Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tools for Teaching or Discovering the Mid East

I just returned from the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA) annual conference, which was held in Denver this year. I am still digesting all that I learned there. While attending a meeting of an affiliate group within MESA called Middle Eastern Outreach Council, I learned about three websites that are fabulous resources for anyone studying the Middle East, including regional languages.

Center For Near Eastern Studies is a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education and UCLA is a language site to help entice high school and college students to study Farsi, Arabic and Turkish. Unique features of this language learning website includes videos of Turkish, Farsi and Arabic speakers talking in their native languages and alongside their images are transliterations that highlight the phrases the speakers are saying.

Another resourceful site is Fifteen Minute History, Not Even Past, developed by Christopher Rose, Director of Public Engagement at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas at Austin. This site features pod casts of graduate students and other professionals about the Mid East. The topics meet Texas cirriculum standards for classroom but the interviews are meant for a wider audience.

More to come about this conference...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Interested in International Lit? Visit World of Words

Check out my recent post for the Author's Corner on the University of Arizona website for WOW! World of Words...a site devoted to international literature.

Coming soon, a recap of the International Board on Books For Young People's World Congress in London...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Spotlight on The Storyteller Bookstore

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Linda Higham, an independent bookseller and owner of The Storyteller Bookstore in Lafayette, CA. She brought oodles of copies of my new novel set in Iran, Night Letter, as well as the re-issue of its companion novel Anahita's Woven Riddle, to my reading at the new and gorgeous Walnut Creek Library.

Linda has owned her bookstore for over 20 years. About her secret to success, she says, "My employees are educators and librarians who are dedicated to children's literature, and the surrounding community is loyal to our store."

I'd like to thank the people who attended my talk at the Walnut Creek Library despite that it competed with the San Fransisco Giants game. I enjoyed our converstation.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mongolian Storytelling at IBBY London

Greetings from the International Board on Books For Young Readers (IBBY) World Congress in London! The event took place at the Imperial College London August 23-26th. I had the opportunity to speak at this conference on "Why I Wrote About an Iranian Heroine." It was fantastic to meet writers, editors, librarians and educators from all over the world. In future blog posts I will introduce you to several of the people I met.

This cartoon was drawn by the Mongolian storyteller Dashdondog Jamba. He said it is a protrait that he drew of himself when he was five years old. You might notice his small ear, drawn this way because when people annoyed him with what they said. His right hand has more fingers than his left because he uses it more often than the other hand. And, he has many legs because he is always running around doing chores for everyone.

I met another writer from Mongolia Ligedeng Orlet. He has written novels for kids and adults and explained that hardly any Mongolian literature is translated into languages other than Chinese or Russian. They also do not have much literature from around the world translated into Mongolian. This is a situation he would like to see improved.

Dashdondog Jamba (right) and Ligedeng Orlet at the reception for the Hans Christian Anderson awards.

Click on the following link to hear Dashdondog telling a story in Mongolian language.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Persian Poet Hafiz's Advice for Writing Across Gender

For the last month I have been writing to publishers and authors for permissions to use their work in my forthcoming novel Night Letter (Nortia Press, November 2012). This can normally involve a fee. I liked how the poet and translator Daniel Ladinsky requested that I purchase two copies of his book A Year With Hafiz for "the fee." I did so just yesterday at my independent bookstore, Aunties. I enjoy Ladinsky's interpretations and the poetic license he takes with Hafiz's work. I think the more spins on the great Persian poets' work, the better for contemporary readers to get a sense of who these ancient poets might have been.

In keeping with the tradition of opening Hafiz's work to any page, and finding wisdom in the poem one finds, I did this last night and found wisdom for writers who like to write "out of gender" or about races and cultures other than their own. This topic has been hotly debated over the years. I thought you might like to hear how Hafiz weighs in, through Daniel Ladinsky's filter, but I would be breaching the copy right by reproducing the whole poem here. The poem, in essence, is about a young woman who approaches Hafiz and asks him how it feels to be a man, and he replies that the better question would have been, "How does it feel to be a heart?"

Please see the whole poem "How Does It Feel To Be A Heart?" in Daniel Ladinsky's latest collection, on page 226.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Awed By ALA!

I have just returned from the annual American Library Association Conference where I was signing advanced review copies of my new novel Night Letter (Nortia Press, November, 2012) at the Consortium booth. I enjoyed chatting with so many librarians and attendees and am still awed by all the enthusiasm and curiosity people held for the novel's setting, Iran and Uzbekistan. I hope those of you who waited in line for an arc enjoy this tale.

I am deeply appreciative to the YALSA members for organizing the Coffee Klatch, where I was able to meet many of you. Please check on my website from time to time for additional book giveaways and material that pertains to this novel that might be useful in the classroom, library or to book groups. Study guides are now available on my website under Teachers' Resources.

It was also an honor to be present for the first-ever Carnegie Medal Award ceremony, hosted by the chair of the awards committee, Nancy Pearl, and others. Anne Enright's novel "The Forgotten Waltz" and Robert Massie's biography "Catherine the Great" have won the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in literature. It was a real treat to "meet" Anne Enright virtually during the awards night, she spoke to us via a video recorded from Ireland. Perhaps this video is available on line.

Not least, for the best in Children's and Young Adult Literature...hats off to Newbery Award Winner, Jack Gantos (I heard his speech was halarious); Caldecott Winner Chris Raschka; and Printz Award Winner, John Corey Whaley, whose acceptance speech was uniquely delivered in book titles. 

More details about ALA authors to come...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Visiting Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence

This April I traveled to Turkey to participate in a trek along the Lycian Way on the southwest coast of Turkey (which I will write about in a subsequent post) and to experience the opening day of Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence. For those who might not know, Orhan Pamuk is a writer from Istanbul who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011. He is author of many novels and a collection of essays. His latest novel Museum of Innocence, a story about love and obsession, gave rise to the world's first museum based on a fictional character.

I didn't travel to Istanbul just to see the museum created by a nobel prize winner, I went to celebrate the grand opening with my Turkish friend, Deniz Aral, the managing director of the Museum, the woman who pulled it all together.

"I wore many hats. Upon accepting the position, I became a construction manager, a museum catalogist, a personnel manager, a gift store entrepreneur, a paralegal, a publicist, and trouble shooter."

Pleased with the way the Museum turned out, Deniz greeted scores of guests on Saturday, April 28th, including Orhan Pamuk's attorneys. The public was admitted in groups of about 60 to respect the fire codes in the neighborhood in which the museum, a period piece house, is located (see image below). It made for pleasant viewing of the many vitrines exhibiting memorabilia that pertained to the novel and the time period of the book's setting. My favorite piece was the wall of cigarette butts, which Pamuk's character Kemal pocketed after his lover snuffed them out. (There is a photo of this wall provided in the second link below.)

Even the crowd outside the Museum of Innocence was a kind of attraction. Here Deniz joked with a neighborhood dog trainer after the closing on opening day.


The following New York Times article offers more details of the event and about Orhan Pamuk:

This link offers images inside the Museum:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Trekking the Lycian Way, Turkey

View along the Seven Capes Trek, Lycian Way, Turkey.

 Likya Yolu---The Lycian Way

Last month Marianne Sullivan, a friend since third grade, and I signed up for a trek along the southern Turkish coast with Middle Earth Travel. Our trek started near the town of Fethiye, on the west side of the Taurus Mountains and it ended at the ancient city of Patara, home of St. Nicholas. The weather kindly stayed in the high 70's. We met locals along The Way who invited our group of nine trekkers (Australian, American and Turkish) to rest with them and drink chai (tea).

We also saw a smattering of Greek and Roman ruins here and there. Apparently, our route neared Xanthos, where Alexandra and the Persians clashed forces. Bushwacking up one particularly steep, rocky and narrow section of the trail, I asked one of my hiking partners, a retired general in the Turkish air force, if he knew whether we were really walking in the footsteps of Cyrus and Alexander. He said, "If they did, I question their military intelligence."

Three books about this region that I have yet to read, which promise to delight are: Lycian Way by Kate Clow; The Western Shores of Turkey, by John Freely; and Lycia: The Land of Light, by Akist.

I recommend this trek to people who want to experience rural Turkish villages as well as those who like walking. We averaged about 8 hrs a day and the elevation gain ranged between 2,100 and 4,200 feet per day.  The meals were FABULOUS and cooked by locals at the villages we stayed in each night. We could not have found better guides or traveling companions. We hope to meet up with them all again one day. Perhaps on another Middle Earth trek...
Snow capped peaks of Taurus Mountains in distance.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Cover Debut for Night Letter

I am pleased to present the cover for Night Letter, a companion novel for Anahita's Woven Riddle, forthcoming in the fall with Nortia Press.

The cover art is by Rashin Kheiriyeh, an award-winning artist from Tehran. The cover design is by Lindsey Wells, a graphic designer. Interior art by Uzbek artists and others from the region of the the novel's setting add a richness to the book.

I look forward to seeing librarians, educators and others at ALA this June, where I will be signing arcs at the Consortium booth. Stop by for book marks, posters, and other interesting giveaways, including souvenirs from Uzbekistan.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Donations needed for Turkish children's libraries

This spring I will travel to Turkey where I will meet with members of the Turkish International Board on Books For Young People. This organization is working with the Turkish Society of School Librarians and an mother and child agency ACEV to bring three libraries to the earthquake-stricken regions near the city of Van. Last fall the natural disaster caused tens of thousands to loose their loved ones and their homes.

If you would like to send a donation that will help these organizations to purchase books for the children's libraries, please send a check to Meghan Sayres, c/o Inland Northwest SCBWI, P.O. Box 30295, Spokane, WA, 99223.

Thank you for your support!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

As a shepherd, I tend to get excited when I see sheep who are doing unusual things. In this case I believe they are taking a taxi somewhere.

This photo was taken by my American friend Eslie Alan, who was traveling in Bosnia when she came across these adventurous sheep. Elsie is always traveling about, meeting interesting people and creatures to write about. Mostly Elsie writes about her life in Istanbul, where she has been living for about five years. If you are interested in knowing more about Turkey, you can follow Elsie's column at Today's Zaman, a print and online newspaper published in Istanbul.

This link leads to her recent piece about an excursion to the Mediterranean coast to a town called Kucukbache.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fahimeh Amiri's Fine Art Dazzles and Demystifies

I am proud to announce the opening of my friend Fahimeh Amiri's first solo exhibition at Finch Lane Gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah. The show will run until March 2nd.

Fahimeh has a breadth of experience as an artist, which began in her youth in Tehran as a student of the School of Fine Arts and as apprentice to the great Iranian master miniaturist Hossein Behzad. She has illustrated several children's books and currently teaches private art lessons to Salt Lake City youth.

Fahimeh states that her current work is an in depth depiction of women's lives under the influence of Islam from ancient times to the present day. I would add that past meets present in her paintings. Walking into Finch Lane gallery is like stepping into ancient Persepolis, in the desert valley between Shiraz and Yadz, Iran. Images on the walls evoke processions of subjects bearing gifts to the 5th century Persian King Cyrus the Great (author of the first human rights charter). A replica of this clay cylinder written in cuneiform is housed in the United Nations. The images of Persepolis are juxtaposed with those of everyday life, including vibrant depictions of women socializing in a hookah den or plunging into the traffic-clogged streets of Tehran.

To read an article about this exhibition featured in Utah Arts Magazine, visit:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Interested in International Literature?

I am one of three newly appointed Washington State Ambassadors to The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY), the American section of the International Board on Books For Young People (IBBY), which is a nonprofit organization founded to promote international understanding and good will through books for children and adolescents. It's patron organizations are the Children´s Book Council (CBC), the American Library Association (ALA), the International Reading Association (IRA), and the National College of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Conferences are held nationally (usually in the fall) and internationally every other year. I recently attended the 2011 Conference in Fresno and would recommend attending the 2013 Conference in St. Louis, MO, to anyone interested in promoting reading around the world, books with multicultural themes, translated works and award winners from other countries. USBBY and IBBY are also involved in special projects, such a sponsoring libraries in developing countries and donating books to children in crisis. About 250 educators, librarians and authors attended the Fresno gathering representing six continents. Please see my recent blog post about the conference and the Brazilian illustrator I met, Roger Mello:

More details about USBBY and IBBY can be found at: and

Please consider joining me as a member in 2012!