I have been researching Carl Laemmle's life for several years now and have found out some incredible things about my family. This is the gist of the documentary I am in the process of developing. Thank you to all the creative people who are helping me realize my dream of becoming a filmmaker and an expert in my own personal family history!
In addition for writing and producing, I also am a collage artist. Right now, I am happy to say there is a show of my art up at the Laemmle NoHo 7 Theater in North Hollywood. See my art at www.deborahfletcherblum.com.
Tish Laemmle curated, and my collages hang next to Nancy Nemory's (she's the ex-daughter in-law of the famous Leonard Nemoy.)
Here is one of the collages that the Laemmles - Greg and Tish - my second cousins had in their home for about twelve years. It is called, appropriately: "HOME" and it includes a still promotional image from the Universal Film, produced by Carl Laemmle, called "The Mummy," a classic film if there ever was one - of course there have been remakes, but there is none like the original. Part were shot in the Cairo Museum. The collage also included a drawing I did at age twelve of my ideal home, and other images that evoke home to me. One (in the lower right) is a photo I took on my travels of an interesting home. Every residence is someone's home. A tree is a home to a bird. There is a poem or a picture book in this post too,evidently!
If you are in LA this summer, stop by the Laemmle NoHo 7 and check out my artwork. Thanks!
LAURISA WHITE REYESis here today to talk about her new middle grade novel THE STORYTELLERS
1) Can you give us an update on what is happening with this book?Was it a surprise to get the Spark Award?
Thank you so much, Deborah! I entered the Spark Award competition because it was free and I figured I had nothing to lose by trying, but I didn't in a million years think I had a chance of winning. The announcement came as a huge shock.
Since The Storytellers is self-published, promotion and marketing are a bit of a challenge. My goal was to tell a story I felt needed to be told, a story that could make a difference. I'm hoping that by receiving the Spark Award, a few more people will read it than might have otherwise.
To help spread the word about The Storytellers and my other books, I am developing an email list for my online newsletter. New subscribers receive a free story and are the first two know about my new releases. The sign up form is here for anyone who is interested: http://eepurl.com/6jz9b. Soon I'll be sending out a special announcement about my latest book, The Kids' Guide to Writing Fiction. (And I never share my subscriber list with anyone.)
2) Can you introduce us to the story of The Storytellers?
Set in the early 1990s, 12-year-old Elena Barrios' father has AIDS. Rather than face certain ridicule and ostracism, Elena tells her friends anything but the truth, fabricating stories about him being a writer and researcher. But the reality is Elena resents her father’s illness and can’t face the fact that he is dying.
3) What made you want to write this story?
Twenty-two years ago I worked in an AIDS clinic, before effective treatments had been fully developed and made available. At the time, AIDS was a death sentence. It also carried a very negative stigma. AIDS victims were often ostracized from society. But working in that clinic, I saw the suffering and loss etched on human faces--men and women, adults and children. I carried the memory of their pain for more than a decade, knowing that someday I needed to tell their story. Once I finally started writing it, it took nearly ten years and more than a dozen drafts to complete.
I nearly gave up on The Storytellers many times. But a few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Grey and Salt to the Sea. She urged me to write stories that matter, and her message motivated me to keep working on it.
3) Wow! What were some of the problems you encountered?
The biggest problem was trying to sell it. I collected more rejections than I care to admit. One agent even told me that AIDS and discrimination in the 90s were not applicable to today's kids. In other words, The Storytellers didn't fit in the traditional marketplace. Luckily, a year earlier I founded Skyrocket Press, a cooperative publishing venture for authors who want to self-publish but don't feel comfortable going it alone. It began when a lifelong friend of mine lost her husband to a sudden illness. She is a brilliant writer but had never had the opportunity to pursue publication. So I edited and published a collection of her short stories in her husband's honor. Martian Goods & Other Stories became the first of what has become a growing list of top quality books produced by Skyrocket Press, several of which are written by traditionally published authors. When they decided to self-publish, Skyrocket Press connected them with professional editors and designers to help create the best quality books possible. I used those same resources to publish The Storytellers.
4) Who is the audience for this book?
It's written for middle grade readers aged 10-14. However, the story appeals equally to adults, especially because many of us can relate to the era in which this story is set. Some of my friends lost family members to AIDS in the 90s, so I think the story is suited for young and old alike. Here's what reviewers have been saying about The Storytellers:
"This book left me in tears...The story line is unique and heart wrenching. I love this book."
"Such an amazing book!!! "
"I'd forgotten was it felt like to cry over a book."
5) I cried when I read it! How can people get a copy?
6) Any other things you'd like to tell us about THE STORYTELLERS? It is a powerful book that packs a punch. It is a story that need to be told. I love the references to CHARLOTTE'S WEB.
I have to mention my cover artist, Jessica Barnes. I had a vague idea of how I wanted the cover for The Storytellers to look, but I haven't got a drop of artistic talent. So I searched for an experienced silhouette artist and found Jessica through her Esty shop, iillume. I think she did a marvelous job.
This is a particularly important issue for me--book covers. When I was the editor-in-chief of Middle Shelf Magazine, I saw literally thousands of children's books, both traditionally and self-published. Unfortunately, most of the self-published books fell far short when it came to creating a top notch cover. No matter how great a story is, if the cover is poorly executed, no one will want read read it. That's why it was vital to find the right cover artist for my book and why Skyrocket Press works so hard with self-published authors to create high quality books. I think that Jessica Barnes deserves as much recognition for The Storytellers as I do.
I agree. I love the cover!!! Your covers are always great, but this one really looks spectacular. It reminds me of one of my paintings! (LOL)
My work space is a small corner in my quiet apartment above Hollywood.
You may be able to see a pencil drawing on the wall.
Lizzie's life is turned upside down when she moves to Kenya with her family and must overcome fears of wild animals and find friends in her new home. She discovers Kenya's poaching problem, and wants to help.
Lizzie is Caucasian, but that's not a problem for her. She must adjust to a whole new culture. She's a fish out of water. And that't not easy for an eleven year old from Bethesda, Maryland!
I hope this story inspires readers of all races and religions and nationalities to visit Kenya and get involving in helping.