Anna Questerly

Anna Questerly
Bookseller and bibliophile turned author, Anna Questerly writes medieval fiction and fairy tales for smart kids and young hearts. For adults, she creates Utopian fantasy as A.J. Questerly.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Novelist's Nightmare

Previously posted on Starbound Lover's Blog:

I wish the following story was fiction. I’d hoped it was no more than a dystopian vision of the future of the United States of America. Then, I wanted it to be a publicity stunt for the author to sell more books. Unfortunately, it was none of those. This is what it’s come to and it paints a terrifying picture for every writer.

On September 1, 2014, The Atlantic published an article titled, “In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment for a Novelist.” For anyone who reads or writes, it’s worth taking a look at, and includes links to the disturbing original reports from local media. For now, let me just give you the highlights.
A twenty-three year old Language Arts teacher has been ‘disappeared’. He was never arrested, no charges have been filed, he’s not allowed to leave, and the police will not reveal his location. Before he was spirited away, he was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and his home was searched for weapons and explosives – none were found.


Because he self-published a book depicting the most tragic school shooting to ever happen – 900 years in the future. That’s right, he wrote a sci-fi story someone in the Sherriff’s Department and on the School Board, didn’t like and poof he’s gone. No charges. No trial. No … what was it called? Oh, yeah, that pesky little right guaranteed to every American Citizen – habeas corpus.

If that doesn’t send a shiver through your muse, the spin by the local media will. You see, he used an alias on the cover of his bookNot a pen name, pseudonym or nom de plume: an alias, as in “using a false name with the intent to conceal one’s identity in performance of a criminal act”. In addition, his photo is being circulated around the community, through law enforcement circles, and the throughout the school system to make everyone aware that he is prohibited from being on school grounds.

So basically, because he wrote a book, his life is ruined. When he’s released from wherever he’s being held, he’ll probably have a hard time finding another teaching position, (at this time, he’s been placed on administrative leave). I’m sure his neighbors think he’s a psycho by now. I can only imagine what must be going through the minds of his friends, family, and students. The one bright spot is that the article in The Atlantic includes a link to his book on Amazon, and apparently the news coverage has increased the sale of his books. Good thing: if he ever gets a trial, he’ll probably need those royalties to pay legal expenses.

After reading this, I’m hesitant to publish my newest book, Pangaea. There’s sure to be someone in law enforcement who will take issue with my utopian vision of a world without gods, government, or gold. Will police raid my home, search through my things, and then lock me up in a psych ward for writing it?

I’m hoping there is more to this story. At least, some type of threat or credible reason to detain this man besides the fact that, like most writers,  he has an overactive imagination. Otherwise, this does not bode well for the future of fiction.

I’m also surprised, I’m not seeing this play out more on social media. I posted a link to the story on my Facebook page, but haven’t seen anything else about it. Coverage is also glaringly absent from major news media, and I find that a bit disconcerting.

As writers and readers of sci-fi and fantasy, I think we should all keep a close eye on this story and see how it plays out. Maybe I’m making too much of it? I’d be interested in reading your comments.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Questerly's Quest

Librarians and teachers, I need your help to stop young readers from being penalized for reading my books.
Let me take a moment to explain.

·         A while ago, I received a copy of a letter written by the mother of one of my young readers. Ms. G. is a Director of Elementary Education for one of Arizona’s school districts. She’d read my book with her nine year old son and they loved it. They were both disappointed to find out her son would receive no AR (Accelerated Reader)point credit for reading The Minstrel’s Tale. Ms. G. wrote to Renaissance Learning Center, the company who makes up the quizzes and assigns AR points to books, and requested they assign points to The Minstrel’s Tale. I was thrilled to learn she’d done that.

·         I checked Renaissance Learning’s website and followed their directions to mail them two copies of each of my books to request a review. Three days after I mailed the package, I learned – as part of the new Common Core Standards – that my book, The Minstrel’s Tale, had been listed along with about nine other books as additional reading for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students studying medieval history. Here’s the link:

Imagine, my book, listed with Beowolf!
And a book by one of my favorite children’s authors, Mary Pope Osborn!
And one of the books I used for my research (which is an excellent way to learn about the time period), The Time Traveler’s Guide to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer.
I am beyond delighted to be listed in the company of each of them.

·         At once, I sent an email to Renaissance Learning Center, along with a link to the site where I found the information, and my contact information.

·         They called me. They’d received my books, but wouldn’t be able to develop a quiz for them. The woman explained that it takes time to produce the quizzes and assign the point value. She went on to tell me, they really need to expend their limited resources on quizzes for books, which are most likely going to be purchased by libraries and bookstores. Therefore, their policy was to provide quizzes for books which have already been reviewed by the School Library Journal.

·         What she explained made sense and I told her I understood, but asked if the recommendation for Common Core might mean The Minstrel’s Tale would be more likely to be read by students. She agreed it might make a difference, but that they wouldn’t be able to do my book unless it was reviewed by the School Library Journal.

·         I thanked her for taking the time to call, and then checked on the process of getting my books reviewed by School Library Journal. No dice; they only review books by major publishers, and only review recently published books. My book was already four years old and it was self-published.

·         I called Renaissance Learning back and made my request again. Could they make an exception? She told me there was one other way I could try to get points for my books. Which brings me to why you’re reading this, and why I’m asking for your help.

·         Renaissance Learning will keep my books for two years. If, during that time, enough teachers and librarians from across the country request my books on the AR website, they’ll do the quizzes.

·         I’m asking – no, let’s make that begging – that you’ll share this link with as many teachers and librarians as you know. Please? I realize I’m battling bureaucracy and challenging conformity, but I can’t stand the looks of disappointment on the faces of my young readers when they learn they won’t receive credit for reading my books.

ü  If you are a teacher or librarian, please visit the AR site here:
ü  Click on the upper tab to SUGGEST QUIZZES.
ü  Add The Minstrel’s Tale by Anna Questerly ISBN 0982996705
ü  Add The Minstrel’s Tale II by Anna Questerly ISBN 0982996721
ü  Add The Minstrel’s Tale III by Anna Questerly ISBN 098299673X

·         I wouldn’t expect you to do this without knowing the first thing about me or my books, so if you’ll email me, I’ll send you a free .pdf of my first book for your review. (I know you’re busy and have a ton to read, so feel free to delegate the reading to one of your favorite students.)

·         Judge for yourself if you feel it deserves to be included in the AR points program. 

Will you help me on my quest for AR Points, please? Pretty please?

With heartfelt gratitude in advance,

Anna Questerly