dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author
Youth Librarian and his Kidz

Youth Services Librarian in Brookville with some of his teen library volunteers

Many Pennsylvanians have been disappointed to discover that our new Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, hasn’t turned out to be any better supporter of libraries than his much-despised predecessor, Republican Tom Corbett. Libraries aren’t even on Wolf’s radar and continue to be the loser when it comes to where PA tax dollars are spent.

I know that funding libraries is a problem across the country. But I think it’s particularly shameful in Pennsylvania. Benjamin Franklin founded the first public library in America in Philadelphia – a city where, currently, school budget cuts have reduced the number of certified librarian positions from 176 to 11 … for 218 schools.

Worse, some of the tax payers think this is just fine …

“Librarians are a relic of yesterday’s education models.” That was a comment on an article about the library crisis in Philadelphia schools. “Any student can access virtually all necessary information from their phone or computer. The only purpose of a librarian was to help you FIND information among the books. That’s no longer necessary.” Another commenter said that Philly schools needed to focus on teaching reading and math, not the Dewey Decimal System. These people seem to think that all librarians do is help kids “look stuff up” and find books on the shelves. They also see no connection between a working, thriving library and kids learning to read.

They have no idea what a community of readers looks like, nor do they understand that libraries — and librarians — are the foundation for creating one.

Dover Area Library Signing

At Dover Area Library in York County, PA, kids line up to get their free books signed

In my former school, the librarian (with the help of the PTA) budgets money for “Student Choice Books” every spring and invites students in grades 3-6 to recommend books to be added to the library collection. Not content with having students slap together a list of their favorites, this librarian supplies a set of criteria for choosing worthy books, requiring students to research new titles before submitting their proposed lists. Likewise, in Troy, Michigan, librarians at their four middle schools organize a massive reading program to award a Troybery – a mock Newbery – each year. (The Eighth Day was first runner up this past year.)

Many states take the Reader’s Choice Awards to the next level, with public libraries and school libraries collaborating to create a yearly list, make the selected titles available across the state, and promote the program with activities, author visits, and rewards for participation. The Caged Graves has been on such lists in Utah, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, and Alaska. The Eighth Day is currently on Florida’s Sunshine State Young Readers Award list.

Chips

Kreutz Creek librarian serves up an Eighth Day-themed barbecue for her summer reading club

Many libraries across the nation make use of the Collaborative Summer Library Program to entice kids to spend their summer reading. The 2015 theme: Every Hero Has a Story. I was invited to participate in several programs with tweens and teens this summer under that program. Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Henrietta Hankin Library in Chester County, PA, every teen who participated in their Summer Book Club received a copy of The Caged Graves to keep and was invited to attend a book club meeting led by the author. Likewise, the youth services librarian at the Dover Area Library in York County, PA wrangled a deal with Scholastic to get 100 copies of The Eighth Day into the hands of local middle school readers – and he shared a few with the neighboring Kreutz Creek Library for their Under the Floor Book Club.

The little town of Brookville, PA also has a thriving library with an active community of readers and benefactors. This year was the fifth summer they brought in a YA author for an afternoon teen program and an evening adult program, generously putting up the author in a local B&B and providing dinner at a local restaurant between events. My dinner was attended not only by the librarians, but also by teen volunteer workers and members of the local writing group. Because of the subject matter of The Caged Graves and We Hear the Dead, my evening talk also drew in members of the local historical society.

So, for politicians and anonymous internet commenters who believe that librarians are dinosaurs of the past who can no longer compete with Google and smart phones and iPads … I ask you: When’s the last time you met one?

 

I have some good looking calendars up for grabs this month! Check out this gorgeous 16-Month Transitioner’s Calendar for September 2015 thru December 2016.

Cover

All the character sketches are done by the talented teen artist Rachel Gillespie. My daughter Gabrielle designed the family crests and the layout of the calendar itself, with a Grunsday conveniently inserted between Wednesday and Thursday to record all your eighth day adventures.

Calendar

You’ll even get a sneak peek at characters from the forthcoming third book, The Morrigan’s Curse, which releases on January 26, 2016. I’ll autograph the back of the calendar and throw in some temporary tattoos for fun.

Morrigan

If you have a tween/teen reader at home who enjoyed The Eighth Day and/or The Inquisitor’s Mark (or if you just want one for yourself), all you have to do is send me a message through my CONTACT page.

Put “I Want a Calendar” in the Subject Heading — and in the body of the email, tell me your favorite part of the book. (Yup, that’s right, I’m soliciting strokes for my ego. I love it when people tell me their favorite parts.) You can enter up to 3 times, (but you’ll have to tell me 3 different favorite parts). I’ll be accepting entries up until midnight of August 31 (ETA) and notify FIVE winners on September 1.

Heck, if I get a lot of entries, maybe I’ll give away more than five …

In other news, it’s been a very busy summer so far — and it shows no signs of letting up! I’ve been on author visits to Baltimore, Maryland, York County, Pennsylvania, Moorestown, New Jersey, and I have an upcoming visit to Brookville, Pennsylvania. I’m teaching a literary club at a youth community center in Parkesburg, PA, and preparing to teach a Writer’s Workshop Course at the Delaware County Community College. (Or as we like to call it DC3)

We said a fond good-bye to our teen French guest at the end of July. We had a lot of fun and took her on many adventures — including almost drowning her in the Lehigh River:

River rafting adventure

That’s my husband, me, and Clelie making the acquaintance of a nice family from New Jersey as we desperately cling to the side of their raft. My daughter Gina had already been swept downstream, where she was temporarily adopted by a different family. I guess Clelie forgave us, though, because she had us pose for a good-bye photo holding the sign we’d greeted her with on her arrival 3 weeks prior. She posted this to Facebook and called us “the most adorable family of America.”

Good bye to Clelie

 

That’s an accolade we are delighted to accept!

Before beginning my manuscript The Caged Graves last summer, I researched the history of Pennsylvania’s mountainous Columbia County in the 1860’s. But my plotline incorporated a lost Revolutionary War treasure, so I also researched events of the 1770’s, when this county was under threat from British forces and their Indian allies. These events were only peripherally related to my manuscript, but I discovered many tantalizing little tidbits I wished I could use.

Take Moses VanCampen. He was nineteen years old in 1776 when he wanted to sign up with a Columbia County regiment joining Washington’s army near Boston. But some older men talked Moses into staying at home as part of the local militia. Young Moses was a crack shot, as well as a level-headed young man – somebody they could count on to defend the Columbia County civilians. He agreed to stay and take on the job.

Moses was ordered to build a fort near Fishing Creek to provide shelter for the locals in case of an attack. Moses chose the home of Isaiah Wheeler as the location for his fort and directed the construction of a stockade fence around it, large enough to accommodate all the inhabitants of the area. His choice of property was influenced by personal reasons: he was courting Wheeler’s daughter, Ann, at the time.

So, Moses built a fort around the home of his sweetheart, and even before completion, it was put to the test. Indian raiders attacked and burned neighboring homes, but the settlers themselves fled to the safety of the half-completed Fort Wheeler, which withstood the attack. For the next year, Moses VanCampen made Fort Wheeler his headquarters as he ably defended the region with his company of sharp-shooters. In fact, Fort Wheeler was one of only two local forts to survive the war.

However, Ann Wheeler married VanCampen’s best friend, Joseph Salmon.

There’s a story here. A very human story amidst all the history. I kept imagining Moses living at that fort, perhaps even quartering in the Wheeler house, fighting off the Indians and the British while simultaneously losing his girl to the arms of his best friend. Moses and Ann and Joseph had no place in my story, The Caged Graves – they lived 100 years earlier and on the other side of the county – but I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

Why didn’t the hero win the girl? Was Joseph more handsome — more charming? Was Ann fickle? Or did Moses have some flaw that drove her away?

Maybe I’ll write about them some other time – or maybe they’ll be just a tantalizing tidbit of history that will always leave me wondering.

The first annual PAYA Book Festival is only a week away! I am excited to have a small part in this event, taking place on Saturday, August 21 at the Center for Performing and Fine Arts in West Chester, PA.
I’ll be one of the authors present, signing books which will be available for purchase through Children’s Book World, an independent book store from Haverford. (I love that store!)
There will also be a couple of fantastic workshops. For adult writers, there’s the Listen & Critque Workshop, led by well known authors including Josh Berk, Amy Brecount White, and Shannon Delany. What makes this event kind of special is there will also be a workshop aimed specifically at teen writers, aged 13-18, led by teen authors Chelsea Swiggett, author of a memoir titled Rae: My True Story of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia, and Kieryn Nicolas, author of Rain, a spy mystery adventure. My own daughter, a budding writer, is anxiously looking forward to this workshop. (By the way, thanks to everyone who posted a comment encouraging Gabrielle last week! I am hoping to coax another guest blog out of her, reporting on her experience in this workshop.)
Other events happening this day include a bake sale, basket raffle, and used book sale – all benefitting Pennsylvania libraries.
Something I plan on doing at the festival is collecting a few signed books myself, to use as prizes in an upcoming 100 Blog Follower Celebration! No, I’m not up there yet, but getting close. I’m planning a private celebration (uh … me, my husband, the hot tub, and a couple of cold martinis), and then a public contest with signed books and a manuscript critique as prizes! And since I am, after all, a teacher (with the new school year looming large on the horizon) – you might want to be prepared for a POP QUIZ!
You can learn more about the PAYA Book Festival (and see the list of attending authors – over 20, at last count) or sign up for one of the workshops by visiting the PAYA website. Hope to see some of you there!


Summer vacation starts today. It’s been a l-o-n-g spring. I know that I posted (with some bravado) back at the beginning of June that I wasn’t going to “strike my colors” and give up teaching. But I’ve got to tell you – about a week after that, I was dying to surrender!

Yesterday, as soon as my sentence … ahem, school term was over, I rushed home and jumped in my pool. It took about an hour of drifting aimlessly around on a pool float, staring at the sky, just to turn my brain off.

But now it’s time to turn it back on, because I have a Summer To-Do List!

1. Write another draft of the screenplay. That’s right. Six drafts weren’t enough. My wonderful collaborator, Amy Green, outlined a few problems that beta readers picked up in the script. I’ve been cogitating on them for about 2 weeks; I think I have a solution, and I can’t wait to try it out.

2. Prevent succession from turning my flower beds into forest land. People often ask me how I manage to write while teaching full time. The answer is: I let the house fall to rack and ruin. But now, it’s becoming embarrassing.

3. Research, outline, and begin the first draft of a new WIP. I haven’t forgotten those creepy caged graves in the Pocono Mountains of PA, and when my preliminary research turned up the Wyoming Massacre just a hundred years earlier and not too far away – I set my sights on finding a way to tie the stories together.

4. Revise an old piece. A long time ago, I wrote a non-fiction piece about the Revolutionary War in Pennsylvania – queried it, came close to a bite, but eventually gave up and laid it aside. However, the PA Board of Education, in its infinite wisdom, has re-written our state history curriculum to reflect a totally Pennsylvania-centered version of history. We still study Native Americans, but only those in PA. We still study World Explorers, but only the ones who explored PA. We still study the Revolutionary War, but – you got it. Luckily, I have a perfect piece to present to the curriculum committee at my school, but I need to revise it for 5th grade. Maybe add the Wyoming Massacre.

5. Swim in the pool 5 days a week. I don’t mean drifting about on a pool float. I don’t mean soaking in the hot tub. And I don’t mean sitting by the pool with my laptop. I mean swimming for exercise. I’m hoping that stating this publicly will shame me into actually doing it.

6. Announce the winners of the Teen Celebrity and T-Shirt Contest on Monday!

What’s on your Summer To-Do List?


In speaking to other historical fiction authors, I’ve discovered many of them experience the same frustration I do when conducting research. You might think that our biggest problem is finding enough information, but that’s not true. The problem is we find so many fascinating stories, and we can’t fit them all in to our work.

I’m currently researching a new book set in the mountainous Columbia County of Pennsylvania in the 1860’s. But I’m also learning about events of the 1770’s, when this county was under threat from British forces and their Indian allies. These events will be only peripherally related to my planned book – history and legend for my 19th century characters. And yet, there are so many tantalizing little tidbits I wish I could use …

Take Moses VanCampen. He was nineteen years old in 1776 when he offered to sign onto a regiment joining Washington’s army near Boston. But some older local men, former soldiers from the French and Indian War, talked Moses into staying at home as part of the local militia. Young Moses was known as a crack shot, a level-headed responsible young man – somebody they could count on to defend the local civilians. He agreed.

A Committee of Safety decided to build a series of forts between the West and North Branches of the Susquehanna River to defend the area. Moses was ordered to find an appropriate location near Fishing Creek and build a fort to provide shelter for the locals in case of an attack. Moses chose the home of Isaiah Wheeler as the central point for his fort and directed the construction of a stockade fence around it, large enough to accommodate all the inhabitants of the area. His choice of this property was probably influenced by personal reasons: he was courting Wheeler’s daughter, Ann.

So, Moses built a fort around the home of his sweetheart, and even before it was completed, it was put to the test. Indian raiders attacked and burned neighboring homes, but the settlers themselves fled to the safety of the half-completed Fort Wheeler, which withstood the attack. For the next year, Moses VanCampen made Fort Wheeler his headquarters as he ably defended the region with his company of sharp-shooters. In fact, Fort Wheeler was one of only two local forts to survive the war.

However, Ann Wheeler married VanCampen’s best friend, Joseph Salmon.

There’s a story here, folks. A very human story amidst all the history. But Moses and Ann and Joseph have no real place in the book I’m actually planning to write – they lived 100 years earlier and on the other side of the county. Maybe I’ll find a use for them – maybe I’ll write about them some other time – or maybe they’ll be just a tantalizing tidbit of history that will always leave me wondering.

My t-shirt contest is still running until Friday, June 18th – my last day of school! Check out the post below and leave your comment to enter.