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Children’s Writers at the University of Connecticut

Children’s Writers, Fall 2011

Paul Acampora, Wednesday Nov. 2
Author of novels and short stories for teens, middle grade, and elementary school readers, Acampora was born and raised in Bristol, Connecticut and now lives in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley.  He is author of the novels Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face (Roaring Brook Press/Spring 2011)  and Defining Dulcie (Dial Books for Young Readers/Spring 2006).  His stories have been anthologized in Baseball Crazy: Ten Short Stories That Cover All the Bases  (Dial Books for Young Readers/Spring 2008) and Every Man for Himself: 10 Ten Original Stories About Being a Guy (Dial Books for Young Readers/2005).

Caragh O’Brien, Monday November 7th
O’Brien is the author of the acclaimed Birthmarked series, a trilogy (in progress) of young adult dystopian novels.  Birthmarked has been named “best fiction of 2011” by the Young Adult Library Services Association, and has garnered critical praise in print and online.  O’Brien will give a presentation entitled “Young Adult Dystopia: The Obvious Novels for Today" and will discuss the release of the second book in the trilogy, Prized (to be released by Roaring Brook Press on November 8, 2011, the day after her presentation).

Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel, Monday November 28th
Zobel is the Medicine Woman and Tribal Historian for the Mohegan Tribe. Her great-aunt, Medicine Woman Dr. Gladys Tantaquidgeon, trained her in Tribal oral tradition, traditional lifeways and spiritual beliefs. After receiving a B.S.F.S. in history/diplomacy from Georgetown University and an M.A. in history from the University of Connecticut, she traveled throughout New England as a storyteller for the Tribe. In 1992, she won the first annual Non-Fiction Award of the Native Writer’s Circle of the Americas, for her manuscript The Lasting of the Mohegans (Mohegan: Little People Publications, 1995).  Shortly after that, Zobel became the first American Indian appointed by Governor Weicker to the Connecticut Historical Commission.

Zobel has written several books (some under her maiden name Melissa Jayne Fawcett), including Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon (University of Arizona Press, 2000) and a traditional Mohegan children’s story co-authored with Joseph Bruchac, entitled Makiawisug: The Gift of the Little People (Mohegan: Little People Publications, 1997).  In Oracles: A Novel (University of New Mexico Press, 2004), the fictional Yantuck Indians must find a way to preserve the natural environment that survives on their reservation. Fire Hollow is her latest novel (Ravens Wing Books, 2010), and focuses on Connecticut.


 Past Children’s Writers

Janet Lawler.
A graduate of the UConn Law School, Janet Lawler practiced law for 15 years before devoting her attentions full time to her children and writing.  Lawler gave a lengthy formal presentation, entitled “Sublime Rhyme,” which addressed the role of rhyme to picture book composition.  Her presentation included a “play editor” exercise that helped writers improve their work and understand how editors approach manuscript revision.  She also met with undergraduate students individually in a workshop setting.  

Presentation of City of Hamburgers by Alphabet Arts at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair.   
City of Hamburgers puppet play tells the story of Jeffrey, a child who is tired of the same old fairy tales and wants to hear about Grandma's life growing up in the old country. Alphabet Arts' play is an adaptation of City of Hamburgers (Inkwater Press, 2008), a children's book by author Mike Reiss (The Simpsons, Ice Age) and illustrator Xeth Feinberg (mishmash Media).

Mike Reiss. 
Mike Reiss is the author of City of Hamburgers, and gave a presentation on his work to an audience of undergraduate and graduate students at Konover Auditorium.  His presentation was titled “From Bart to Kids’ Books: One Writer’s Journey.”  In addition to City of Hamburgers, Reiss has published nine children's books, including How Murray Saved Christmas The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share, The Great Show-and-Tell Disaster, Santa’s Eleven Months Off, and others.
Mr. Reiss is best known as a writer for television and film.  He has received four Emmys for his work as a writer on The Simpsons.  He also has also written screenplays for children, including Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Horton Hears a Who!, as well as screenplays for adult audiences.

Allegra Goodman.
Named by the New Yorker one of the twenty best writers under forty, Allegra Goodman is the author of six books, including the highly regarded The Family Markowitz (1996), about an endearing three-generational Jewish family; Kaaterskill Falls (1998), about a mostly Orthodox Jewish summer community in upstate New York; Paradise Park (2001); Intuition (2006); and her latest work, The Other Side of the Island (2008), in which she makes her first foray into the world of young adult literature. The LA Times calls it “a dark vision rendered in wonderful and imaginative detail and notes that with global warming, carbon footprints and the corporatization of government dominating headlines, Goodman's story is timely and disturbing.”

Iris Van Rynbach.
Van Rynbach is the author/illustrator of numerous award-winning books for children. Her art work has appeared on the cover of the New Yorker eleven times. She also been a regular contributor with stories and or illustration to Gourmet, The New York Times, The Hartford Courant, Yankee, Season's Magazine and Hartford Magazine. Van Rynbach attended Pratt Institute, Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and graduated from Parson's School of Design. Her 13th children's book appeared Spring of 2010.

Stacy DeKeyser.
DeKeyser is an important emerging writer of books for teens and young adults. Her novel, Jump the Cracks, won the 2009 Connecticut Press Club Award for young adult fiction.  She received an Artist Fellowship Grant from the state of Connecticut in 2009.  In addition to her work for teens, DeKeyser has also published two non-fiction books for children.



Master Class on Writing and Illustrating for Children
The Master Class was a unique opportunity to spend an afternoon with some of the most important author/illustrators working in the field.  Presenters included Chris Raschka (Caldecott Award), Javaka Steptoe (Coretta Scott King Award), Allison Paul, and Rudy Gutierrez (ALA Notable Book).   Students had the opportunity to interact with the writers/illustrators in a workshop setting. 

Leonard S. Marcus.
Leonard Marcus is one the field’s most respected authors and speakers.  His recent children’s books include Oscar: The Big Adventure of a Little Sock Monkey, co-authored and illustrated by his wife Amy Schwartz, and Pass It Down: Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark.  Marcus also writes as a historian of the genre and has published books on Margaret Wise Brown, Ursula Nordstrom, and Golden Books. He holds degrees in history from Yale and poetry from the University of Iowa Graduate Writers' Workshop.  In 2007, Leonard was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Bank Street College of Education.

M. T. Anderson
M.T. Anderson is the author of several books for children and young adults, including The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, which won a 2006 National Book Award, and Feed, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002 and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Feed is “satire at its finest” remarked Kirkus Reviews, and, according to The New York Times Book Review, serves as proof that “young-adult novels are alive and well and able to deliver a jolt.” 

Pegi Deitz Shea.
Shea is the author of Tangled Threads (2003), the winner of the Connecticut Book Award for Children’s Literature.  She has published more than 250 articles, essays, and poems for adults and children.  Her latest books include The Boy and the Spell (2007) and Patience Wright, America’s First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy (2007).

Laura E. Williams.
Williams has published picture books, series fiction, middle-grade fiction, and non-fiction.  Among her many publications is the novel Behind a Bedroom Wall (1996), which is currently being developed as a musical. 

Raouf Mama.
Raouf Mama is an internationally known bilingual storyteller, the only one in the world today who performs in English and French indigenous tales from his native Benin, a French-speaking country in West Africa. Drawn from one of the richest oral traditions in Africa, Mama’s stories have strong connections to African cultures on both sides of the Atlantic.

All presentations are funded through the generous support of the Rightors Fund.