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T A Knox-Collins

I love books, especially Science Fiction. I write for children, am a graduate of Hamline University's MFAC program. I am committed to seeing diversity in kidlit and I can't help myself when it comes to rescuing dogs.

Month

February 2013

Here are the three finalists. Get to know us all.

the open book

guest bloggerNew Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What brought you to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Rahul Kanakia, Baltimore, MD:
My novel has a number of autobiographical elements. I mean, obviously, I didn’t grow up in a plague-wracked authoritarian dystopia, but I did share many of the troubles and experiences of the character in my novel. I went to Catholic school and I was confused regarding my sexual orientation and I had body image issues…

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Tu Books is graciously hosting an introduction to the five finalists of the New Visions Award. Today, their blog features a blurb from me and Valynne Maetani. Tomorrow, we’ll learn about the other three wonderful writers. I’m excited for you to get to know us all.

the open book

guest bloggerNew Visions Award sealLast month we announced the finalists of our first New Visions Award, a new writing award for a debut author of color for a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery novel. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting these talented finalists on our blog as they answer questions about what inspires them, the writing process, and more. Perhaps among these five finalists you’ll find your next favorite author!

Q: What brought you to Tu Books and to the New Visions Award competition in particular?

Ailynn Knox-Collins. Redmond, WA:

I came across Tu Books when I bid on a copy of Tankborn for a charitable cause. Soon after, I had the good fortune to sit next to the writer, Karen Sandler, at an SCBWI conference in LA. I was delighted to find an imprint that is dedicated to putting books out there that…

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What I learned from Downton Abbey

The last episode of Season 3
Actor Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley in Downton Season 3

The thing about Downton Abbey is that, in my family at least, it performed a minor miracle.

There are shows that only I watch, those that the husband watches and those cringe-worthy ones that the teenage daughter can’t live without. But one fateful day several years ago, the whole family gathered in front of the television to watch a new show and together became hooked on this series. It became the thing to look forward to on Sunday nights, the topic of discussion for several days after (not just amongst us but with colleagues, friends and Facebook contacts) and gave us a moment to share as a family, which is rare if you have teens. And for that I’m grateful.

We grew to love the whole lot that lived in this beautiful house set in Yorkshire in the early 1900’s. We suffered with Mary as she worked through the potential husbands, hoped with her as she learned to love Matthew and pined with her when she almost lost him to another. We cheered Sybil when she learned how to cook and made herself useful during the war, then ran off with the chauffeur. We applauded almost everything that came out of the mouth of the Dowager (gotta love Maggie Smith), and admired the stoic belief in work well done by the servants downstairs. We cried at every death – Lavinia’s, William’s, held our breath when Cora almost did and of course sobbed out hearts out this season. In that silly way a fictional family can become a part of a real one, these characters nudged their way into our hearts and brought us a moment of togetherness.

But this season, I realized something else. (All right, not just from Downton, but most recently so). As with any story, the unexpected has to happen to make it captivating, (even though I’d rather it didn’t come in such never-ending waves.) Who didn’t yell “No!” at the TV when Lady Sybil succumbed to eclampsia?  And most of all, who didn’t think “how could they do this?” at the end of Season 3? (Sorry if this is a spoiler). I admit to staying up quite late afterwards feeling so sorry for the family, then wondering if it was done so that the actor could move on with his career or did the writer want us to conclude that the family was cursed – that every time a baby is born, an adult family member must be killed off? I am not ashamed to admit there were hair pulling moments.

Whatever the reason,  I think Julian Fellowes, the creator of this series, has done what all writers long to do – get a reaction out of your audience and I applaud him. (He’s also the writer of two other films I love – Gosford Park and The Young Victoria.)  In Downton, he’s made us care so much about his characters that when something wonderful happens to them, we cheer; when there’s an injustice, we yell at the TV; and when they die, we cry and wonder why.

Sigh. That’s my dream. I want to create characters that people care so much about they’ll get mad at me for making them take the wrong path or choosing the wrong boy/girl, consider sending me an email when I hurt a favorite character or worse. I want readers to love my “people” as much as I do, to have imaginary conversations with them as I do. (okay, maybe not that). That’s what I did as a child, a teen and (okay, I’ll admit it,) as an adult, with the characters I loved. They saved me in moments of loneliness, confusion or just simply boredom.

So, for me, the journey continues. I must hone my craft – read, take classes and most of all keep writing. I will learn to bring these characters to life, make them flawed but fulfilling that latent potential  inside them, mostly for me but  hopefully for readers out there somewhere, who at this moment, aren’t even aware that these characters exist. Maybe this is my hero’s journey, for now.

Habitable Planets Somewhere Out There

Find out the facts about the most Earth-like exoplanet yet found in this SPACE.com infographic.
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration
I love Space.com because they post some amazing photos that allow us to gawk at the beauty of the universe. But this is the sort of article that excites me the most. Maybe because I write about finding new worlds, about saving mankind through colonization of new planets. It certainly looks like it isn't as fictional as once believed. Now all we need is that starship...

the open book

It’s Black History Month, and that means it’s time for our annual giveaway from Lee & Low Books! We’re giving away three sets of three books featuring African Americans, and the contest will run through February 28, 2013.

To enter, follow in the footsteps of Dave the Potter, the subject of our new biography Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet. Dave was an enslaved potter in South Carolina who inscribed his works with sayings and short poems in spite of harsh anti-literacy laws for slaves:

horses mules and hogs —
all our cows is in the bogs —
there they shall ever stay
till the buzzards take them away ==
March 29, 1836

I wonder where is all my relation
friendship to all — and, every nation
August 16, 1857

Write your own couplet in the comments below (it could be about anything…

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Tu Books New Visions Award Finalists

Two weeks ago, I got an email (and a phone call!) saying that I was a finalist in the Tu Books New Visions Awards. My book The Ark Chronicles – Generation Zero is one of five Young Adult/Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy books being considered for this award. The grand prize is a publishing contract with Tu Books, an imprint of Lee and Low Books.

Being a finalist is exciting for so many reasons, but one of the most important is that this contest was specifically for writers of color, whose books feature multiethnic characters.

After the announcement came out, I ‘met’ the other finalists as we cyber-stalked each other and then began to email. Each of these other writers is amazing in their own right. We’re all at different stages in our writing but we are all as yet unpublished. We come from different backgrounds and are scattered all over this country. But what we definitely have in common is that we are in love with story and the telling of it.

I love that this is an opportunity to showcase writers of different ethnicities and to celebrate their talent. I think of how, growing up an avid reader, I longed for a heroine or hero to look like me, (actually I probably wished I looked like them). Through opportunities like this one that Tu Books gives us, we’ll get to see heroes and heroines of all colors, shapes and sizes. Isn’t that more reflective of real life?

I’m so excited to have made it to the final five. The other writers in this group are hugely talented people as I’ve recently discovered. I’m so privileged to be grouped with these wonderful writers.

Do look out for more about each of us to come. We’re going to post some of our conversations soon, so you can get to know us all.

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I love books, especially Science Fiction. I write for children, am a graduate of Hamline University's MFAC program. I am committed to seeing diversity in kidlit and I can't help myself when it comes to rescuing dogs.

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