Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kirkus Review

I just received my first Kirkus Review- the world's toughest book critics. For those of you that don’t know – a Kirkus Review is one of the most important reviews an author receives. It can truly make or break your career.

I had just dropped my son off at pre-school and was taking this rare free moment to get a cup of coffee in downtown Hood River before I headed back home to delve into writing book 2 when I opened my email and saw that Kirkus Review had sent me my review.

I couldn’t decide if I even wanted to open the email. All my insecurities as a writer flooded my mind. The fact that when I entered fifth grade I was reading on a 1st grade level – the fact that even now I struggle with words every day – the fact that I was nuts as a dyslexic to even think I could write a book.

My coffee arrived, I took a long sip, and opened the email. My eyes started flooding with tears even before I started reading the first word. I was so scared they would rip my story to shreds. But as I started reading, I started breathing. They LIKED it! The review isn’t completely glowing but I am THRILLED with it for two reasons: (1) they gave me hope that I have potential to make The Ancient Realm a great series, and (2) they gave me outstanding feedback on just how to do that. I’m not sure many authors use reviews as learning tools, but why not? If we are strong enough to accept constructive criticism, we have enormous amount of potential to make things better. One of my coaches, Maylon Hanold told me once, “The idea is that you can always make good be better and make better become your best and your best can get even better.”

Most authors edit their reviews to only reflect the positives, but I am honored to share both the good and the bad with all of you:
Kirkus Review:
Nature acts as a secret source of magic and mayhem for the young protagonist in Bahn’s debut novel. At the start of the book, 11-year-old Agnes Adelaide Fordyce leads a rather average, uneventful life. Having lost her mother at an early age, she lives with her father and twin older brothers in a remote fishing village in Nova Scotia. The amount of masculine influence in her life causes her to develop a tomboyish personality, but in spite of her active lifestyle and severe dislike of dresses, she still finds tales of princesses and castles appealing. Not only does this make her more relatable to a broader spectrum of young readers – from the prissiest of girls to the most adventurous of boys – it also puts her in the perfect state of mind when she encounters Octavia, a babysitter who is more than meets the eye. Octavia invites her to become Princess of the Bering Sea, one of the Guardians of the Ancient Realm responsible for protecting the natural world. As Agnes soon finds out, though, the greatest threat to the Earth comes from power-mad kings within the Ancient Realm itself. She finds this out remarkably soon, in fact. Within 24 hours, she becomes a princess, meets numerous new allies and enemies, faces life-threatening danger and must do all she can to prevent the collapse of the natural world. The narrative and structure of the book reflect this fast pacing. While Agnes has little problem accepting everything as it comes, readers who prefer easing into magical and mysterious realms may have difficulty adjusting. The greatest trouble lies in getting a grasp on several of the novel’s secondary characters, as some of the more complex aspects of their personalities get lost in the rush. Not that any of the characters are without potential, though. All of them – and the entire story, for that matter – are intriguing enough to sweep readers away through the end.
            Bahn presents a straightforward fantasy story plenty capable of engaging young readers, especially those with limited attention spans.
Please click here to see the review published on Kirkus's website!

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Goodness: Conservation

On October 4, 1907 Theodore Roosevelt said:
The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.
Theodore Roosevelt knew in 1907 what many experts tell us now and unfortunately many people choose to ignore: natural resources are finite - there is not enough of them for everyone and there will only be less for all of us with each passing breath we take. Conservation and renewable energy is our only hope. This is not a political statement - its the mere truth.

Yesterday marked the horrific anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska. Please click here for Sierra Club's article on this sad sad sad day.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Young Middle Grade Readers, YES!

A fifth grade teacher in New Haven, CT wrote this about The Ancient Realm:
I am reading it to my class right now. We're only 2 chapters in, but when we finished reading today they begged to hear more! I read it right away and loved it! There is so much interest in fantasy right now with the Lightning Thief and Hunger Games series, but these books are just too difficult and complex for my students. I was so excited reading your book because I think it's perfect for a fifth grade read aloud.
I hear this time and time again from teachers and librarians. The current middle grade fiction trend is to publish big hard backs that adults might also might like, which often leads to dark, complicated, and difficult books. And although I do love Percy Jackson and Katniss Everdeen, these books would have been pretty challenging for me as a 5th grader. I would have ate them up in 8th, but not 4th. Publishers don't want to publish books for just 4th and 5th graders - young middle grade fiction readers. In my opinion that is a big mistake because these readers have exceptional minds and are ready to eat up great adventures. I am thrilled that my book, The Ancient Realm is helping fill the gap in the Young Middle Grade Fiction titles!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Goodness: “We have the Power to Imagine Better,” JK Rowling

In 2008 JK Rowling delivered the commencement address to Harvard’s graduating class. The whole speech is incredible. Her opinion on the benefits of failure is something I agree with and have tried to encompass in The Ancient Realm. But the passage I have chosen to share here is not about failure or her other key topic, imagination. This passage is about all of our real powers to imagine and commit to making this world better.
Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden. 
If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.  Harvard 2008 Commencement Address: The Fringe benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination, JK Rowling

Please click here for a video and text of JK Rowling’s whole speech. Regardless of whether you are a fan of Harry Potter, you will value the words of this speech.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Goodness: it's a small world

Together with his brother Richard, Robert B. Sherman wrote, “it’s a small world” - possibly my favorite song. I’ve only been to Disney World once when I was very little. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember begging to ride “it’s a small world” again and again. Robert Sherman wrote some of the greatest songs of my childhood including, “a spoonful of sugar” – a Marry Poppins classic that still brings a smile to my face. Mr. Sherman passed away on March 5th. I thought it was fitting to post his song that he hoped would inspire peace and brotherhood amongst children across the world.   

it's a world of laughter, a world or tears
its a world of hopes, its a world of fear
theres so much that we share
that its time we're aware 
its a small world after all
its a small world after all
its a small world after all
its a small world after all
its a small, small world 
There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone.
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It's a small small world
RIP Robert B. Sherman. You will be missed but your music will live on forever.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Lorax

Dr. Seuss’s birthday was on March 2. It’s only fitting today’s post features one of his most remarkable books, The Lorax:

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the tress have no tongues… I’m the Lorax who speaks for the trees which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please. But I’m also in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits. NOW … thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground, there’s not enough Truffula Fruit to go ‘round. And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies because they have gas, and no food in their tummies!”

The Guardians of Nature in The Ancient Realm speak for the Forests, the seas, the oceans, the rivers… You too have a voice – Nature gave you one of the greatest powers on Earth: the ability to speak, and with your words you can make a difference. The only question is what will you speak for?

“Catch!” calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
“It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and all his friends
may come back.” By Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1971
To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Monthly Goodness: Saying Thank you

Over the last five days over 7,500 people downloaded The Ancient Realm!
The Ancient Realm was ranked #1 in Children's Nature for ALL five days!
The Ancient Realm was ranked #1 in Children's Action and Action almost ALL five days (it never dropped out of the top 5)!

This is a HUGE feat for my little book. I want to dedicate this blog posting to all my family, friends and the Hood River Library that helped spread the word about The Ancient Realm. I might not have a big publishing firm that is backing me, but I've got a ton of supporters that have gone out of their way to spread the word. I could not have reached this incredible number of downloads without ALL of my supporters. Below I've included an outstanding book report written by Kayla - I am truly honored that Kayla choose The Ancient Realm for her book report! And I am very impressed by what she wrote.

Thank you again to all of my readers - I am truly honored to have The Ancient Realm on your shelf or in your e-reader.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle