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You can read more about our company at www.capstonepub.com.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Visual Change

For the past several years, I’ve presented at the Young Authors, Young Artists Conference in Rochester, MN. The event, sponsored by the Southeast Service Cooperative, is a gathering of 800 talented, energetic, and artistic fourth through sixth graders from schools in southeastern Minnesota. My presentation, “Creating Graphic Novels,” discusses the steps involved in creating graphic stories.

Initially, when the event was called the Southeast Young Writers Conference, my presentation was about poetry. After I wrote my first graphic novel, Matthew Henson: Arctic Explorer, on the cusp of the recent graphic novel boom, I switched to my current presentation. After all, these students are the same age as I was when I first delved into comics. I brought in samples of each step involved in the creation of a graphic novel, from my outline and script to the storyboards, inks, and final colors, and discussed the reasons and importance of each of these steps. And I always ended the presentation with an activity where we’d create and share
a one-page comic. At first, few students really understood what a graphic novel was, and usually only a handful hands would raise when asked if they read graphic novels, but the final activity was always a hit.

A lot has changed, visually, over the years. I now show art from my Eek and Ack books. The name of the conference has evolved to include “Young Artists”, and there are nearly as many art sessions as there are writing ones. In each of my eight presentations, nearly all the students raised theirs hands when asked if they read graphic novels. Young readers get the idea of telling a story through pictures, and understand the concept of sequential art. And they can’t get enough. They’re also excited to create their own comic stories and learn the art of storytelling through illustrations. During my most recent presentations, I was continually asked, “Is it time to draw yet?” “Can we start drawing now?”

It thrills me, as an author of graphic novels, knowing that they are not only getting kids more excited about reading, but they are also animating their creative talents. Graphic novels can cultivate reading skills as well as energize artistic ones.

--Blake A. Hoena
Production Manager, Stone Arch Books
and author of the Eek and Ack series

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Graphic Novels in New York City (and your library)

Are you still having trouble getting your administration behind your graphic novel purchases? We know that not everyone understands why and how graphic novels are revolutionizing reading. But here’s more ammunition if you need help convincing the powers-that-be: the New York City Department of Education has launched a new program focusing on graphic novels. (Check out the SLJ article here.)

Our graphic novels even have curriculum hooks, like our Graphic Flash books, fiction based on major events in American History, and our Graphic Revolve, which retell the world’s best stories in graphic novel form. Science classes will love Buzz Beaker (use any of the Buzz books to get kids fired up for science fairs), and units on outer space will be brightened up by a visit from Eek and Ack, two twins from the Great Goo Galaxy.

See? Graphic novels aren’t such a stretch after all. New York City knows it, and soon, your school will too.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How Books Get Their Names

We’ve finished up our books for Fall ‘08. Proofs (the last final look at the pages, so we can double-check for errors) are rolling in, and soon we’ll see the first finished copies of our books. But that doesn’t mean we have time to relax and slow down. We’re already moving on to our Spring ‘09 list!

Next week, the entire staff will meet to talk about titles for each book that we'll publish in Spring ‘09. First, the editors meet to talk about the book’s plot and brainstorm initial title ideas. Then we run it by the large group. At Stone Arch, it’s important to us to get feedback from multiple staff members before we decide on a title for a book. We know that titles matter when librarians are ordering books, so we try to get as much information about the book into the title as we can. We also want kids to find the titles appealing, so we try to use kid-friendly words. And finally, we want unique titles, so once we’ve come up with a list of titles for our books, we search for other books with those titles. If we find a match, we start over!

Here’s a fun exercise for your classroom or library: Read the class a new story—try reading one of our Graphic Sparks books, using tape to cover up the title as you’re reading. Then ask them to come up with a title for the story. They can create covers for their newly titled books, too. Try the same exercise with a story they already know (one of our Graphic Revolve books would be perfect for that exercise). The results might be surprising!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Staff Spotlight: Blake Hoena

Name: Blake Hoena

Occupation/role at Stone Arch:
Production Manager — basically, I help coordinate the process of creating books from contracting authors and illustrators to receiving bound books from the printer vendors, and schedule all the many steps in between.

Years at Stone Arch:
Nearly three years, but I was at Capstone Press for seven years before joining the staff at Stone Arch.

Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin (I’m the staff cheese head), and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

What's your favorite SAB book?
Right now (since it’s always the new books that get me stoked) my favorites are our Zinc Alloy books: Superzero and Revealed (coming out in August). They have some cool, retro-looking art and the quirky humor pokes some jabs at the whole superhero thing.

What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
In fifth grade, the RIF truck stopped by Emerson Elementary in Stevens Point, WI (my hometown), and I picked out The Hobbit, mostly because of the bright orange cover. Seriously! I had read a lot before that, but The Hobbit was my first “real” novel and the first fantasy story I had read. Reading about elves and dwarfs and dragons was the magic that sparked my interest in writing.

What were you like as an elementary/middle-school student?
I was a nerd then just like I am now, and as it was in school, my life is still all about books (I even own boxes of comics), writing, and computers. I’ve been lucky that my adolescent interests have turned into a career.

What's your favorite thing to do in your free time? Outside of reading and writing, which would be the obvious choices, it’s disc golf. I’m not really that good, but with the weather thawing here in MN, I’m gearing up to get out there and toss a few Frisbees into the woods.

Tell us a memorable Stone Arch Books moment from the past year.
Okay, this isn’t Stone Arch specific, but it involves one of our books. Actually, one of the books I wrote: Ooze Slingers from Outer Space. I was reading it to a friend’s son, and at the point where Ack is about to eat a snottlebug, he gives me this sly, knowing look that says he got the joke. That was quite a thrill.

What’s the best part of your job?
Seeing the books, bound and ready for eager readers, after all the hard work that’s gone into creating them. It’s part relief and part jubilation.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
The pace. We always have something new and exciting in the works, when one set of books is down we have to get cranking on the next set, and with our creative staff ideas are buzzing about. It can get quite dizzying at times, yet the energy behind it all is invigorating.

This is the fourth post in a multi-part series that spotlights the members of the Stone Arch Books staff. Drawing of Blake Hoena by Brann Garvey.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sooner (or Later) Kids Love Books!

Kids are wild about reading down in the Sooner State. I recently returned from a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma where I spoke at the Young Author’s Conference, the Tulsa Reading Council, and made a few school visits. On Saturday, the young authors surprised me. Whether in first grade or fifth grade, they all liked scary stories! And they all loved graphic novels. I showed the artwork and read from my Library of Doom series. They wanted more! After the workshops, the conference sold books written by the participating authors. Kids snapped up 5 or 6 books apiece of the Doom books. “Which one’s the scariest?” they would ask.

On Monday night, before the Reading Council dinner, I spoke with a number of educators and librarians whose students had been at the conference Saturday. One woman told me that one of her boys, Justin, who was not a reader at all, had his nose buried in a book at the back of her class. It was one of the Library of Doom books, The Book That Dripped Blood. He was supposed to be writing in his journal. So when the teacher walked over to his desk to remind him, Justin looked up, pleading, and said, “But I just have to finish this first!” And she let him.

As an author, that’s about the best praise I can get—the knowledge that my books have done just what I (and the rest of the staff at Stone Arch) intended them to. They’re not just creating spooky atmospheres—they’re creating environments of reading success.

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kids Against Hunger

This season, we worked on a book about a really special organization, Kids Against Hunger. Kids Against Hunger (KAH), which works to eliminate starvation worldwide, was featured on the Minneapolis ABC affiliate last night (May 11). You can watch the story here. In this powerful, moving segment, Emmy Award-winning reporter Jason Davis travels to a KAH feeding site in Haiti with KAH founder Richard Proudfit and the director of KAH's Mankato, MN division, Tim Stromer.

Stone Arch Books will publish Kids Against Hunger in Fall ‘08. The book, part of our “We Are Heroes” series, is one of six new books that focus on kids making a difference in their communities. Stone Arch Books will donate the profits from the sale of our Kids Against Hunger book to the organization.

Keep an eye on our website and this blog for more information. We’ll tell you more about our Kids Against Hunger book and the other books in the "We Are Heroes" series when the books are available in August.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


We’re at the International Reading Association’s national conference in Atlanta this week! Stop by the Red Brick Learning booth (#2817) to see the new products we’re working on with Red Brick Learning.

We’re launching our new Reader’s Theater at IRA. We are also doing a special punch card. Attendees can hear about our four featured products (one of which is Reader’s Theater) and enter to win a complete set of products of their choosing. We hope we’ll see you there!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Our SUPER news

It's been incredibly hard to not tell everyone we know this news, but now we can: Stone Arch Books and DC Comics are teaming up!

Here's the press release. We're so excited!

DC Comics, Stone Arch Books Announce New & Easy Super Hero Chapter Books

DC Comics and Stone Arch Books are teaming up with a new set of easy chapter books based around DC Comics’ iconic characters Batman and Superman. The new DC Super Heroes will premiere with 12 titles in Spring 2009.

The full offering will include a total of 48 titles released over four seasons. The second season will add Wonder Woman, the world’s most famous female super hero.

“We are excited to provide young readers with books that will be appropriate for our safety and readability concerns, but will also stay consistent with the dynamic storytelling and thrilling characters that have made the DC super heroes so popular,” says Heather Kindseth, Stone Arch Creative Director.

“The books will showcase brand-new, original stories featuring popular DC Comics characters,” says Michael Dahl, Stone Arch Editorial Director. “The stories will be appealing to both new readers and those already fans of the super heroes.”

The books will be illustrated by veteran DC Comics artists. Stone Arch will handle development, design, and distribution to the school and public library markets.

“These easy chapter books are just one more way to hook a reluctant or struggling reader,” says Joan Berge, President of Stone Arch Books. “The DC characters are well-known and of high interest to the striving young reader, and we hope they will spark a growing interest in reading."

About Stone Arch Books
Stone Arch Books publishes safe graphic novels and chapter books for the striving reader. Stone Arch is part of the Capstone Publishers group based in Mankato, MN, with offices in Bloomington, MN and San Diego, CA. Stone Arch Books' Web site is located at www.stonearchbooks.com.

About DC Comics
DC Comics, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, is the largest English-language publisher of comics in the world and home to such iconic characters as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Sandman. These DC super heroes and others have starred in comic books, movies, television series (both animated and live-action) and cyberspace, thrilling audiences of all ages for generations. DC Comics’ Web site is located at www.dccomics.com.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Books kids fight for.

Librarians and teachers, warn your principals! We’ve heard more than one report lately of renegade groups of students refusing to leave their principals’ offices unless the administrations agree to fund the purchase of the entire Stone Arch Books catalog. We’re working on our Fall 2008 catalog now, so there’s not much time before there’s a whole new collection of books that students will fight for!

In the meantime, you can direct your kids to www.stonearchbooks.com (where, if you’re not currently receiving our catalog, you can also sign up to get on our mailing list). Consider this your fair warning—let that catalog (or any of our high-interest, kid-friendly books) slip into your students’ hands, and you can’t be held responsible for the results!

We love hearing anecdotes about kid reactions to our books—please comment if you have any! And if your students need a better way to communicate their feelings about books than storming administration offices, we’re always looking for kid reviewers—click here for more information.