A lot has happened here at Luminis in 2013! Here are the highlights.

Luminis Books forms a partnership with iPg – Independent Publishers Group – book distributor.

It’s official! The announcement appeared in October in Publishers Weekly that Luminis Books has joined forces with iPg out of Chicago to sell and distribute our books. We are very pleased about this partnership because of the robust sales and marketing team at iPg and their connections with all types of booksellers and library networks. From the iPg website:

“IPG is the original and second largest independent book distributor in the United States. Our innovative publisher services, aggressive marketing, and extensive reach ensure access into every imaginable channel, including gift, specialty, wholesale, and digital accounts worldwide.”

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Luminis Books authors win three Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards!

We are so pleased and proud to share that three of our 2013 young adult titles won Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for 2013!

Second Verse by Jennifer Walkup ~ Gold Medal

Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray ~ Bronze Medal

The Field by Tracy Richardson ~ Bronze Medal

Congratulations to our authors!

Luminis Books President and author, Tracy Richardson, spoke at the National Conference of Teacher’s of English (NCTE) Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) ~ Here’s her speech!

ALAN Talk – Sports Panel
I am both thrilled an honored to be here today with all of you and to be among such talented company. Thank you. I am here in a dual capacity, as Tracy Richardson, author of THE FIELD, and also as the President of Luminis Books, publisher of THE FIELD. My husband and I started Luminis Books five years ago to publish what we love, meaningful fiction for children and adults. We are a small and proudly independent publisher and have grown slowly, but steadily over the past five years.

A few people have asked me why I would publish my own novel with Luminis instead of going with another publisher. This strikes me as a really odd question, because I think that would feel like giving my child over to someone else to raise, but I think I understand what they mean. The reason is basically because Luminis Books is the kind of publisher that I want to have for my novel. We have collaborative partnerships with our authors that last long past the initial publication date. This relationship extends to all of the editorial, marketing, PR and sales staff who are dedicated to our books. There was never any question that I would go anywhere else.

In writing THE FIELD, I was influenced by four things: Dystopian YA literature, how sports can be a metaphor for life, environmental issues and science fiction.
There is so much disaster, post-apocalyptic literature out there right now. I like a good dystopian story as much as the next person, but I was starting to feel as if all we could see in the future was doom and gloom. I’d like to think that we are better than that. Certainly bad things happen and bad people exist, but why not focus on what is good? It doesn’t have to be sappy or boring, either. And it isn’t necessarily easy. So while THE FIELD deals with difficult issues, it’s primarily a hopeful tale of human potential.

The title of THE FIELD has a double meaning. The first meaning is the field of soccer.  In one sense it is the story of Eric Horton, a teenaged boy trying out for the soccer team. He’s dealing with the struggle of making the team and then making the starting goal keeper position and ultimately winning games. He’s also dealing with his best friend’s spiral into drinking and destructive behavior as a result of his parents’ divorce. The field of soccer is the thread that weaves through the story, moving it forward and driving the action. Eric’s literal battles on the soccer field parallel his off the field struggles with Will.  In that sense it is a very true to life, realistic story.

The other field is The Universal Energy Field and what Jung called the collective un-conscious and I call the collective consciousness. Eric is somehow connecting to this field while he is in the goal making saves.  He has a sense of knowing where the ball is going to go that seems to be more than just athletic ability or instinct. His path of discovering what this means to him mirrors the action on the soccer field. So there is a science fiction element to the book, but you know what I’m talking about. We all experience it. The hunch that turns out to be true, running into a friend that you were just thinking about, the answer to a question you were pondering popping into your head or an eerily prophetic dream. I wanted to tell a story about a regular person, a normal person, who was having these types of experiences. Most of the YA paranormal stories that I read are about teens who are extra-ordinary in some way. They have special powers that no one else possesses. In The Field, Eric is an ordinary high school soccer player who is experiencing something more.

Environmental issues play an important role in my writing as well. I have a degree in biology and while I didn’t pursue science as a career, I am still very influenced by it. The earth is our home and I believe that we should take care of her. We live in a throw-away culture, not thinking about how our plastic bottles or lawn fertilizer will affect the world around us. I think the time is fast approaching when we’ll have to take notice. Really, it’s already here. In The Field I focus on so-called ‘Clean Coal’ and to some extent nuclear energy and compare them to other truly clean energy sources such as wind or solar and then I take it a step further. What if The Universal Energy Field is a source of energy that we can tap into? How would we do it? What is it? I don’t mean to claim that I have the answers, but there are brilliant scientists who are trying to find those answers. I believe that there is much more in the Universe than we perceive or even imagine.

The soccer focus came naturally. Both my husband and son are soccer goal keepers. Our son is still playing club soccer in college and my husband has coached travel and high school soccer for years. You could say that I am a soccer mom, but I wish you wouldn’t. Really. Even though I do have a van. And live in the suburbs. I did actually play one season of women’s league soccer myself, but after being drilled in the face with a ball and knocked completely off my feet, I was glad to discover that I was pregnant and could no longer play. (Okay, it was a long time ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.)

Exploring all of these ideas through the vehicle of story presents a wonderful opportunity. In fiction, I can make things up, which is very cool, but I can also present new ideas in a way that is more accessible and approachable. THE  FIELD is ultimately about connections. Between friends and families;  between humanity and the environment and in the end, the energy that connects us all. I hope that my books allow people to look beyond what they think they know is true, and, hopefully, give them a really good story to enjoy while they’re doing it.

Interview with Laurie Gray, author of MAYBE I WILL

maybeIwill6frnt

1. Sandy uses two very different coping strategies; alcohol abuse and Tae Kwando.  Why did you choose these and how do they reflect on Sandy’s ‘character,’ which is a theme in the book?

As human beings we all have to deal with traumatic events at some point in our lives. We can try to escape our feelings or we can figure out how to face them. For Sandy, alcohol is an escape while taekwondo is a way to stay physically and mentally present in the moment in a way that allows the healing process to begin. I chose alcohol because it is by far the most commonly abused substance by both teens and adults. Because it’s legal for adults, teens have a sense that it is safe. This misconception that alcohol won’t hurt you only makes it more dangerous. Working as a prosecutor in juvenile court and in our local drug court, I saw alcohol destroy many lives. It’s not just about becoming an alcoholic. Sandy doesn’t become an alcoholic. Abusing alcohol can cause death (alcohol poisoning), act as a gateway drug, and lower people’s inhibitions enough for them to make really bad choices they wouldn’t even consider if they were sober.
I chose taekwondo as a positive coping strategy because I’ve spent many hours over the past five years watching my daughter (now 11) progress through the ranks to earn her second-degree blackbelt. I have been so impressed with all of the instructors and the supportive community created by Penny Beddow-Wolf, the owner of Coventry Taekwondo in Fort Wayne where my daughter attends. In addition to the physical aspects of the sport (balance, coordination, strength and endurance), my daughter has developed confidence and perseverance. She has learned to set goals and to work toward achieving them. But what I really emphasize in the book is how the studio feels like a safe, friendly, and nurturing place the moment you walk in. It’s exactly what kids need whether they’re recovering from a devastating event like Sandy or just dealing with the normal angst of growing up.
As far as character goes, I would hope that kids realize they don’t have to let any single event or series of bad choices define them.  Sandy lies and steals to get alcohol, but by the end of the book, I don’t think most people would say Sandy is just a good-for-nothing liar and thief. Sandy’s real character traits are those that we see at both the beginning and the end of the book. Sandy is intelligent, resourceful, courageous, and creative.
 
 

  1. The book jacket copy says, “It’s about parents and teachers, police officers and counselors—all the people who are supposed to help you, but who may not even believe you.” This is one of the toughest challenges Sandy faces. Even the adults who care about Sandy can’t or won’t or aren’t always able to help. Would you discuss why adults in the book are portrayed in this way?

Because as much as they’d like to, adults can solve kids’ problems for them. There are really only two people in the book who don’t believe Sandy about what happened—The police detective and Cassie. Cassie’s refusal to believe what happened is far more devastating to Sandy than what the police detective does or doesn’t believe. Most of the adults really do believe Sandy. Certainly Sandy’s parents and counselor believe Sandy. Even the district attorney, who gets to decide what crimes will be prosecuted, believes Sandy. He just knows that without physical evidence to corroborate Sandy’s testimony, there’s not enough to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. A good defense attorney (like Mrs. Peareson) would destroy Sandy’s credibility in cross-examination, while Aaron as the defendant would be presumed innocent. As long as he exercised his right to remain silent, the jury would never get to know anything about Aaron’s credibility and questionable conduct in other situations.
One of the reasons I made Mrs. Peareson a defense attorney was to emphasize that there really isn’t much Sandy’s parents can do to make the legal system work for Sandy or bring Aaron to justice. If Sandy’s parents were to focus on trying to make Aaron pay, they would probably only prolong and increase Sandy’s suffering. In my opinion, Sandy’s parents do everything they can do, and do it very well. They notice the changes in Sandy’s behavior and are persistent in trying to get to the bottom of it, following through, and getting Sandy professional help as needed. As a parent myself, I would hope that my child knows she can tell me anything, but as a professional, I know that even kids with the most supportive and loving parents are often reluctant to talk about what’s really going on. It’s human nature to hope that if we pretend something didn’t happen, it will all just go away.  
 
 

  1.  What do you think about comments reviewers are making about Sandy’s ‘non-gender?’ Some love it, some have trouble with it, and one even wished that Sandy was a boy! How do you think that reflects on what you were trying to accomplish?

Sandy is a boy. And Sandy is a girl. I have never seen Sandy as “non-gendered.” Instead, I tried to create a character that is so human as to embrace both genders fully and equally. I think we’re so accustomed to gender stereotypes and the way that we judge people based on their gender, that it really can feel disconcerting not to know. It matters because our expectations for Sandy and our judgment of Sandy’s conduct are unconsciously controlled by stereotypes that are so deeply ingrained that we don’t even notice them. To engage fully in the story as a reader, you have to picture Sandy as male or female. Readers who jump back and forth or approach it as a mystery to be solved are likely to feel frustrated and attribute this to just about any other aspect of the book, from character development and dialogue to plot and the open ending that doesn’t tie everything up into a pretty package.
As a society, we’re so accustomed to gender bias that we feel some critical element must be missing when it’s not there. I’m not saying my writing is perfect. Far from it. I’ll spend my lifetime experimenting with and honing my craft. But I do think that there’s at least a hint of discomfort with my refusal to identify Sandy’s gender behind many of the comments I’m seeing. To me, that’s a good thing. It means I’m encouraging readers to move outside their comfort level and think about things in a new way. It doesn’t matter to me whether the reader reads the book with Sandy as male or female or whether that assumption comes consciously or unconsciously. My hope is that after reading the book one way, there will be readers who are willing to go back and read it the other, just to see for themselves if they feel differently about anything.

All of us at Luminis Books wish all of you a happy and safe Holiday Season!

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