On Voice, Autism, and Parrot-Ear.

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HERE is an article I recently wrote for Disability in Kidlit. It starts:

I am with my teenage sons in the grocery store. The cashier has a thick Eastern European accent. “So much rain, today!” she says. I smile and start to respond.

My son’s foot nudges me. “Mom!” he whispers. “Watch your voice!”

That’s because I have this annoying problem I call “parrot-ear.” When in conversation with a new person, I unconsciously adopt their vocal patterns, their accent. I know. It’s strange. I don’t mean to do it. The last thing I want to be is disrespectful. It’s just that I’m a bit socially anxious, so in order to get social interactions right, I concentrate extremely hard. Too hard.

I bring this up because I think it translates into how hard we authors quest for authentic voice in our fictional characters. We often struggle, on the page, to “hear…”
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

Coffee with a Canine.

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This beast. He truly is my best friend. And he — along with I — was recently interviewed on the Campaign for the American Reader’s blog, “Coffee with a Canine.” It was very amusing and we were both honored to participate. Here is a link to the interview:
COFFEE WITH A CANINE

Book Trailer Premiere on Mr Schu Reads

The wonderful Mr. Schu premiered The Someday Birds book trailer on Watch. Connect. Read.

Check it out now:

Thanks, Mr. Schu!

A Someday Bird from a Day Long Past.

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This is an illustration by John James Audubon of the Carolina Parakeet, an extinct bird of the American South. A friendly chirpy bird, it was plentiful, until its habit of destroying fields of fruit and corn made it a target of the farmers’ guns. It succumbed to extinction by the early 1900s.

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The Carolina Parakeet is very important in The Someday Birds. Charlie’s dad used to imagine he saw this colorful squawker in the North Carolina farm fields of his youth — but of course, it was only a fantasy. As Charlie says, facts are facts, and you can’t see a bird that’s been extinct for more than 100 years.

Or… can you….
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This is a 100+ year old Carolina Parakeet, preserved and on display in a glass case on the third floor at San Diego’s Natural History Museum. I saw it today by sheer chance, while visiting that fabulous museum for the first time.

I saw it, and my heart jumped. I saw it, and felt the way Charlie must have felt, at a particular part of the story.

The Carolina Parakeet is a symbol of revival and hope in my book. But I never thought I would ever see one in person.

Silly me. I should know: Hope is the thing with feathers.

On Mon Jan 16, I’ll be signing copies of THE SOMEDAY BIRDS at theNAT, San Diego’s Natural History Museum. For more details about that event, click here:
Family Day at the NAT

#1 New Release on Amazon in its category – Wow!

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Today, The Someday Birds reached #1 “Hot New Release” in its category, on Amazon. It’s been wonderful to see the interest in Charlie’s story, the warm reception of people to this book…

Only forty more days until launch — until The Someday Birds takes flight. I’m starting to wonder what kind of journey Charlie and Co. will be taking me on… I think it will be exciting.

A starred review on Publishers Weekly

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I was so thrilled and proud to read Publishers Weekly’s starred review, this week:

“…Through Charlie’s perspective (it’s implied, though not stated outright, that he has OCD and is on the autism spectrum), readers encounter many natural wonders (including several birds, shown in postcardlike images from McLaughlin), meet fascinating characters, and learn about the connection between the children’s chaperone and their father. Offering a mixture of suspense, mystery, tragedy and humor, Pla’s story captures both the literal and figurative meanings of journey.”

Film shoot for the book trailer!

Filming took place this past weekend for a 60-second book trailer (sort of like a movie trailer, but for a book) for The Someday Birds. Just look at these wonderful young actors, and the old RV, and my gosh, the dog!

The finished trailer will air here and there online starting in late November sometime. So stay tuned! :-)

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Guest Post: A Review of “The Someday Birds” by poet and writer Glenna Cook

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I would like to see Sally Pla’s new, and first young adult novel, The Someday Birds, become required reading for all middle school students. Told through the words of a bright and loveable twelve-year-old boy, Charlie, who has Asperger’s syndrome, it is a touching account of his struggles to cope with an already challenging world, under new and even more challenging circumstances.

Against his will, Charlie finds himself on a coast-to-coast road trip with his ten-year-old twin brothers, his sixteen-year-old sister, and a quirky young woman named Ludmilla, who seemed to have come mysteriously out of nowhere, to become their default caretaker. They are going to see his father, who is being treated in a Virginia hospital for severe brain trauma. He had been in an IED blast in Afghanistan, where he had gone to report on the war. To make the trip endurable, Charlie, who has OCD, fixates on a goal to see every bird on the “someday birds” list that he and his father had made, before his father left for Afghanistan.

The book is an insightful look at how hard it is for a young person with Asperger’s syndrome to have his needs met and understood, and how hard it is for the people around him to understand and meet his needs. It is a hopeful book, as we see Charlie learn, little-by-little, to cope with difficulties, that to most people, would not be difficult, at all. It’s an amusing book, as we see how the world from Charlie’s point-of-view, often makes more sense than the way “normal” people experience it.

Although the book was written for the young adult reader, this eighty-year-old great-grandmother found it captivating and delightful. Its plot held my interest until the very last word. It’s language is understandable for the age for which it was written, but informative and thoughtful enough to hold the attention of the most discriminating reader. I intend to buy this book as a Christmas present for all my grandchildren.

Glenna Cook,
Poet and writer
Washington

An Interview with Sally J. Pla, by Yasi Erwin

As reported in “All Natural Teen” Magazine, Summer 2016:
by Yasi Erwin, Student and Journalist, age 13

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Yasi: What inspired you to write?

Sally: I’ve wanted to be a writer since second grade. I finished my first novel when I was nine – 42 pages about a rat who lived at the dump – and I bound it with black yarn to look like rat tails. I was an English major in college and graduate school, and worked as a journalist for many years before deciding that enough was enough, and I wanted to try to write stories for young people, about rats and cats and dogs and people and life and love and growing up and all that important stuff again!

Yasi: What is the backstory of The Someday Birds?

Sally: I’d always wanted to write something about the many road trips our family had taken together – and how challenging these adventures were for my middle son, whose OCD and sensory issues means he hates being uprooted from familiar routines and being plunged into the unknown. That’s all become part of the adventure story I felt Charlie was asking me to write.

Yasi: Are you working on any other books currently?

Sally: Yes! The story of Stanley, a very fearful, timid, 12-year-old comic-book fanatic who gets roped into entering a wild, crazy, comic-book-trivia treasure hunt all around downtown San Diego! He must compete against his ex-best friend—and face his deepest fears—in order to win. There’s also a loud, brash, giant girl in this story named Liberty Silverberg, who is very brave. I totally love Liberty, and Liberty totally loves Stanley… but Stanley’s not so sure… Anyhow, that book is slated for January 2018, from HarperCollins.

I also have a children’s picture book, tentatively titled “Burrito Brothers,” under development with a different publisher.

Yasi: What/how long is the process from writing a draft, to publishing a final copy?

Sally: This is different for every writer. In my experience, the first draft takes about 9 months, and I do a bit of revising as I go. When I finally like what I have, I send the manuscript to my literary agent. She reviews it, makes suggestions, and when we both like it, my agent submits the manuscript to a group of editors at the traditional publishing houses. And if an editor there likes the manuscript enough, he/she will make an offer to buy it.

At that point, a contract gets signed and the real work begins! The new editor and I will carefully burnish, revise, cut and re-draft until the story really shines. Then the copy editor and I get to work on nit- picky stuff, and the art department gets to work on the cover, and the marketing and publicity departments rev up. If you are interested in more about how a book is made, there is an excellent series of YouTube videos from if you search “Harper Kids” and “how a book is made.”

Yasi: Did any author(s) inspire you?

Sally: Oh, yes! There are SO many wonderful middle-grade authors. I love
Kate di Camillo (Because of Winn Dixie, Flora and Ulysses, Raymie
Nightingale). Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me). Richard Peck (A Year
Down Yonder). Rita Williams Garcia (One Crazy Summer). Neil Gaiman
(Coraline, The Graveyard Book). Ingrid Law (Savvy). Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan)… I could go on and on!

Yasi: What is your favorite book and why?

Sally: Oh, my. I can’t name just one. I binge on books and even on subjects sometimes. One year I read nothing but Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories. I like mysteries sometimes, and stories of adventure, other times, and stories of strange and quirky family dynamics. Last year I was really into non-fiction science books to help me understand quantum physics (although I still don’t think I get it) and for a while I read a lot of philosophy.

Yasi: Is there anything else I should include about you in my article?

Sally: Hmmm. I like to play the piano. I currently have a broken leg, which is kind of a bummer. (Try not to do that, everyone. Don’t break your leg!) My giant golden-doodle knows how to smile, to our endless amusement (we call our dog The Attention Vortex – he pulls us in). Also, I have gotten pretty interested in the history of comics, and am working my way through watching all the Marvel movies in story-order (when I’m not staring at my dog!) I should also say: please come visit me anytime at sallyjpla.com — all the latest news on The Someday Birds can be found there.

Yasi: Do you have any inspirational words or advice for teenage girls?

Sally:There’s so much in culture, now, that makes us think our superficial exterior is what’s important, when it’s not. A young friend told me the other day about a Beyonce concert she went to. Some girls in front of her spent the whole concert looking at their own images, in their phones, as they recorded themselves singing along. They missed the concert, because they were so busy staring at themselves! There’s a whole world out there, beyond our screens. All kinds of interesting things to learn, real experiences to have. Sometimes we forget.

I’ve always loved what Audrey Hepburn said: “The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart.” If you are healthy and strong and have goodness in your heart, a goodness towards others, it will shine out of your eyes and make you beautiful. That’s all that matters.
Also, my Irish grandmother told me four words of advice once that I think are great. No matter how giant a catastrophe, to take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders, and remember that: “This, Too, Shall Pass.” ###

If you’d like to read the full “ALL NATURAL TEEN” magazine by Yasi, you can find it by clicking here: All Natural Teen Magazine

National Parks Across America.

This is a great resource for families planning to visit a national park in this, the centennial year of our parks! activity_map_2013

In THE SOMEDAY BIRDS, Charlie visits Yellowstone — and has several unexpected adventures, involving both bison, and trumpeter swans. Enough said.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all found a way to visit a national park at some point in the upcoming, 100th anniversary year of their existence?