I am new to the world of reviews. When I began this writing journey, I knew that what I write might just get out there in the world someday. I know (maybe only in the back of my mind) that other people will read them. Some will like my stories, others will not. I’m okay with that. I’ve put down books that others have read over and over again. I’ve loved books that others have not.
I just never expected the stomach twisting feelings of actually reading what others think of my stories, whether the reviews are lukewarm or great. Still, this is a part of the journey, isn’t it?
Because you see, I wrote a set of 6 books called Redworld. They’re hi-lo books, (high interest-low readability stories for reluctant readers reading below their grade level), and they would appeal to kids 9 and up. Each of these books is in hardcover, available in your local libraries now. (Support libraries!)
And as of February 1, 2018, the first four books will be released as one paperback called, Redworld: Year One. The cover is gorgeous because the illustrator, who did all the beautiful artwork in the library versions is Tomislav Tikulin, a talented sci-fi, horror and fantasy illustrator.
And on February 2, we’ll be having a BOOK PARTY for Redworld: Year One at Brick and Mortar Books in Redmond, WA. 6 pm. Come if you can. There might be cake!
Here’s a bit about Redworld — Belle Song, the main character, is 12 when we start book 1, Homeworld, and 14 by the time we get to book 6, Outcry. She is biracial, and human (something we can’t just assume in this future). Her parents have dragged her away from her friends and regular life on Earth, to live on the red planet, which despite having been terraformed over the last 200 years, isn’t all that great a place to live. It’s still wild, and unpredictable, especially on the west side where the farmers live. These 6 books follow Belle on her adventures, as she makes new friends and gets into more trouble than she can handle.
And yes, Belle is a troublemaker. She wants to be good, but she just can’t help herself. The pull of curiosity and the need to prove herself are just too hard to resist. She reminds me of someone I know all too well. 🙂
In past blogposts, I’ve had kids write their thoughts on each book, and they’ve been so generous and enthusiastic about Redworld. Now, with permission from the publishers, Capstone, I get to show you the reviews from the adult world.
From the December 2017 issue of VOYA magazine:
These easy-to-read novels contain both scientific facts about Mars—its climate, calendar, etc.—and science-fictional possibilities, such as programmable house windows and personal androids. Dramatic pictures—the friends surrounded by fierce cave lizards and diverse faces aglow at baby Thea’s party—add appeal. Middle school students will identify with the conflicts in Belle’s journal entries and relish the harrowing adventures in each book. A glossary, a list of Mars terms, and discussion questions encourage classroom use, and the theme of understanding between diverse cultures is both timely and relevant.
From the Jan/Feb issue of Foreword Reviews:
Inventive and highly entertaining, A. L. Collins’s Redworld is set in a future where Mars has been colonized and serves as home to several alien races, including humans. Clever explanations for how the planet was made livable, and how its inhabitants create and use energy to sustain it, build a believable setting reminiscent of the old west.
The Martian setting is enticing, especially as explored by naturally curious Belle. An android helper and aliens add interesting elements.
Redworld is fun, unique, and well plotted, with interesting characters and dangerous adventures that make it difficult to put down. Subtle lessons about creating a sustainable environment and learning to see past superficial differences heighten its appeal.
On the surface, Collins crafts a Martian action-adventure story, complete with water raiders, hybrid animals, and trips to the bustling capital city. Underlying themes of racial acceptance and environmental impact are inescapably heavy-handed, although doled out with restraint, mostly through Belle’s insistence that Lucas come to accept Ta’al even though the Sulux and Nabians are prejudiced against each other. Given the entertaining third-person narration, Belle’s interspersed journal entries seem unnecessary, but Tikulin’s illustrations offer rich ambiance and work beautifully with the graphic design. An opening gallery brings the Song family and their friends to life, and each part of Belle’s journey is prefaced with superb illustrations of exploits to come.
A commendable effort that embeds racial tension, geopolitics, and environmental issues in an action-packed Martian adventure. (glossary) (Science fiction. 11-14)
Family Fun Magazine will also have a lovely blurb about Redworld in their March issue.
So there they are – a few of them, for now.
THEN, with the perfect timing of a well-plotted story, I went back to Hamline University for an MFAC Alumni weekend last week. There, a very wise professor and Newberry winner, Kelly Barnhill, said these inspiring words at her workshop to the MFAC alum:
“When we write books, we don’t get to control how our readers relate to our books.”
“As writers, we are trying to create something out of nothing. For kids.”
And quoting Kerouac, she added “It’s important to tell yourself that you’re a genius every day. It matters because the story exists, and you did it.”
That’s the point really, isn’t it? I did the work. The books are out there. It’s done. I will let them go, take the journey that all books must. (Oh, how I love Hamline and her professors!)
But more importantly, and for me personally, my hope is that the stories will find a kid who dreams about the future the way I did at that age, a kid who needs the momentary escape, a kid who deserves to see herself as a heroine in a grand adventure.
Because that is the reason I write.
For kids like her.