Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Giveaway and Guest Teaching Author Interview with Karen Romano Young

Today I'm pleased to introduce you to our guest TeachingAuthor:
  Karen Romano Young. I met Karen at the American Library Association convention when it was last held in Chicago. (Could it be a year ago already?) When Karen told me about her book, Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles, (Feiwel & Friends) I knew I wanted to interview her for our TeachingAuthors blog. Well, Doodlebug came out this month, and we're pleased to help Karen celebrate its release. See below for information on how you can enter to win an autographed copy! And be sure to read the Blogosphere Buzz section at the end of this post for news of accolades for our blog and links to a couple of terrific resources.

Karen Romano Young is the author of more than 20 books for young people, and the illustrator of three. Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles is her first graphic novel. She is also a deep-sea diver and science writer--she spent most of June on an icebreaker in the Arctic Circle! You can read about the trip in her guest posts at the blog Science+Story. Karen also blogs regularly at Ink: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Finally, to find out more about Karen, see her website.  And now for the interview:

Karen, how did you become a TeachingAuthor?
      The children’s librarian at my hometown public library asked me to lead a writing workshop for a group of particularly passionate sixth-graders.  The Young Writers’ Workshop was born!  It is still going strong.  Begun in a tiny conference room at the library, it moved to my studio barn and now is a traveling workshop, conducted for writers ranging in age (so far) from 6 to 80.  The sixth-graders are now graduating from college.  Among them are several who are published or going into publishing.
      In addition, I’m on the faculty of Western Connecticut State University as a mentor teacher in the MFA program, and have the pleasure of teaching dedicated and talented students. I’ve also mentored writers on a one-on-one basis, including Rutgers One-on-One, a conference that matches aspiring writers with authors and editors.

What's a common problem/question that your students have and how do you address it?
      One eternal question is the one about the writing that doesn’t come out the way you thought it would when you began it.  This is such a common experience for any artist, and I think knowing that you can expect it to happen can help you deal with it when it (inevitably) occurs.   We all think we’re alone as writers, and we’re all afraid of failure. One solution is to recognize that your work is going to come out differently; another is to accept that you’ll go through a process as a writer in which you continually evaluate your work, finding the strengths and weaknesses and, draft by draft, working to improve them.  My hope is that writers take that pressure they put on themselves (we all do) and turn it into energy to keep working on successive drafts until the proverbial tuning fork is still.

Would you share a favorite writing exercise for our readers?
      I like quick responses and questionnaires.  I have a “pop quiz” for first time workshoppers with questions such as “Would you rather be hated or feared?” and “Polar bears or penguins?” or “What is today’s hairstyle called?”  These are nonthreatening, open-ended ways to spark people’s feelings that they are creative, original, and funny.  It also opens the discussion of how we writers compare ourselves to one another, and how we love an audience.  After the writers answer this quiz, we’ll share answers together – which also serves as an icebreaker.
      Another favorite is a blank sheet with a grumpy face on it (it’s actually Trina Schart Hyman’s Ugly Bird from Cricket magazine) that says “Just who do you think you are?” This can be a five-minute quick write, and has led to some great work from writers. They write from their own points of view, or that of characters, and sometimes create a brand-new character. 

Can you tell us a bit about your new book, Doodlebug, and how you came to write and illustrate it?
     In Doodlebug,  Dodo discovers journaling and drawing together, and uses them to tell her story, in which she tries to deal with classroom attention issues by drawing, and finds her own place in a new city and school.  The result is Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles. Take a look at Doodlebug and you’ll see that the whole book is handwritten and hand-doodled.  There is barely any print-type text in it at all, just maybe in the copyright pages.  It’s fun and funny and really heartfelt, and I absolutely love doing a novel this way.
     I have been writing letters to my friend Noonie since college – lots of years! – and she has always told me I should do something with the little drawings with captions and speech balloons that I include in my letters.  When I heard about some writers who were participating in March Novel Madness (in which you commit to write a novel in a month), I decided to take a stab at doing a novel the way I used to write to Noonie.  If it stunk, it would only be a month wasted!  Instead, it turned into what I think is a fantastic way to write – by writing and drawing practically simultaneously – doodlewriting! 

So is it your actual handwriting in the book? How did you submit the manuscript to your editor? How did it being handwritten affect the editing process?
      Yes, it's my actual handwriting and doodles and block letters and crazy fonts and so on. Here's a sample page:
To see more doodle-writing samples, watch the YouTube clip at the end of this post.
I wrote/doodled the book in a couple of sketchbooks.  To submit it, I scanned it, printed it out, and bound it in a spiral, so that it still looked like a sketchbook.  When it was accepted by Feiwel & Friends, I had to send the actual sketchbooks in so they could scan them.  They still have them, under lock and key!
     There were just a few small edits -- a word changed, deleted, or moved here or there. At one point I sent in some additional stuff that got photoshopped in -- things like the name "San Francisco" and an exclamation point. :-)

Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they might use Doodlebug in the classroom?
     Certainly!  Using doodle-writing, I’ve been working with kids to show the elements of story, including character and dialogue in particular.  My Doodle-Writing workshops encourage kids to experiment with facial expressions,  classic cartooning symbols – as well as new ones they make up, layout, creative lettering, and much more.  The response is immediate, and deep. It’s easier for most kids to see a story visually – what makes a character, for example – than through words alone.  Kids are always drawing. Just about everyone I’ve had in a workshop has something or someone they draw all the time, and learning about that – and working with that – has led me to a new understanding of the power of kids’ creative force.  Drawing – and writing about drawing – opens a door into the real life inside everybody. (Teachers, be sure to check out the P.S. at the end of this post for links to info on doodle-writing with students.)

Would you share a funny (or interesting) story about a book signing?
      I’m NOT a shy person – except around children’s book people. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to write books for children – to be an ARTHUR, before I found out how the word was really spelled.  Children’s book authors are my rock stars, and I am truly terrified to meet some of them, because I am in so much awe.  Years ago I worked in the marketing department at Weston Woods, a studio that makes films of picture books.  At a Christmas dinner, I found myself sitting at a table with Robert McCloskey, the author of ONE MORNING IN MAINE, BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL, and MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, among others.  I was speechless, awed into silence, and thank goodness my husband noticed that I was overcome and held up the conversation so I wouldn’t say something like “Did you really keep ducks in your bathtub?”
     It happened again at my first SCBWI conference, in New York City, where the keynote speaker was E.L. Konigsburg. Naturally her line for book sales and signings was the longest, and as I waited, I kept stepping backward each time my part of the line neared her table. Finally I was the last person in the line. I don’t know if you know Konigsburg, but she is pretty sharp, and she must have noticed what I was doing.  And I had noticed exactly what she had written in most people’s books, which were mostly paperbacks – something nice, but short.  When she finally got to me and my hardcover FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES, she looked into my eyes, then wrote a truly lovely little note wishing me all the best in whatever I was trying to do.
     I am not quite cured.  At several conferences, I was near enough to rub elbows with Brian Selznick, author of  THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, but just couldn’t pull off introducing myself – even though I certainly watched plenty of other brave souls do it!  At last I arrived at ALA, where Horn Book editor-in-chief Roger Sutton was doing one of his short interviews. Sutton asked Selznick how the response to HUGO had changed his writing. Selznick’s answer: it had made him realize that the place he was in while writing HUGO (a place of great fear and trepidation) was where he should be as a writer.  That rang true to me – it was where I had lived the whole time I was writing DOODLEBUG – and touched my heart so that no matter how many other people introduced themselves to Selznick after that, I stuck around until at last it was my turn. I told him I had been walking around him for a year or two, and that his comment had finally given me courage to talk to him and to thank him for what he’d said.  He was so nice. I guess, after all, writers are human.  But please – don’t ask me to talk to Sendak. 

Thanks for your detailed responses to my questions, Karen. After reading about your new book, I'm sure our readers will want to read it as much as I do.

Readers, to enter our drawing for an autographed copy of Karen Romano Young's Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles, you must follow these Entry Rules:
  1. You must post a comment to today's blog post telling us why you'd like to win a copy of Karen's book. 
  2. You must include contact information in your comment. If you are not a blogger, or your email address is not accessible from your online profile, you must provide a valid email address in your comment. Entries without contact information will be disqualified. Note: the TeachingAuthors cannot prevent spammers from accessing email addresses posted within comments, so feel free to disguise your address by spelling out portions, such as the [at] and [dot].
  3. You must post your comment by 11 pm (CST) Wednesday, August 4, 2010. (The winner will be announced on Thursday, August 5.)
  4. You must have a mailing address in the United States.
  5. If you win, you automatically grant us permission to identify you as a winner on our TeachingAuthors website.  
For more information on our winner selection/notification process, see our official giveaway guidelines.

Blogosphere Buzz
  • Hurrah for us! Our TeachingAuthors blog has been named to a list of "Top 10 Blogs for Writing Teachers." And we're in among some impressive company! You can read the complete list at the website. There is, however, a small error in the description of our blog. Instead of:
    "Six authors of children’s books who also write run this blog . . ."
    it should say: "Six authors of children’s books who also TEACH run this blog . . ." As our readers know, we are all writing teachers as well as published authors.
  • Alexis O'Neill has launched, a new blog filled with tips and resources for children's authors and illustrators. Alexis is indeed a school visit expert. If you're a published or soon-to-be-published author, you'll want to bookmark her site and visit it often. As Alexis says: "The first challenge is to get a book published.  The next challenge is to keep it published.  And children’s authors and illustrators who have an active school visit schedule not only build fans for life, but they also sell books and can keep backlist titles in print for years."
  • Lee Wind recently posted a terrific interview with award-winning author M. T. Anderson, who will be the morning keynote speaker at the SCBWI conference this Friday. Check out what Anderson says about voice, "branding," and writing fantasy
Whew! I think that's all for today.
Happy Writing!

P.S. After completing this blog post, I discovered that Karen has lots of great resources related to Doodlebug here on her website. And check out the following YouTube clip to learn more about doodle-writing. 


Michelle Sussman said...

I would love to win because I know my 8-year-old daughter would love to read Doodlebug! :-)

I think most of you know how to contact me easily should I be lucky enough to win. :-)

Carmela Martino said...

Yep, we know how to reach you, Michelle. :-) By the way, after you posted your comment, I added the YouTube clip of Karen demonstrating doodle-writing. Your daughter may enjoy watching it.

D.E. Malone said...

What a great interview! I'd love to have the book for my budding author/illustrator son.

lsblack said...

What a clever book - I would like to win because I am a children's librarian and I could share it with LOTS of kids who love to either read or draw or sometimes (hopefully) both.
Laura Smith-Black

Irene Latham said...

Oooh, I love the sounds of doodle writing... and this book, esp. for reluctant readers who only look at the pics in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. (Yeah, I live with one of those!) And as an avid doodler... well, I'm so excited about this book! Thanks for sharing, and yay Feiwel and Friends for publishing something innovative! irene at irenelatham dot com Thanks, ladies!

Deborah Bates Cavitt said...

I enjoyed your interview and the You Tube. The reason I would like to win your book is that I used to get in trouble at school for doodling on my papers. I can't tell you how many papers I had to do over.

Pat Zietlow Milller said...

I would like to win this book. It looks awesome!

Pat Zietlow Miller
patmiller11 at charter dot net

elsie said...

This book would be a great mentor text for the teachers I work with on writing. Kids (and teachers) need to see/study unusual formats for telling the story. This looks to be a great example. Contact:

Tina said...

I work with special needs students at the High School level and I can use your book as part of my curriculum to instill a passion for reading in my group of reluctant readers. Doodles are a great tool to motivate my students!

Looking for the Write Words said...

What an interesting interview with an interesting author. The book sounds and LOOKS great. I love the marriage between doodling and journaling. My daughter loved the Amelia books as did my 4th graders last year. I would like to win this book to use in my classroom. It would fit in with the introduction of the writer's notebook and living like a writer. Very Motivating!
Thanks ~ Theresa

BookHounds said...

No need to enter me. I just posted this on win a book for you,

Mary Jo said...

Fantastic interview! I'm going to borrow the writing exercises for my upcoming Summer Studio. AND many of my young students doodle along witht their stories, so I'll pass along the link to this interview and the video. :)

Anonymous said...

I love the interview and the YouTube video of Doodle-writing. In college, I studied architecture and city planning and kept a sketchbook/journal with me everywhere I would go. I would use doodle-writing (didn't have a name for it before) to draw what I would see and write what I felt about it at the same time. I would love to share this book with my children to show them a different way to write in their journals that embraces the emotions of their writing with more than adjectives and adverbs. Thank you. - Alison

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for all the wonderful feedback, ladies. And Mary at Bookhounds, thanks for helping to spread our news!

Jenny Schwartzberg said...

Wow. This looks like a great book to read. Please add me to the list. Karen, I'm also shy around authors! I hang back at ALA and other conferences from the famous authors. I do have to say that when I've had the opportunity to talk to them, they really are nice and friendly!

Lori Calabrese said...

I just wanted to stop by and say congrats on being named one of the top ten blogs for writing teachers!! YAY--that's so awesome--you guys deserve it!

Thanks as always for all the great giveaways!


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the congrats, Lori, and for allowing us to share about the giveaway on your blog.
And Jenny, we've added you to the list. Good luck to everyone!

Margo Dill said...

Thanks for posting info about this book. I would love to win it and see a book in Doodles! It is something I could share with my stepson, too, who loves to doodle. I would also love to review it on my blog. Hope I'm the winner! :)

margodll (at)

Anonymous said...

Hello Karen,
I love your book. My grandchildren and I are always doodling. I know they would enjoy it, something we can do together.
I'll keep my fingers crossed - thanks for the opportunity of joining in this book give away contest.
suda788 (at) msn (dot) com

Mozi Esme said...

I'd love to win - I'd like to learn more about this genre and encourage my child in this direction... both reading and writing :)

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

We posted about this giveaway at Winning Readings:

Linda Kish said...

I'd love to win because maybe I could learn something myself. Writing has never been easy for me.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Unknown said...

What a cute idea. I would love to share this book with my daughter. Thanks for the giveaway.

Anonymous said...

Wow Loved the You tube video very cool. I would love to win this book for my daughters. Thank you so much

Bakersdozen said...

I have a large family with kids who love to write and doodle. I am sure they would enjoy this book. vidomich(at)yahoo(dot)com

Z-Kids said...

We'd love this book! Our kids doodle all day long...
Thanks for the chance to win!

zenzart at hotmail dot com

Karen Romano Young said...

Wow, everybody, thank you for your wonderful comments. I wish I could give all of you a book. I'm also very encouraged to hear the positive response about doodling. You know, researchers have found that people who are allowed to or encouraged to doodle learn more than the rest. I truly think it gives you access to a part of your brain -- and freedom to use it -- that is kept busy otherwise when you're not allowed to doodle. The parents and grandparents of doodlers warmed my heart! Thank you also to the teachers and librarians who want to put my book into children's hands. I hope that Doodlebug helps everyone respect an individual's right to learn her own best way.

As for the fellow writers out there, doodling my book this way helped me see the bones of my novel in a new way. Doodlebug came out of a time when I was feeling very low about the "straight" writing I was doing. Now it has led to new kinds of novel and nonfiction writing. So I want to encourage you to stick you neck out!

Thanks again, Carmela, for giving me this opportunity.


wmmahaney said...

My son would really enjoy this.

Katie said...

I would love to win this book because my little brother LOVES to draw and read! This book would be PERFECT for him. Thanks so much!!!

God bless!

~Katie G.

katiegalyean {at} yahoo {.} com

Sandra Stiles said...

What an awesome way to help those who would like to write feel like they can. As a teacher I feel this would be very useful to my students in the classroom, not to mention in my after school writing program and of course for me. I would love the opportunity to win this book. Thanks for a great interview.


BJ Schneider said...

When my now-8 year-old grandson, Andy, was about 2, he (and his mon) walked in the front door, shed his coat..on the floor..then his mittens, etc. until we could follow the trail to find him. I named him Doodlebug, never dreaming he'd adopt it as his own, along with Doodle, or Bug. Somehow, it fits as he's an original individual with his own sense of how things should be done, what he likes/dislikes, what he'll wear, and how he describes anything. He decided one day that he could read. He picked up a book and read the whole thing and hasn't stopped reading since. All of that from a child with ADHD. He'd love DOODLEBUG!

BJ Schneider said...

forgot to add my contact info

cbrothman said...

Why I should be the winner? Because i am a 2nd grade teacher that teachers a writing program to my students that requires me to provide them with many styles of writing. This book doodlebug is not only my style of writing but will be inspiring to my students.
You can reach me at
and then I will give you my contact information.
Thanks in advance :) tee hee have a beautiful day

Sandy Brehl said...

I enjoyed this interview on so many levels, and the timing is terrific. I teach a literature/reading workshop for teachers next week and one topic deals with evolving forms/morphing formats. This is such an outstanding example, and I'll alert everyone to watch for it when it comes out, (and this great blog site, as well!)
I'd love to win! I often use "Doodler Doodling", illustrated by Paul O. Zelinski, and having both books to use as examples of "real kid" representations would be so helpful. There are plenty of great graphic novels to choose from, but something as original and creative as this is a terrific quality literature.
Please enter me in the contest. I'll keep fingers crossed... even if it makes typing harder!

Sandy Brehl

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for stopping by, Karen. I'm thrilled to see the great response your interview is receiving from our readers. Keep those comments coming, everyone--you have till 11 pm (CST) Wednesday to enter our drawing. Good luck to all.

Juli Caveny said...

School is starting! 12 More days! I couldn't think of a more wonderful way to break in the new school year, than with your new book! I teach LA/Lit to 8th graders who journal write almost everyday. Many have aspirations to become a famous author one day. To think, their doodles could be a part of that too! Throw my post into the pile for today's contest! I'd love to have this book!

apple blossom said...

My daughter loves keeping journals and drawing. I think she would love this book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com