Amanda Cockrell

Selected Works

Young Adult Novel
Saints and soldiers and the Untied Church of Dog
Novels
The Hollywood blacklist and a delayed funeral
Historical novel of a Roman legion in Britain
The Horse Catchers trilogy
Mythological novel of the coming of the horse to the American Southwest
Volume 2 in The Horse Catchers trilogy
Volume 3 in The Horse Catchers trilogy
The Deer Dancers trilogy
Mythological novel of the beginning of art
Volume 2 in The Deer Dancers trilogy
Volume 3 in The Deer Dancers trilogy
Children's books
By my mother, Marian Cockrell, the story of an enchanted castle on the edge of Fairyland

What We Keep

Turning the Sun Around

December 30, 2013

Tags: Hollins, children's books

Among the pleasures of the holidays, we found candy and poems on our doors in the Hollins English department, just before the students left, offerings from someone unknown who nevertheless knows that a poem and a chocolate bar are just what you need to grade those last three exams.

We are making every effort to turn the sun around, lighting up trees and houses, but as soon as the lights come down I will start dreaming of spring, and especially of summer, when the grad students come back. Summer’s pleasures are many and sometimes surprising. Last summer the video for the annual student conference featured a cameo by Neil Gaiman, which an enterprising crew of grad students talked him into by lurking at the end of the book signing line at the Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. That conference rolls around again in March and we are already packing our bags for this year’s event as there are always a score or so of Hollins students and faculty in attendance.

Come summer we will have our writer in residence, the wonderful National Book Award-winning Han Nolan (and in 2015 Terri Windling!) who will read student manuscripts and give individual sage advice. Accompanied by our scholar in residence, the learned but compassionate Lisa Rowe Fraustino, who will read students’ scholarly work and give advice on turning that term paper into a conference submission or that conference paper into a journal submission. And for the artists and art-lovers, Judy Schachner, creator of Skippyjon Jones, will lecture and give a workshop.

Outside of academics, we look forward to the wild things: families of rabbits romping on Front Quad and the ducks who sometimes nest outside the faculty lounge in Turner. The great blue heron who fishes in the creek. And if you hang about on the bridge between campus and the student apartments you might see Ratty in the water. So far we haven’t spotted a boat or a picnic basket, but we are sure they are there.

Down South

October 16, 2013

Tags: children's books, Hollins, Birmingham

A fine weekend in Birmingham with the Southern Breeze SCBWI for their Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference.

My mother was from Birmingham and my childhood summers were spent there with my mom, grandparents, and a large cast of aunts, uncles, and cousins, acquiring a Southern accent and a loathing for grits. My grandmother’s front lawn had tree wells, rock-lined columns surrounding the tall pines that had been there when the house was built and the ground leveled. We regularly lost badminton birds down them and had to crawl gingerly down after them, batting spiders from our hair. We slept in one of the two spare bedrooms (my mother and my aunt in the other) in an assortment of cots, a double bed, and a youth bed that still had rails on it, arguing about who got to sleep next to the fan (no air conditioning) and listening to the squirrels bowl acorns up and down the attic floor above us. One summer we packed up the Arkansas cousins and the Mobile cousins and went to Panama City for a week, probably just to get us all out of my grandmother’s hair. My cousin Lucy, the eldest of the lot, was given the job of letting us get in her hair instead. As a teenager I drove my grandmother in her ancient black and aqua Plymouth from her house to the grocery store in English Village every day and was rewarded with limeade from the drugstore.

I wish I had had the time to drive by and see that house again. I only spent one month a year there, but I remember it as well as the house I grew up in.

This trip to Birmingham, I gave a workshop on “Is an MFA for You?” and obviously hope it is. Four of our Hollins Children’s Literature graduates were conference participants, including the SCBWI regional advisor, the redoubtable Claudia Pearson, who not only did a lot of the conference organizing (and introduced me to shopgoodwill.com, to my husband’s dismay) but hosted the faculty and volunteers at her house for dinner afterward, and sent me on the road with coffee in the morning.

If you want to write for children or teens, there is no more supportive organization of writers. You’ll find them at scbwi.org and be very glad you did. And for anyone contemplating an MFA in writing for children, the text of my talk is here:
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The bedridden heroine

September 26, 2013

Tags: children's books, sick in bed

Being bedridden in Victorian fiction always sounds so lovely – sitting piled against lovely pillows in a lovely lacy bedjacket while people bring you cups of tea and soft boiled eggs and sit at your feet for advice on how they should conduct their lives. I could get into that. It is definitely not the same as being in bed because you are too sick to get up and stagger around. The Victorian heroine has a small fluffy dog with a pink ribbon to keep her company. I have three pugs who all snore and hog the pillows. The cats arrive too, in the hope that you have a fever and are warmer than usual.

The bedridden heroine is a variant of the woman known as “the angel in the house” who was just too good to be true, and whose little dog didn’t snore. She has her origins in a mid-nineteenth century poem by Coventry Patmore about the ideal woman whose only wish is to please her husband. As Virginia Woolf later said of her, she “was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed daily. If there was a chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it...”

Children’s Literature scholars know her as Katy in What Katy Did, or Pollyanna who when her legs are paralyzed is cheerful that they are at least still there. And then there’s Beth in Little Women. We all wept over Beth and promised to grow up to be just as good and kind as she was, if at all possible, which it wasn’t.

An incentive to get up and out of bed. If I turned into her my husband would assume that goblins had taken me and left a changeling.

Next summer at Hollins

September 3, 2013

Tags: Hollins, children's books

Already in planning mode for next summer at Hollins! The wonderful Han Nolan will be returning as Writer in Residence.

Han is the winner of the National Book Award for her young adult novel Dancing on the Edge, and author of other acclaimed novels for young adults, including Send Me Down a Miracle (a National Book Award nominee), If I Should Die Before I Wake, A Face in Every Window, Born Blue, When We Were Saints, A Summer of Kings, Crazy, and Pregnant Pause. She’ll meet individually with students to read their manuscripts and give feedback and critique.

We will also have a Scholar in Residence again this year. The equally wonderful Lisa Rowe Fraustino, wearing her scholarly persona (as opposed to her novelist alter ego) will meet with students, read their scholarly papers and give advice on turning those into polished conference or journal submissions.

Lisa is associate professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University and has a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Her newest book, the middle-grade novel The Hole in the Wall, won the 2010 Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature. She is a past president of the Children’s Literature Association, and is also the author of I Walk in Dread: The Diary of Deliverance Trembley, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials; The Hickory Chair; and Ash. As Lisa Meunier she is the author of the poetry chapbook Hitching to Istanbul.

Books as decoration

August 19, 2013

Tags: children's books

Everyone has their guilty pleasure. Well, if you don’t, you should have. Mine is interior decorating magazines, particularly of the “what you can make with that thing you found at the flea market” variety. It’s cheaper than shoes and it keeps me off the streets, although my husband runs the risk of another fine idea about converting the kitchen window seat to a storage cupboard. Lately though, being a bookish type person, I feel the need to express Deep Disapproval over the idea of using books as decoration. Choosing and shelving them by their jacket color, for instance. Or shelving them with the spines facing in so “the marvelous texture of the pages can show.” Shelving books spine inward or by color makes a statement that is probably not the statement the designer is aiming for. This statement says, “You are an idiot who does not read books. Otherwise you would shelve them so you could find what you are looking for.”

I’m not against using books that are not particularly rare or valuable to make art with. My toaster lizard (see photo) sits on two Reader’s Digest volumes and a book by Dan Quayle. But my other gripe with books as decoration, as long as I am on my soapbox, is taking apart old children’s books that are in perfectly good shape. As someone who makes her living with children’s books, the fact that someone would rather decorate a lampshade with pages from Alice in Wonderland than read it makes me suspect that person was deprived of suitable reading in her own youth and this is the tragic result. Her children will grow up obsessed with sticking clichés on their walls with craft shop lettering instead of what they ought to be obsessed with, which is when is the next book in Ian MacDonald’s Planesrunner series coming out?

Stacking tchochkes on books to make “tablescapes” falls in the same general category. Yes, you can get at the book if you actually want to read it, but you can’t get at your bedside table because it is artfully draped with a scrap of old lace, two spineless molting books with marvelous texture, the spigot from an outdoor faucet, and a rusty baking soda can from 1935.

And now I have to go read Romantic Homes, which just arrived today, so I can disapprove of something else and find that piece on pressing flowers. I have some Queen Anne’s Lace and the OED all ready.






























Chocolate novios for Day of the Dead


Noon Whistle at the Lizard Works

Back yard bottle tree



The last hurrah


Delia Sherman and Ruth Sanderson, summer Children's Lit faculty

Children's Lit faculty Brian Attebery and Ellen Kushner at the end-of-term party