Thursday, December 15, 2011

Celebrate Winter Solstice With Bending the Boyne

Winter Solstice is nearing and I can't think of a better way to celebrate the coming of longer days than reading a debut novel about ancient Ireland Bending the Boyne, by J.S. Dunn. This lyrical and sparsely written tale has received an IndieNext award from the American Independent Booksellers Association for historical fiction.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, where darkness falls at about 3:45 pm in December, has made me acutely aware of my Irish ancestors' keen interest in tracking the sun and stars. It is delightful to have this novel to help me to imagine what inspired the people who created the megalithic architecture along the River Boyne, which served as a seasonal clock.

The following link is an recent article in the Irish Times on this subject.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Occupy Seattle Library Needs Books

One of my most memorable book signings took place at the Occupy Seattle Library. It's located just around the corner from Elliot Bay Books, one of Seattle's finest independent bookstores. The day I visited the encampment, Adrienne Sevilla, standing on my right, had just been appointed Head Librarian three days before. The tent library has roughly fifty books. Her co-worker Darlene Nordyke, holds a masters in library science and is currently out of work, so she's donating time here along with Adrienne and others. To learn more about Occupy Seattle and how you might support them, visit

Meanwhile, Occupy New York City's library lost thousands of books in a police raid. reported, "In a press conference held last week, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel revealed that property taken in the raid filled 26 sanitation trucks and nearly 80 percent of the roughly 4,000 books housed in the so-called Peoples’ Library were either destroyed or never returned." For more details

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Diversity and The Danger of the Single Story

I enjoyed reading the blog archive about the recent Twitter #kidlitchat on diversity, thoughtfully archived by Greg Pincus ( Issues raised during the chat included whether or not people should write outside their own cultures or gender or sexual orientation; whether or not awards should be given for books centering on different ethnicities (perhaps because this risks celebrating our differences and perhaps unwittingly creating an "other"); and others asked why there are not more main protagonists of color and/or GLBTQ.

The twitter chat left me thinking how all these questions and opinions are valid if our intentions as writers, agents and publishers are to help create a more tolerant world. A world in which no "single story" is told, to borrow a phrase from TED Talk author Chimamanda Adichie, a writer from Nigeria who grew up reading British and American literature. "Even books that come across as stereotypical have a grain of truth to them, they simply lack the complete picture," Adichie says. One of the stories this writer tells during her TED Talk is about her former professor (presumably Western) who responded as follows after reading a draft of her novel, "This is not authentically African, your characters are just like me. They are educated, middle class and drive cars." She explained that this professor, like many people around the world, have been influenced by a single narrative when it comes to describing individual African nations. To listen to her talk, click on the link below.

Publishers can help create the complete picture by publishing more than one kind of book. I often write stories set in the Middle East and therefore I am keyed into books relating to this part of the world. What I mostly see on the shelves of libraries and bookstores at home and in Europe are stories about martyrs, terrorists and the oppression of women. I recently discussed this with a librarian who looked at me and said flatly, "Well that's how it is over there!" Yet my years of traveling, living and working in several Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries have taught me that this region is not synonymous with strife. Neither is it synonymous with Islam, as there are many living there who follow other religious traditions, or are secular or atheist.

Reza Aslan, internationally renown religion scholar and author of No god, but God, often points out that contrary to what many Americans think, all Muslims do not believe the same thing. In a recent interview on Gulf Reza also cautions about reading certain authors who use their celebrity status to make generalizations about places and religions and therefore create for us all, what Chimamanda Adichie describes as an incomplete "single story." To read Reza's article, visit: (

To listen to the afore mentioned TED Talk:

Diversity clip art from:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Brazilian Artist Roger Mello Inspired by Kipling

Last month I attended the 9th International Board on Books for Young People Regional Conference held in Fresno, CA. IBBY has seventy-two national sections with a secretariat in Basel, Switzerland. IBBY's newest members include Guatemala, Haiti, Serbia, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe. It's projects include: The Hans Christian Anderson Awards; the IBBY-Ashai Reading Promotion Award; the IBBY Honor List, the Documentation Center of Books for Young People with Disabilities, the International Children's Book Day, as well as Children in Crisis Programme. If you would like to know more about IBBY check out this link and come join us at a future conference in the US or abroad.

One thing I really enjoy when traveling or working overseas is visiting bookstores to look at children's and adult book covers. It is such a treat to see the different styles, perspectives and mediums that artists from around the world use to convey their ideas. To my delight, the IBBY Conference brought award-winning books from around the world to Fresno so that attendees could leaf through some of the world's best literature for young people.

Roger Mello, an illustrator from Brazil spoke at this conference. His picture books have been published in many countries except the US and UK. He has been nominated more than once for the Hans Christian Anderson Award. Since he has no US publisher, Roger kindly packed a suitcase full of one of his wordless picture books Selvagem and I was lucky enough to get one. I believe it translates as Savage or Safari or perhaps Wild.

Here's an excerpt of an interview with Roger Mello that was featured on

Tell a bit about how you got the idea for the book "Wild"?

I saw a photo of a Sumatran tiger in a magazine. The image was striking, as is the tiger tried to communicate with the outside of the photo…There is almost Sumatran tigers in the jungle, this is one of the rarest species of tiger. Drew hundreds of tigers wanting to represent the expression of that tiger. I realized that the drawings turned a narrative sequence, a book…

"The Jungle Book", Kipling, appears at the beginning. This is a special work for you? Why?

I like the way Kipling makes men and animals in India to talk the same language. The boy Mowgli raised by wolves, does not belong to the jungle or belong to the world of men. It is a stranger in your home, as the Kipling, born in India, the son of English parents. Not to mention that in "The Jungle Book", the tiger Shere Khan wanders through the pages, as a threat fascinating.

The book "Wild" has no preface or afterword, no indication of the way. What is the hint that gives the reader?

Let the reader get lost in paths and discover new questions whenever you want. A book without words do not have answers but questions…

To read the rest of the interview please visit

To watch a video interview of Roger Mello visit:,,EMI161144-10536,00.html

Children of all ages, six-months-old to sixty-years-old would enjoy this book. I am surprised no American publisher has snapped up the rights for it, especially since it does not involve translation costs.

Roger's work can also be seen at:

I hope to see his books on American bookshelves one day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Photo Contest

One of the things I enjoy when traveling is finding unique objects, sometimes these items are made for everyday use. The first person to correctly guess the function of this item and the country where I found this will win a signed copy of Anahita’s Woven Riddle. Please leave your guess as a comment on this blog post AND email me at with your answer.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

All-American Muslim television premiere

I just learned about this new television show. It premieres on November 13th. I'm looking forward to tuning in! You can friend them on facebook.

For news about other cultural programs having to do with Middle Eastern cultures and Muslim Americans, check out Aslan

In forthcoming posts I will share what I learned at the recent USBBY conference in Fresno. I will feature artists and writers of international literature.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Casting Book Brands

I am a member of USBBY (U.S. Board On Books For Young People) and received an email this week with a link to Worlds of Words, An International Collection of Children’s and Adolescent Literature. WOW is a part of the University of Arizona’s College of Education. An article “Creating Book Brands” by Ann Parker, University of Arizona, commends the role that independent publishers play in publishing quality literature for children. Her article dove tails with what a librarian said to me last week after having returned from traveling this summer in Montana, Washington, and Vancouver, Canada, where she browsed the YA books at independent bookstores. Most of the stores, which carried a wide variety of choices in the past, had little to offer other than the popular culture books that she often sees in chain stores or airports. She wondered if it was the economy or that the booksellers have little else from which to choose? Or both?

Here are a few excerpts from Ann Parkers article, which can be read in its entirety at:

“…Tom Engelhardt (1991) published an article in Harper’s titled “Reading may be harmful to your kids,” in which he was the first voice of caution to suggest that the new corporate owners of publishing houses such as Bertelsmann (parent company of Random House) and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (parent company of HarperCollins) were so intent on spinning toys, clothing, and recordings off of children’s books to make more profit that “the ‘book’ has, in a sense, been freed from the page and can now be encountered in an almost unending variety of audio, video, play, and fashion formats. In the same sense, the habits of reading, listening, viewing, playing, dressing, and buying have come more and more to resemble one another” (p. 58). Books, said Engelhardt, had become just another product, and reading just another method of consumption.

“...Hade (2002) argues that there is less quality control over the books that are published since there is less attention paid to selecting quality literature. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the major markets for children’s books were school and public libraries, and books were purchased by teachers and librarians who were specifically trained in finding and selecting high quality children’s literature. Funding was available to buy books through local, state, and federal programs through such new laws like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, passed in the 1960s.

Additionally, there were hundreds of small, independent booksellers who worked individually with their customers to determine their interests and to suggest quality books for them and their children. Today, those funds are gone, and libraries can no longer afford to buy books as they once did, so publishers must look elsewhere to make their higher profit margin. Today, that “elsewhere” is chain bookstores where often only a few staff people buy the children’s books for all of the national stores. Hade points out that, in the past, hundreds of owners of independent bookstores would decide for themselves which books to stock, based on their knowledge of their local market; now, big box bookstores like Barnes and Noble hire one person to buy books for each of its categories of children’s books for all of the Barnes and Noble stores across the country. Instead of relying on the interests of its customers, or journals that review children’s books, or librarians, teachers, or parents, this sole buyer relies on the sales records of previous books. As Hade says, these staff people are not looking for quality literature, but rather for a quick sell -– and a quick sell means a recognizable product, whether it is a book written by a celebrity or a book that has been turned into a movie on the big screen.

What does branding mean for the future of children’s books? I would argue that two things are continuing to promote the publishing of quality children’s literature –- the smaller, independent presses who are publishing more multicultural children’s books, and the increased access to quality international books, such as those found in Worlds of Words. ”

I would like to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Tree Huggers" of Ancient India

I just finished reading the educational yet moving Curse of the Grass a middle grade novel by my friend Ira Saxena that is set in 18th century India about the Bishnoi tribe, who clung to their sacred khejari trees to protect their home and environment. Sadly, it became a bloody sacrifice.

In an email from New Dehli Ira Saxena said, "The incident portrayed in the book is a historical fact which touched me to the core. It kept haunting me while I researched the the period in history and the background of the tribe. I wanted to tell the story to suit the current generation and the characters began to take shape, the plot structure developed incorporating the events of Indian significance like marriage in the village, appearance of a saint, presence of royalty in those days. The heroine became the source of expressing my feelings. Finishing a tragic happening with a spirit of Hope was quite a challenge in terms of plotting. Its history and fiction all rolled in together."

The spiritual devotion of the Bishnoi for the earth resonated with another book I recently read by the late Jesuit Priest Thomas Berry and physicist Brain Swimme, The Universe Story. Berry calls for a new respect for ancient earth-centered beliefs, wherein compassion extends to the natural world. He sees this as the only way to move forward if we hope to live on a viable planet.

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Video---A Turkish Reading of Anahita's Woven Riddle

In this video my friend Busra is reading from the Turkish edition of Anahita's Woven Riddle, Sicak Bir Ask Masali. She begins with the Sufi poem and continues to read the epigraph "More than one hundred years ago..."

Busra lives in a village in central Turkey where there are many farmers, carpet weavers and repairers, and lace makers. I had the opportunity to visit her high school and read to her classmates in English. Several students in the room hoped to become writers and illustrators. They were eager to know what American students thought about Turkey and how my novel, which was about a rug making culture in Iran similar to their own, might have influenced people around the world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kilims and Kitapler! A Celebration of Books and Carpets in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

On a recent afternoon in May I was the guest of Hasan Semerci, a former English language teacher and proprietor of Adnan & Hasan's Carpets in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar for a reading and book signing. We gathered to celebrate literacy in Turkey. My host and guests donated copies of my newly released Turkish edition of Anahita's Woven Riddle (Sicak Bir Ask Masali) to public schools.

For more details about the Turkish edition please visit the publisher at Yakamoz Books. Yakamoz, for those of you who might be curious, translates as "moon light on the water."

For more details about Adnan & Hasan's Carpets, visit:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Creativity Abounds in a Turkish Public High School

Today I had the pleasure of visiting with a first year high school English class at Sultanahmet Suphi Pasa School in the historic district of Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss creative writing. The students' view from the outdoor basket ball court is of the Blue Mosque--one of the most glorious mosques in the world!

I found the students in this school to be polite, engaging and creative. Nine or ten students raised their hands when asked if they would like to be writers or illustrators. We discussed the picture book The Shape of Betts Meadow and examined the initial sketches for this picture book. When talking about perspectives and point of view in writing and illustrating, one student offered that it would have been interesting if the book had been illustrated from the main character Gunnar's point of view. This is an idea that I had not heard before and find very intriguing. To view some of the illustrations of this book visit the link below.

Two students wrote poetry and another liked photography. The students enjoyed hearing my novel Anahita's Woven Riddle/ Sicak Bir Ask Masali read in English and then in Turkish. They said they practice writing descriptive stories also.
My visit ended on a lively note when two young men treated me and the class to a traditional Turkish dance. Someone switched on their ipod and the room filled with music, clapping and fancy footwork. Please see the video of these students' dance among the other films on the bar at the bottom of this blog. I am sorry I filmed it vertically, one of these days I will learn not to do this!

Visit again in the coming weeks for more details about my experiences in Turkey this spring.

Illustrations link:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Greetings from Turkey!

I couldn't have dreamed of a more lovely and inspirational view from my Istanbul writing desk. I am here for two months of soaking up the local culture while I study theTurkish language. I awoke this am to the sound of amuezin, calling the city to prayer from this mosque, which is called the BLue Mosque. It stands opposite theAgha Sophia, once a Byzantine cathedral. Ships are floating alongside clusters of fishing boats in the Bosphorous behind. A sea breeze is sweeping across my keyboard. More to come when I am less jet lagged...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Literary Events in Istanbul

Merhaba from Istanbul! This colorful street is near the Galata Tower in Istanbul's Beyoglu District where Molly's Cafe is located. Molly, a Canadian, moved to Istanbul about 13 years ago and opened a cafe that serves homemade everything. It is a cozy gathering place for locals and expats. She invited me to talk about my work and the Turkish edition of my novel Anahita's Woven Riddle, just published by Yakamoz Kitap as Sicak Bir Ask Masali. If you are visiting Istanbul I recommend that you seek Molly's cafe. The neighborhood has many treasures, such as the fresh fruit and vegetable shop pictured in the corner of this blog photo.

I have also had the pleasure of visiting two public schools in the Emirgan and Sultanahmet neighborhoods. I will be posting more about those events in the coming weeks with photos of some of the students. Check back also to hear about a booksigning I have planned with a local carpet dealer in the Grand Bazaar. Adnan and Hasan's Rugs is hosting me, the event will serve to promote literacy programs in Turkey.

Iy gunlar!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Announcing the New Turkish Translation of Anahita's Woven Riddle by Yakamoz Books

I am pleased to announce the Turkish translation of my novel Anahita's Woven Riddle by Yakamoz Books under a new title A Warm Love Tale.

I am thrilled to have this translation because I love Turkey and have been traveling there since 1985. In fall 2008 I studied the Turkish language through the University of Ankara at Istanbul. This week I am returning to promote the Turkish edition of Anahita and to take another language course.

In the next several weeks I will be posting blog entries from both my previous trip to Istanbul as well as anecdotes about my experiences this spring. If you are in Istanbul and would like to attend a book event, please check my "Author Appearances" page on my website for an updated list and/or this blog.

Istanbul Teachers and librarians, please contact me at this website if you would like me to visit your school.

I will sign books at Molly's Cafe, Galata, Istanbul on May 7th at 4:30 pm.
I will be reading in the Grand Bazaar at Adnan and Hasan's Carpet Shop on Thrusday, May 19th at 1 pm.

A big thank you to Anatolia Lit and Yakamoz Books for making this translation happen! And more thanks due to my friends in Turkey for helping me to plan book events as well as thanks to the cafes, bookstores, carpet dealers, schools and organizations who have invited me to speak.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Medical Doctor Becomes Wetlands Doctor

Earth Day was celebrated around the world yesterday. To read more about it check out this link:

The book cover featured in this blog post is one of my own The Shape of Betts Meadow: A Wetlands Story. Today I'd like to honor the man whom the book is about, my friend Dr. Gunnar Holmquist. Gunnar and his mother Lavina Holmquist both gathered a large part of their savings to buy Betts Meadow, a 140-acre dry pasture, ringed with a forest of tall, old pine trees. It was a beautiful place but it seemed that it had been changed from what it had once been: a wetland. Gunnar, a medical doctor soon became a wetland doctor.

Aerial photographs of the meadow showed that about one hundred years ago three streams had coursed through the meadow, and beavers had been at work there. Later, someone had blocked the streams to dry out the land for cattle to graze. Many species of plants and animals had left with the water.

Gunnar worked on restoring the meadow for ten years and he continues to monitor it today. His work has been recognized by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wetlands Conservation Awards to the Private Sector.

Hats off to Gunnar! He has shown us that one person can make a difference.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Photo Contest & Fairy Tale Fortnight

Can you guess which country this carriage comes from?

Misty and Ashley, two book bloggers, are hosting an online book event called Fairy Tale Fortnight, where you will find instructions for entering my photo contest! The winner will receive a copy of Anahita's Woven Riddle.

Click here to find out how to enter!

Click here to see the Fairy Tale Fortnight schedule and list of events, which includes author interviews, guest blog posts, book reviews and giveaways.

Fairy Tale Fortnight is organized by Misty at The Book Rat blog and Ashley at Basically Amazing Books blog.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Exploring Middle Eastern Fashions

Spokane residents Joy and her daughters Ella (left) and Marlena joined me for Persian Tea, storytelling and show and tell of material culture from the Middle East at the Tin Man, Too Bookstore and Art Gallery.

Joy is wearing a traditional Qashqa'i nomad headpiece, which was sewn for me by Naheed Dareshuri, a former Iranian nomad who lives near Philadelphia. Ella is wearing an "everday headscarf" worn by many women in Iran and Marlena is wearing a headscarf made by friends of mine in Sultanhani, Turkey. These are manufactured scarves, which they embellish with lacework trim.

For a glimpse of the rest of a traditional Qashqa'i outfit check out this link:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Meet Me at Tin Man, Too Bookstore

Please join me this coming Saturday, April 9th, 1 pm at Tin Man, Too bookstore in Spokane, Washington, for a for Persian tea (chai), a reading, show and tell, and a discussion about my travels to the Middle East for research on my young adult novel Anahita's Woven Riddle.

For further details check out The Spokane Books Blog:

I look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Genre For Japan

While the headlines seem to focus less and less on the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, writers on wordpress, Authors for Japan, and this group of science fiction fans, Genre For Japan, have been busy raising thousands of dollars of relief funding.

Authors for Japan:

Genre for Japan:

Check them out, perhaps there is still time for you to donate.

There has been talk among elected officials to increase the number of nuclear power plants in the United States. I would hope that what happened in Japan would be a lessen learned and that we turn our minds toward safer, sustainable sources for power.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Celebrate St. Pat's Day with Irish Writers

While my thoughts are with the people of Japan this St. Patrick's Day, I'd like to take a moment to introduce Doire Press, a new publishing house started by an Irish poet John Walsh and a former writer from the Pacific Northwest who is now living in Ireland, Lisa Frank. Chopping Wood With T.S. Eliot is John's most recent collection, published by Salmon Press in County Clare. It is available through your local bookseller and Amazon.

For more information about the poetry and literary fiction published by Doire's Press's visit:

Another title of interest for St. Patrick's Day is my own book Weaving Tapestry in Rural Ireland. This collection of contemporary textiles, photographs, and personal essays explores how young artists in Gleanncolmcille, Donegal, Ireland, with the help of elder mentors from their village, formed a weaving cooperative called, Taipeis Gael. The book cover is featured on this blog. For more details see:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Censorship: Iran and U.S.

I recently read a Reuters article "Booksellers in Tehran Fall on Hard Times" by Ramin Mostafavi, who makes the case that censorship and sanctions against Iran are contributing to the decline of book sales in Tehran. When visiting Iran in 2005 and 2009 I was impressed with the amount of Indie bookstores I saw in Tehran and in other cities. The photo provided in this blog post is of a bookstore mall in Tehran. I've never seen an entire mall dedicated to bookstores before, and it wasn't the only one. Outside this mall the street was lined with yet more bookstores. During my weeks in Iran in 2005, President Khatami had inaugurated a new wing of their public library in Tehran that would house millions upon millions of foreign translations, and children's book libraries were opened in every province. PEN USA reported not long ago that only 2-3% of the books published in the America are foreign translations.

The topic of censorship arose during a discussion at Iran's International book festival, which I had attended. The Iranians reminded me that there is censorship in the United States, too. They pointed out with disbelief that "evolution" is questioned in some of our text books and that the Harry Potter series continues to be banned from bookshelves in many places in America.

Sometimes one must view their own culture from the outside to gain a new perspective.

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has a 50+ year history of fighting censorship in this country. Recent and classic books that have been banned in the U.S include: classic novels, such as “Forever” by Judy Blume: informative nonfiction, like “What’s Happening to My Body?” by Lynda Madaras: YALSA award winners like “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things” by Carolyn Mackle;
popular, recently published fiction series such as Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and Gossip Girl by Cicely von Ziegesar

- 1984 by George Orwell. In 1981, this novel was challenged in Jackson County, Florida because it is “pro-Communist and contained explicit sexual matter.”

- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. 1998 Margaret A. Edwards Award Winner. A parent filed a complaint in a Polk City, Florida, Elementary School, believing the story promoted witchcraft, crystal balls, and demons. Other complaints included listing the name Jesus Christ with names of great artists, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders. Another complaint was that it undermined religious beliefs.

- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Beginning in 1885, book was banned at the Concord Public Library as “trash suitable only for the slums.” Most frequent objection to the novel has been its language reference to African Americans.

- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque. It was banned in Germany in 1930 as the National Socialists saw it as slanderous to their ideals of home and fatherland. In 1929, it was banned in Boston on grounds of obscenity. In the Encyclopedia of Censorship, it is identified as one of the “most often” censored books.

Last week I came across an article by Ruth Franklin "A Literary Glass Ceiling?," which reflects upon another aspect of censorship within the publishing industry in the U.S. In the magazine and book world women authors receive only 11-25 percent of the publishing contracts. “The gatekeepers of literary culture—at least at magazines—are still primarily male. If these gatekeepers are showing a gender bias, there’s not much room to make it up later." The author goes on to explain that often magazine credits lead to book deals. It's hard to sell a book without first having been published in journals.

I believe there is light on the horizon. It seems with new technology comes a leveling of the playing field in which some of the gate keepers and those who would censor will fall away. I am also noticing more American Indie and University Presses who are increasing the amount of foreign translations they publish, such as Other Press, University of Arkansas Press and Namelos, llc. It truly is an opportune time to be reading, writing and publishing.

The articles mentioned above can be read at Reuters:

As well as The New Republic:

For a fuller banned books list, visit the YALSA site:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Graphic Art and Animation in Spokane, WA

This week my social media intern Annette Farrell curated an art show by her fellow student artists at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. This photo of Annette and patrons was taken on the opening night Friday February 11. The gallery in the Leeds Visual Arts Center is open from 7 am through midnight this week. The last day to see this fabulous collection is Friday, February 18th.

Congratulations, Annette on a successful event!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Where Do You Write?

Harper Collins recently twittered about Katrina Kittle's blog where one can read about how different authors organize their writing day and where they like to write. While I mostly write at home, I also write while traveling. Here is one of my recent writing desks in a rooftop cafe overlooking the Blue Mosque and the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul. I will be returning there this spring to promote the Turkish edition of Anahita's Woven Riddle.

To visit Karina's blog go to:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Iranian Children's Environmental Art

I came across this website on Persian Art that highlights environmental art projects in Iran. Children in the village of Kotenta made this wreath out of local trash. In their words,

"We were impressed by too many rubbish stocked in the river.By the time we got there it made us to create another version of "Pile of Pollution."
We decided to ask people to collect their garbage to make a sculpture out of rubbish.
We wanted to point out the pollution in this area. Garages were saving for two days.
Hoping that this installation could give people to pay attention."

Photogragh by Sharnaz Zarkesh

For more images see website:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Novel About Afghanistan

I am pleased to introduce a fellow YA author from my home town Trent Reedy and his debut novel Words In The Dust. This story charmed and captivated me from the first few pages. I will soon be speaking with the author in a local cafe to ask him about his experiences in Afghanistan and his challenges in writing his novel. Meanwhile, check out the review of this book by School Library Journal, which begins...

"A children’s book, written by a soldier about an Afghani girl, set in the recent past. That’s a toughie. There are a lot of easier books out there to review too. Why aren’t I writing one about the adorable little girl who wants to be Little Miss Apple Pie or the one about the cute dog that wants to find its home? Well, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone, which I suspect is what author Trent Reedy wanted to do here. With an Introduction by Katherine Paterson and enough backmatter to sink a small dinghy, Reedy takes a chance on confronting the state of the people of Afghanistan without coming off as imperialist, judgmental, or a know-it-all. To my mind he succeeds, and the result is a book that carries a lot more complexity in its 272 pages than the first 120 or so would initially suggest. Bear with it then. There’s a lot to chew on here.

Zulaikha would stand out in any crowd. It’s not her fault, but born with jutting teeth and a cleft upper lip she finds herself on the receiving end of the taunts of the local boys, and sometimes even her own little brother. Then everything in her life seems to happen at once. She’s spotted by an American soldier, who with his fellows manages to convince their captain to have Zulaikha flown to a hospital for free surgery. At the same time she makes the acquaintance of a friend of her dead mother, a former professor who begins to teach her girl how to read. Top it all off with the upcoming surprise marriage of Zeynab, Zulaikha’s older sister, and things seem to be going well. Unfortunately, hopes have a way of becoming dashed, and in the midst of all this is a girl who must determine what it is she wants and what it is the people she cares about need..."

The rest can be read on the SLJ blog:

Learn about how Trent Reedy and his publisher Scholastic are donating funds from the novel to Women for Afghan Women:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Japanese Literature

I just finished this novel, which translates as "the heart of things," and recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese culture and especially to writers. Soseki Natsume is a master storyteller.

Wikipedia says, "Major themes in Sōseki's works include ordinary people fighting against economic hardship, the conflict between duty and desire (a traditional Japanese theme; see giri), loyalty and group mentality versus freedom and individuality, personal isolation and estrangement, the rapid industrialization of Japan and its social consequences, contempt of Japan's aping of Western culture, and a pessimistic view of human nature."

Nutsame's quiet voice and brevity of words throughout the length of the novel gave me the impression of dwelling inside a poem. His language also seemed to match the mood of the spare settings---rural villages, a graveyard. The artful manner in which this writer sustained tension, the prolonged grief of his central characters, is something to marvel at, if you can see beyond the agony that you will undoubtedly feel when reading this story.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Give Away Winners!

Woo hoo! Congratulations are due to the two readers who checked in this week with their guesses for the identity of the item of material culture, featured to the right of this post. The first contestant Danielle Buckley wrote:

"I would like to guess the item for a copy of Anahita's Woven Riddle!!! If I don't happen to guess correctly or be the first one to guess, then I will just have to buy that book for myself as it is one of my top favorites of all time.

"How many guesses do I get?

"First I will guess some sort of incense holder that is used in prayer or during meditation. Perhaps it is a lamp? Maybe a holder for something like ashes. Is it an urn? Does it hold something precious like... treasure? Maybe it has something to do with communion because it sort of reminds me of the plates that are passed around.

"I have no more guesses left! Hope I got it right.

"Thanks for writing Anahita's Woven Riddle and please check out my review on library thing."

While Danielle made some very good guesses, she did not guess correctly. But, she won a copy of Anahita's Woven Riddle anyway because she was the first person to enter the contest.

A day later Jeannine Bakriges wrote with the correct answer: a lunch box.

When she heard that she had won, she said, "I won?!!!! Ha!!!! That's soooo neat! WOW! Thank you for running your contest!"

I found these intricately carved lunch boxes in the artisan market in the Old Jewish Quarter of downtown Damascas. Check out the Syrian pages on my website for other examples of traditional crafts that are preserved by local artists there.

My next book give away will take place in April. I plan to do this quarterly, so check in from time to time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Iranian Film Review: A Moment of Innnocence

I just watched this film last night by Iranian filmmaker Moshen Makhmalbaf and strongly recommend it. The premise, taken from the jacket cover, is a poetic and often comic reconstruction of an incident that dramatically affected the lives of two people...While making an earlier film, Makhmalbaf met up with a policemen in the Shah's regime, whom he had stabbed when seventeen years old, and served time for. Reunited, the policeman declared that he wanted to be an actor. The director used this reunion as a springboard.

I found the film artful, I liked how Makhlabaf played with time and reality. It encompasses themes of revenge (I think, and would like to hear your thoughts about this), redemption, the power of innocence---perhaps the reassurance that youth can rightly take a better path.