Interactive Reader Guide Coming Soon!

I just got a copy of the Yearling paperback edition of A Thousand Never Evers in the mail. I love this new cover!


Yearling paperback release date is December 22nd!

Now I’m furiously working to get a comprehensive and interactive reader guide up on my website by the new year.

It will feature video interviews that I conducted with Mississippi Delta residents who lived through the civil rights movement. I’m not the world’s best videographer, I’ll admit. But thanks to my interviewees, these video clips are riveting. The interviews correspond with various chapters of my book. I have no doubt that students will get a much deeper understanding of  the history by watching them.

The reader guide will also feature chapter by chapter discussion questions and important weblinks. The guide is designed so teachers either can use it in class, or assign sections for nightly homework if all students have internet access outside the classroom. Also, anyone leading a book club discussion will find a lot to yap about. Please check back at the start of 2010 to check it out!

Posted on 12/03/2009 12:40 pm | Comments Off on Interactive Reader Guide Coming Soon!

Austin Teen Book Festival: Best Time Ever!

So you know how sometimes you meet someone and you just instantly click? That’s how it was with me and Maya, my teen guide for the morning. We had breakfast together and talked about everything from middle school to books. I loved hanging out with her, and we could have talked all day except it was time for the keynote address from Libba Bray.

I hate when people say, “You had to be there.” So sorry, but you really had to be there, because I’m afraid I just can’t give over to you how fantastic this keynote was.

Libba talked about lots of things but what really got me was when she talked about what she was like as a teen and how teens are perceived by the world: frightening due to their excellent ability to call out any inauthenticity Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on 10/30/2009 08:08 am | Comments Off on Austin Teen Book Festival: Best Time Ever!

Austin Teen Book Festival

I’m so looking forward to Saturday! It’s the first annual Austin Teen Book Festival. I’m on a panel with the Delacorte Dames and Dudes, my pals Varian Johnson, April Lurie, Margo Rabb, and Flyer wout Boarder 1-1Jenny Ziegler. Other panels include: “Zombie v. Vampire” with Heather Brewer, Carrie Jones, Daniel Waters, and Cynthia Leitich Smith; “Fantasy” with Libba Bray, Justine Larbalestier, Rick Yancey, and Lisa McMann; and “Real YA Voices” with Matt DelaPena, Deb Caletti, and Terra Elan McVoy.

I have to say, what I’m really excited about is hearing the local teen bands that will be entertaining us throughout the day! These include: Edison Chair, Austin School of Rock, the Carson Brock Group, Krash, and Homeskooled.

For lunch, pizza, hot dogs, root beer, ice cream, snow cones, and kettle corn will be served.

How awesome does that sound? Huge thanks to uberlibrarian Heather Schubert for putting all this together!


Posted on 10/22/2009 10:04 am | Comments Off on Austin Teen Book Festival

All Aboard

Greyhound_GreenwoodThis summer when my husband and I were in the Mississippi Delta, we wandered into the Greyhound Bus Station in Greenwood. Well, talk about about a busload of history! Surprise, surprise. It’s not actually an operating station anymore, but it’s been restored to preserve the past. Check out Oren’s blog post here.


Posted on 10/15/2009 06:54 pm | Comments Off on All Aboard

New Critique Group!

new_critique_group-1I just finished the first meeting of my new critique group. I’m sooo excited to be in the company of this talent. From left to right are author/illustrator Don Tate, nonfiction book writer Donna Bratton, picture book writer Carmen Oliver and me. I can’t wait to see all of their amazing stories in print!


Posted on 10/08/2009 12:56 pm | 1 Comment

Visit from Flat Stanley

This month it was my distinct honor to welcome Flat Stanley to Austin, Texas. For anyone not aware, Flat Stanley is the poor boy who was flattened by a bulletin board. At first his parents were rather bummed, but then they realized having a flat son had its perks. For one thing, they no longer had to buy him airline tickets–they could just mail him wherever he wanted to go.

My seven-year-old niece Sarah mailed Flat Stanley to me from Kentucky a few weeks ago with a letter warning me to show Flat Stanley a really good time. At the end of his visit, Flat Stanley wrote back to Sarah explaining how he hiked mountains and rubbed elbows with Austin’s literati:

From the Desk of Flat Stanley

Hi Sarah,

Thank you so much for sending me to Austin, Texas! To tell you the truth, I was afraid it might be super boring, but as it turned out, I had an amazing time.

Flat Stanley reaches the top of Mount Bonnell in Austin, Texas!
Flat Stanley reaches the top of Mount Bonnell in Austin, Texas!

Your aunt, uncle, and five-year-old cousin took me on a hike at a place called Mount Bonnell. Your little cousin said, “Don’t worry, Flat Stanley. It’s only 106 steps to the top of the mountain. And from there you can get a great view of the city.”

Easy for him to say! He’s more than three feet tall. It took me 10,806 steps to get up to the top. I was huffing and puffing up a storm. But I did it! Everyone was proud of me. Your cousin said, “You did a great job!”

When I looked out across the Colorado River, the view was gorgeous. Plus, at the precipice, there was a little park. “Hey, this is cool,” I told your cousin. “But watch out for the cactuses.”

“You don’t say cactuses, Flat Stanley. The plural of cactus is cacti!” he said. As you can see, that kid’s pretty smart.

The one thing that little cousin of yours forgot to tell me was not to sit on one of those things. Ouch!

Well, after we came down from the mountain, I tended to my wounds. I was all sweaty so I took a shower and got dressed. Then it was time for a night out with Aunt Shana and her writer friends, the Delacorte Dames and Dudes. They all write books for teenagers.

Delacorte Dames and Dudes gather to welcome Flat Stanley to Austin.
From left to right, April Lurie, Shana Burg, Jenny Ziegler,
and Varian Johnson. Not pictured, Dame Margo Rabb.

We ate dinner together, while they droned on about their websites and blogs and trips to visit students in schools. It was pretty boring, but then April said, “Hey, Flat Stanley, have you ever thought about writing a book?”

That certainly perked me up! “How did you know?” I said. I think I blushed a little bit. “I have the whole story planned out in my mind.”

“I could just tell,” April said. “You know, Flat Stanley, if you want to be a writer, you better read a lot.”

“Really?” I said. “That’s sort of a problem, because I’ve got to travel all over the world. I don’t get a lot of time to read.”

“Oh, yeah, April’s right,” Aunt Shana said. “Reading is the most important thing a writer can do! But don’t worry, Flat Stanley, while you’re here in Austin, I’ll take you to a party to celebrate the release of a new book.”

“Cool!” I said. And it was cool. Super cool!

The next day we went to the bookstore where the author, Liz Garton Scanlon, read us her new book called All the World. At first I thought, “I can already read chapter books. I don’t read picture books anymore.” But then I heard Liz read the story and I was sucked right in!

Liz Garton Scanlon at her release party with Flat Stanley.

Liz Garton Scanlon at her release party with Flat Stanley.explained to me that this is actually a book for people of all ages, including adults.

“The author is a poet,” Aunt Shana said. “That means she tries to discuss very complicated ideas with very few words. That’s why the book is short with pictures.”

“Ohhhh!” I said. And after I read the book myself, I knew what Aunt Shana meant. There was a whole lot to think about in those pages, especially for a guy like me who travels around the entire world.

At the end of the party, I stood in a really, really long line to get one of Liz’s books signed for you and me. I hope you like it!

Thanks again for sending me on such a life-changing trip.


Flat Stanley

Posted on 10/04/2009 04:53 pm | 2 Comments

Eyewitness to History

I love hearing from readers! Last week I got an interesting email from a woman named Muriel who lived in Alabama in the 1960s. With Muriel’s permission, I’m sharing her letter:

Dear Shana,

I wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed your book. I found it
on the library shelf while waiting for my two precious granddaughters to
find books to read this past summer.

I was drawn to the book because we lived in Birmingham, Alabama while my husband was at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, College of Medicine for 5 years. We lived there from 1960 to 1965 during the civil rights movement.

We were in our church that dreadful Sunday morning when the 4 little
girls were killed in the bombing. We were one block away when that bomb
exploded. It rattled our church windows and caused fear in all of our
hearts. I gave birth to our second child on October 6th, 1963, 3 weeks
after the bombing. Six weeks later our president, John F. Kennedy was
assassinated. It was a very sad time in the history of our country!

I lived in New Jersey till I married so was not familiar with the laws
and rules of the South. I went to school with many African American
friends and thought nothing about it till I moved to Alabama and saw how
different things were there.

Thanks again for telling us about the “other side” of the story and
letting us have a taste of what they went through during those very
difficult years.



Posted on 09/29/2009 07:56 am | 3 Comments

Corn Crush

When I was writing A Thousand Never Evers, I had to figure out how a vegetable garden could grow in the middle of town without any of the townspeople seeing it. I was racking my brain, losing sleep, night after night, week after week.

Finally, I put in an S.O.S. call to Mississippi farmer Allen Eubanks. “Hmmm,” he said and thought a millisecond. “Why not plant a wall of corn?”

“Would it still be taller than me even if I stood on my tippy toes?” I asked.

Allen, my hero, assured me that corn stalks could grow twelve feet tall or more. Still, nothing could describe the joy I felt when I saw those stalks with my own eyes, felt those husks with my own hands–row after row of thick beautiful corn.

Posted on 09/22/2009 09:14 pm | Comments Off on Corn Crush

A Coke and a Smile

One of the great things about traveling is the spontaneity you can have, apart from the regular routine of your daily life. We decided to start the morning off by visiting the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library, which is full of light streaming in the wall of windows and packed with patrons coming and going. Clearly, the city is full of readers. I checked the shelf for A Thousand Never Evers, but they didn’t have it, so I dropped off a postcard to the young adult librarian.

Then we drove down Washington Street. We thought we were leaving town, on our way up to the Delta, but that’s not what happened. Out the window, we spotted something unusual–a Coca-Cola museum! We had to check it out.

Joseph Biedenharn used to own a candy store here. He received shipments of Coca-Cola syrup from Atlanta, which he sold as fountain drinks. But in 1894, he got an idea: Why not put the fountain drink in bottles? And as they say, the rest is history.

This little museum is chock-full of amazing Coke memorabilia–including old advertisements, bottles that changed decade by decade, and a replica of the machine first used in the bottling process. Plus the old-fashioned candy store has been recreated. You can buy candy, ice cream, Coke fountain drinks, Coke in bottles, and Coke floats. Yum!

The Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum is run by the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation. It’s a delicious treat to visit.

Posted on 07/26/2009 07:31 am | 1 Comment

First Stop, Vicksburg

It was almost randomly that we ended up spending our first night in Vicksburg, Mississippi. My husband has a colleague from there, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from the airport, so we decided to give it a try.

We drove into this city by the Mississippi River with no idea of what to expect. We followed the directions in our guidebook to The Cedar Grove Mansion Inn by route of one of the main roads through town. We passed a majestic brick building that said “The Vicksburg” in white letters down the side.

The Mississippi River ran along our left side, and on it, a giant Mississippi river boat turned gambling palace. (It wasn’t until the next morning that we realized it was actually planted on land; it just looked like it was in the water from the road up above.)

On our way to the Inn, we saw that many shops in town were boarded up, out of business, trashed. This scene would be repeated over and over as we drove through the state. I’ve been to Mississippi before, but the poverty is overwhelming each and every time. And especially in a city with such a majestic framework like Vicksburg.

The Cedar Grove Mansion Inn is enormous. The plantation grounds are lush and gorgeous. We sure enjoyed the fried green tomatoes in the restaurant there! And it was quite a sight to see the floorboards still split in the parlor from a cannon that was fired during the civil war. In fact, the mansion was turned into a Union hospital during the war.

I’m sure it costs a fortune to keep up a place as grand as this one, and it looked as if the economy has taken a toll. The rooms were almost beautiful. The restaurant was almost great. The tennis courts were in disrepair and the pool needed a deep cleaning. In fact, throughout Vicksburg and throughout the state, we found a haunting juxtaposition of elegance and despair.

The next day we wandered down the main drag of Vicksburg, where we experienced the real charm and character of the city firsthand.

Posted on 06/25/2009 11:22 am | 2 Comments
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