Writing for young readers? Think back to when you were that age

March 21, 2011

“Pigs don’t just vanish, thought George as he stood staring into the depth of the very obviously empty pigsty.”

Thus begins Lucy Hawking’ science-themed novel for young readers, “George’s Secret Key to the Universe.” Download Full Image

So how does a pig’s escape lead to a discussion about electricity, space travel, computers and more?

When young George searches for his lost pig, he finds the pig – and new neighbors, one of whom (aha!) is a scientist. And the scientist, Eric, and his daughter, Annie, and a super computer named Cosmos, lead the way.

Thus Hawking sneaks up on the subject, drawing young readers into the realm of science and wonder.

Hawking, author of books such as “George’s Secret Key to the Universe” and “George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt,” joined Jewell Parker Rhodes, whose first children’s book was “Ninth Ward,” published in 2010, to talk about “Writing for Young Readers” at the 2011 Desert Nights Rising Stars writing conference at ASU.

Hawking, who wrote the “George” books with her father, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, said she writes “scientific fiction,” and her challenge, with the “George” series, was to turn her father’s famous 1988 book “A Brief History of Time,” into a book for young readers.

Rhodes, whose recently published novel “Hurricane” completes her New Orleans “voodoo” trilogy, said the first paragraph of “Ninth Ward” – which is about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans – came to her in a dream. “I immediately began writing. It took about three months to finish the first draft.”

“Ninth Ward” was named one of the best books of 2010 by School Library Journal and selected as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book by the American Library Association.

Hawking and Rhodes answered questions and offered suggestions in an informal talk with the audience. Here are some of their points:

• An author shouldn’t expect to connect with every single reader.

• Good dialogue is crucial. Dialogue is concrete, immediate and active. Dialogue makes people seem alive.

• A good story line takes children away from their environment and brings them in.

• Stay really close to a child’s perception. What did you know when you were in that age group?

• Your hero and heroine will find that they have power. Allow them to solve problems themselves.

• Keep up with the books for young people that are being published. Read voraciously what’s being done now.

• Don’t query until you’ve finished the book. Many people never finish their book. If someone isn’t captured by your first chapter they won’t be captured by the book.

• A good editor won’t give you a formula. You have to find your unique voice. Kids are hungry for real things.

• Think back to what you liked as a young adult – but you have to keep up.

Parker added that “telling stories is part of human nature, and we’re essentially still telling the same stories. Human nature hasn't changed. We all need stories to inspire us, comfort us, and explain the nature of our world and our role in it.”

The authors recommended ">http://www.hbook.com/">“The Horn Book”, a magazine and Web resources for writers and others interested in books for young readers.

Desert Nights, Rising Stars is an annual writing conference sponsored by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU. For more information contact the Piper Center, (480) 965-6018, or www.asu.edu/piper.">www.asu.edu/piper">www.asu.edu/piper.

ADRC workshop to look at future technologies, security

March 21, 2011

On the heels of a successful kickoff, the Aerospace & Defense Research Collaboratory (ADRC) will hold its first collaborative aerospace and defense (A&D) workshop to focus on clusters of technologies related to unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and security.

The ADRC workshop, hosted at the University of Arizona on March 25, is open to industry, academia, government and other sectors of the A&D industry.

The ADRC, funded under the Aerospace and Defense Initiative (ADI) from Science Foundation Arizona, is a state-wide initiative – led by Arizona State University in association with University of Arizona, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Northern Arizona University – to build broad partnerships between higher education and industry that will help create a competitive advantage for the state’s A&D sector.

More than 300 A&D leaders from the state attended the Feb. 11 launch at ASU’s Polytechnic campus where they initiated discussions about being more collaborative for the advancement of A&D efforts in Arizona.

The March 25 meeting is where the A&D experts come together to start identifying short-/long-range business and research opportunities. It also provides an opportunity to talk about future technical needs of the industry and the government, and how academia can best meet their challenges.

“Our job from a university standpoint is to listen to industry needs, and let them know what capabilities we can bring to the table to help them meet their challenges,” said Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of the College of Technology & Innovation at ASU and co-director of the ADRC. “When universities in the state can pool their talent and technological resources to serve the needs of the aerospace and defense industry, the obvious advantage will go to companies in Arizona competing in this sector.”

Topics that will be examined include identifying the future needs of the Army and Air Force from a science and technology perspective; the systems – both human and mechanical – that run an unmanned aerial vehicle; and security, from borders to biometrics, a method of recognizing humans based on a uniquely physical or behavioral trait.

According to Werner Dahm, director of ASU’s Security and Defense Systems Initiative and co-director of the ADRC, many important security and defense system technologies are in early stages of development.  “We need to provide better access to these technologies for industry and serve as a trusted partner to evaluate and advance their development.  Achieving that close partnership will put our aerospace and defense sector in a far better competitive position to benefit Arizona and the nation.”

Unmanned aerial systems are playing an extremely critical role in the defense of the nation and have been deployed extensively in various sectors of conflict around the world, explains Jeff Goldberg, dean of the UA College of Engineering.  “As a border state, we must be at the forefront of advancing technologies for security.”  

For information about attending visit http://adrc.asu.edu">http://adrc.asu.edu">http://adrc.asu.edu or call (480) 727-1089.

Christine Lambrakis, Lambrakis">mailto:Lambrakis@asu.edu">Lambrakis@asu.edu
(480) 727-1173 direct line / (602) 316-5616 cell Download Full Image