf character? Have you met/worked with Deaf people before?

CK: I have no extensive experience or friendships with deaf people but have observed confident, personable deaf people in life who carry themselves with poise and purpose. I admire those kinds of people wherever I encounter them, some deaf, most not, but all of us faced with our own uniqueness. A couple in my church knows American Sign Language and teaches our youth choir how to sign the songs they sing to inspire them with another, quite lyrical means of communication.

SPW: What kind of research did you do in order to make the character Cody appear like a real deaf teen?

CK: I interviewed a home school teacher of the deaf and got her take on challenges her students have faced, plus I researched books and Internet sites by and for the deaf. Especially helpful were blogs and interviews with deaf teens. From there, I applied empathy in shaping a deaf kid with hopes and dreams and determination to prove what he could do.

I don’t think deaf teens are worlds apart from any other kind of teen. As a published author of seven other novels, I’m always having to walk miles in my characters’ moccasins. Every one of them requires my understanding. Every one of them experiences conflict of one kind or another. Every one of them is fully human and filled with passion, hope, talent, potential. I’m forever fascinated by what I – they – do with their potential. Invest it? Squander it? Allow someone else to talk them out of it? My book ECHO is about a healthy, inquisitive, funny, bright, at times immature, at times mature beyond his years kid who at turns wonders and agonizes about his future. Oh yeah, and he happens to be deaf. Sound like anyone you know?

SPW: Without giving the story away, can you discuss the choices in communication used by Cody?

CK: Cody is torn between speechreading and signing, preferring not to look any deafer than he has to. He’s definitely down on mechanical hearing devices, but really finds that the greatest barriers to hearing and understanding others are the false impressions and stereotypes others place on him, especially his own mother. He wants others to know that much that is human communication comes by way of the heart, the head, and through body language, quite irrespective of the human senses and how many of those we have or don’t have. He believes that many hearing people miscommunicate and fail to connect all the time. Hearing is no guarantee, no magic bullet for understanding. A focused deaf person can out-communicate a lazy, distracted, or unfeeling hearing person any day of the week.

Sheila's overprotective nature is realistic in some deaf people's experiences.

SPW: Can you discuss your decision for Sheila to let go and accept Cody's deafness?

CK: This is complicated and really a combination of things. When she thinks she’s physically lost him in the wilderness, she has to hope and pray that he has somehow picked up survival skills on his own despite her best efforts to keep him safe and sheltered from the world. She gradually learns that she hasn’t heard her husband, Andy, for years, though both can hear just fine. When finally she does listen to him, she gains the realization that her Cody is no longer 6 but 13 and beginning to think the thoughts of a man, to make plans for his future, to dream of what he can become, of what he can contribute to the world. And when she and Cody face death, he’s the one who must step up to the plate and save his mom and himself. She at least sees what he can do, what he’s capable of, and hears the yearning of his heart. No longer can she live in a world of her own making – she must listen or lose the people she values most dear.

SPW: Do you have plans to include Cody in future books in the Sensations series or any other deaf characters? Okay, to be honest, my book does include the preview of Delicacy but I don't exactly want to give anything away if you're keeping it a secret...

CK: Yes, Cody has a pivotal role in Book 3 of the Sensations Series. I like this kid’s spirit, his sense of humor, his compassion for others. Should the series go beyond three books, Cody will be part of the cast. Beyond that, I’ve not yet plotted for other deaf characters, but they’re welcome to audition for a part just like anybody else!

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

CK: First of all, thank you for reading. Far too many people have abandoned reading for pleasure in exchange for the banal, be it TV or endless video games or hanging out in endless sessions of doing nothing. All things in moderation, but a voracious appetite for books is for me the sign of a vital mind at work. Well-read people are often well-spoken, well-mannered, well-informed, and just plain more interesting than their non-reading counterparts. (SPW Note: No, I honestly didn’t twist the author’s arm to say this!!! But I did put the print in bold to emphasize his point)

When reading my books for the first time, lead with a spirit of adventure. There’s plenty more about this old world that needs to be explored and experienced. Engage in the question of “What if?” and see where it takes you. And then I hope you might be inspired to try your own hand at writing something. Give expression to the heart of you. Spin a story. Enjoy the sweet rhythm of words and ideas. Write something that makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you FEEL. Don’t let the bad news all around us gain the upper hand. Create a time, a place, a people where imagination and creativity and exploration make the world go round.

SPW: Anything you'd like to add?

CK: If you keep your eyes peeled, mystery and joy will find you.
For more information, visit:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bilingual English & Spanish Book with Hard of Hearing Character

From time to time, I add both children's books and adult books on this Blog that may be of interest to you. Here is a publishing company that includes a Hard of Hearing character who wears hearing aids named Lucy.

Lucy: Loud and Clear / Lucía: alto y claro
Laila Laván and Beatriz Iglesias
Hard cover picture book 28 pages
ISBN 978-84-935239-4-7
Bilingual English/Spanish

It's three days, four hours and sixteen minutes since Lucy's big brother Omar borrowed her color pencils. And now she's going to have to ask him to give them back. But how can a little girl who's deaf get the attention of a hearing teenager who isn't interested in understanding what she has to say?
Topka is a publishing house that features books with diverse characters without the story plot revolving around the character's "difference". The books, targeted toward reading ages of 0-6, include picture books that include multiracial main characters, single parent families, adoptive families, and LGBTQ families to name a few. The company believes that children’s books that teach about diversity and coexistence are wonderful; however, it is not enough. They want the characters in their books to show "all sorts of children doing all sorts of things".

From their website:
We know that our children’s lives are not limited to their disability, their race or their biological origin. And we know that our everyday family life is not limited to how many adults there are at home, and whether they are male or female.

That’s why at Topka we want to make books in which the main characters are different kinds of children who come from different types of family, and in which the stories deal with the conflicts, situations and dreams which we all share.

For more information, to submit a manuscript, or to purchase books, visit their site: