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Results 26 - 50 of 597,556
26. Livin' La Vida Writer

I am a week and a half in to a four-week paid sabbatical from my day job. As a result, I'm on a 12-day streak,  spending at least three hours a day on my dream job.

Some of my friends think it's odd that I would spend the four weeks away from my writing job writing, but I'm loving it. Although I refer to it as "working" every day, i'm working on my own stuff, doing what I want to do.

I spent the first week writing original material. In the recent PitchWars, a Middle Grade manuscript I considered finished got an excellent response. The people who gave me feedback agreed on one thing, however: my book was too short. So I fixed that, writing just over 15,000 words in six days. Since then, I've been revising my WIP, writing new scenes (including one I've been dreading for months).

It's the most productive I've been since I took a two-week writing vacation a couple years ago. Part of the success is due to the lessons I learned during that vacation.

Follow a Routine

As tempting as it may be to sleep in while I have the chance, I know I'm most productive between about 10 and 1:00.  That means that, although I do stay in bed a little later than usual, I am in my home office (my Schreibwinkel) by about 9:30. I've started as early as 7:30 and as late as 10:00, but on all but a few days, I've started between 9:00 and 9:45. Except for one day when I worked on a scene that exhausted me so I had to stop around 12:30, I've worked until around 1:30, occasionally as late as 2 or 2:30.

That's a fairly aggressive schedule, but it works for me. I work through my most productive time and stop when I feel the mojo weakening.

Because I write at the beginning of my day, every day, I wake up ready to go. Sometimes, my morning dreams are even related to the work I need to do that day.

Minimize Distractions

My family is used to me needing to be left alone in my Schreibwinkel. I frequently work from home, so they've been trained for years to let me work. They're used to me being unavailable, even if I'm in the house. 

Because I'm working shorter hours than usual, they know that if they leave me alone for a few hours, I'm theirs when I'm done. Most things they need from me can wait.

I've also made it a rule that, for the most part, I check email and Facebook before and after I work. Once in a while, I'll check during a break, but I've mostly been good about this.

I'm used to working through the typical household noises, but I am easily distracted by talking and laughing. It helps me minimize distracting noises to listen to music. Music can also distract me, though. I've learned that putting my music on shuffle instead of listening to favorites works for me. I recently read an article that suggested putting on music you don't especially like. I don't take it that far. In fact, sometimes a scene calls for a certain kind of background music, even though nobody else would necessarily connect the two.

Take Breaks

Because my writing period is fairly long, I take breaks. Some are informally scheduled. For example, there have been several days when I've written from 9 until about 10, then stopped for breakfast.

There have also been scheduled breaks. There have been some days when my writing group has scheduled writing sprints where we work for a specified period, then check in with each other on our Facebook page.

Each writer has unique break needs. Some of us can only write for so many minutes without a pause. Some of us need to look away from the screen now and then during an intense scene so we can keep enough distance to write well. And some of cannot stop without breaking the spell.

I know when I need a break. My only real rule for breaks is that I don't allow myself to become distracted by another task. My breaks are no longer than necessary, and my family members understand that I may be showing my face, but my time is not theirs yet.


This is what works for me. My family situation allows me to work this way. My kids are older. Two grandkids live with me, but I'm not the only caregiver in the house, like a lot of moms (especially) are. And I already have work routines when I'm home.

The result of putting structure around my writing time is that I remain productive, and that I enjoy my writing time because other stresses are reduced as much as possible during those hours.

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27. This Is The Water Yannick Murphy

The first two words in the title of the book is the way Ms. Murphy began many sentences in THIS IS THE WATER, and it seems to be her writing style. To me, it was an odd, unique style and took a bit of getting used to.

THIS IS THE WATER is about a swim team, the parents of the swimmers, and about a murder that affected the entire community.

I was looking for a mystery, but found a book mostly about swimming and the personal lives of the team's parents.

It was a bit difficult to get started because of how the book was written.  ​The book did keep you guessing, though, about who the murderer was that was killing young girls at ​rest stops. When it was revealed, the scene was quite scary, and the murderer was someone you wouldn't expect.

I continued to read the book because I wanted to find out how it would end, but I did skim quite a few pages.  2/5

This book was given to me and my book club as a win in a contest on TLC.  No compensation was given, and this review is my opinion.

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28. Elves and Orcs and Things

The pencil drawing for this one is here, because sometimes it looks better in simple line.

And just because I couldn't make up my mind,
here is the elf in various autumn orc hunting colors.

Earlier this year I played a game mod for Lord of the Rings which had a real good feel to it.  Reminded me a lot of the books.  You could even be an orc although I ran into trouble.  Playing as "Spuds" I was not inclined to do orcish things.  Savage orcs turned on me, and the race of men wouldn't accept me.  Stay in the middle and I'd be killed!  So Spuds did the only next best thing.  Join a group of roaming heroes to fight against the darkness that was coming upon Middle Earth!  (Okay I embellished a bit on the end but hey!  It did lead to some crazy drawings, of which these are a few.)

I had some more serious Lord of the Rings drawings, but I think they got buried somewhere.

In other news... I'm jumping between paintings, illustration covers, and finishing my studio.  More coming soon.

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29. Fiction Competition: Story Quarterly

StoryQuarterly is accepting submissions for our Fourth Annual Fiction Contest through October 31. The winner will receive $1000, the first runner-up $500, and the third $250. All three winners will be published in StoryQuarterly 48 (January 2015).

 Entry fee: $15.00

The contest will be judged by Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck and Other Stories, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Niagara Falls All Over Again, The Giant's House, and Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry. 

Please visit our website for full guidelines and to submit your work.

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Dear Friends,

Just a quick announcement!

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I am a Breast Cancer Survivor myself, I want to share some LOVE! SO I am offering FREE SHIPPING the ENTIRE month of October!! Domestic Shipping only (apologies to my international customers) In BOTH shops! You MUST USE the special code
OCTFREESHIP at checkout to get the free shipping. This offer expires November 1, 2014.

Here are the direct links to BOTH shops:

http://www.phyllisharrisdesigns.com/ and https://www.etsy.com/shop/PhyllisHarrisDesigns

I would be so honored if you would share!
As always, thank you for being a part of our wonderful community. We are so grateful for each and every one of you!


Gifts that give back
Phyllis Harris Designs & You – Giving the gift of love and healing
Every purchase of a heart-warming Phyllis Harris Designs illustration print donates 5 percent of every illustration print sold from our website to Children's Mercy Hospital.  

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31. Terry Gilliam: The Triumph of Fantasy

Press Play has now posted my latest video essay, "Terry Gilliam: The Triumph of Fantasy". It also has a short text essay to accompany it. Here's how that one begins:
In a 1988 interview with David Morgan for Sight and Sound, Terry Gilliam proposed that the most common theme of his movies had been fantasy vs. reality, and that, after the not-entirely-happy endings of Time Bandits and Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen offered the happiness previously denied, a happiness made possible by “the triumph of fantasy”.

That triumph is not, though, inherently happy. Gilliam’s occasional happy endings are not so much triumphs of fantasy as they are triumphs of a certain tone. They are the endings that fit the style and subject matter of those particular films. More often than not, his endings are more ambiguous, but fantasy still triumphs. Even poor Sam Lowry in Brazil gets to fly away into permanent delusion. Fantasy is sometimes a torment for Gilliam’s characters, but it is a torment only in that it is haunted by reality, and reality in Gilliam is a land of pain, injustice, and, perhaps worst of all, ordinariness.
Read and view more...

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32. Call for Poetry Submissions by Women: The Wide Shore

The Wide Shore, A Global Women's Poetry Journal, is opening submissions for its next issue from October 1-November 15, 2014. We seek strong poems and translations of poems by women.

Our mission: The Wide Shore is a global literary journal dedicated to connecting women's voices. We are committed to publishing poetry that reveals and unearths that which has been hidden, masked, buried, or unexpressed. We invite newly translated works by women whose voices have yet to reach wider shores. As Gwendolyn Brooks wrote, we are each other's/ harvest:/ we are each other's/ business:/ we are each other's/ magnitude and bond. 

For submission guidelines and to submit now, go here.

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33. Flogometer for Carolyn—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Needed. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.

The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Storytelling Checklist

Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.

  • Story questions
  • Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
  • Voice
  • Clarity
  • Scene-setting
  • Character

Carolyn sends the prologue and first chapter of Dangerous, YA thriller. The full narrative follows the break.

It’s hot as blazes and we’re out picking berries in the woods out by Donner Woods Road when my older sister confesses the worst possible news ever about her love life.

"I'm dating Geoffrey Whittington, the Third, one of the richest men in town," Cort, short for Cortland, pushes her straw hat down over her golden curls and gives me a look of pride.

She’s got to be kidding. Not again. I pull my shirt off and tie it around the waist of my two-piece bathing suit with a determined yank. I hold myself back from shouting, and say in as normal of a voice as I can manage, "Are you crazy? Didn't you learn anything from the fiasco with that thief you were dating last month?"

“He only took the jewels his aunt had promised him in her will. Stop being so melodramatic. He wasn’t a thief.”

I take a deep breath and force myself to say in a calm voice, “You have to stop choosing boyfriends based on their bank accounts. Besides, the rich guy’s got to be too old for you.”

“He is not. I’m almost eighteen and he’s only twenty-five. Mom and Dad have at least that many years difference between them.”

“Yes, but Dad doesn’t kill people.” I bang on the side of my berry bucket in a rhythm to the Jaws theme.

She drops a berry into my pail as if she’s giving to the poor. “Come on. When are you (snip)

Were you compelled to turn Carolyn's first page?

I definitely like the voice and the writing is good and clean. But there’s little tension for me in this page. There was something on page 2 that, if the cuts shown in the notes below are done, could increase the stakes a little. It would insert into this paragraph:

“Yes, but Dad doesn’t kill people. Rumor is your new boyfriend set fire to Parson Johnson’s barn and he has a lab in his basement where he experiments with animals."

That would help. So would the info, also on page 2, that the protagonist thinks of herself as a detective. Let me add that I would try to get the character’s name on the first page, too. It can be as easy as: “Oh, Cameo, he only took the jewels his aunt . . . etc.

There’s a good bit of set-up here that I suspect could wait until later. Carolyn tries to hook us with the “worst possible news” notion, but that’s not all that powerful. On the next page, Cameo jumps in the river and something grabs her ankle--now that begins to sound like a thriller. That piqued my interest. Maybe try starting a little later and cut the set-up. Notes:

 It’s hot as blazes and we’re out picking berries in the woods out by Donner Woods Road when my older sister confesses the worst possible news ever about her love life.

"I'm dating Geoffrey Whittington, the Third, one of the richest men in town," Cort, short for Cortland, pushes her straw hat down over her golden curls and gives me a look of pride. You can work in the source of the nickname later, perhaps by having the protagonist use it. She wouldn’t ordinarily be thinking of something like this at this time, it’s the author, not the character tossing this bit of info in.

She’s got to be kidding. Not again. I pull my shirt off and tie it around the waist of my two-piece bathing suit with a determined yank. I hold myself back from shouting, and say in as normal of a voice as I can manage, "Are you crazy? Didn't you learn anything from the fiasco with that thief you were dating last month?"

“He only took the jewels his aunt had promised him in her will. Stop being so melodramatic. He wasn’t a thief.

I take a deep breath and force myself to say in a calm voice, “You have to stop choosing boyfriends based on their bank accounts. Besides, the rich guy’s got to be too old for you.” You’ve already told us she’s using a normal voice.

“He is not. I’m almost eighteen and he’s only twenty-five. Mom and Dad have at least that many years difference between them.”

“Yes, but Dad doesn’t kill people.” I bang on the side of my berry bucket in a rhythm to the Jaws theme. The reference to killing people comes out of the blue—unmotivated, it seems like an accusation, but Cort doesn’t even react to the “kill” part, so it must not mean anything. But it could have. I didn’t think the bucket banging contributed, and there’s better stuff to get on the first page.

She drops a berry into my pail as if she’s giving to the poor. “Come on. When are you (snip) Seems to me humming the Jaws theme would be more appropriate--what it its rhythm?

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.


Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Carolyn



going to give up this childhood dream that you’re some kind of detective?”

“Never. Check out their criminal records first, I say. Rumor is your new boyfriend set fire to Parson Johnson’s barn and he has a lab in his basement where he experiments with animals."

Cort stops picking berries and pulls her full lips into a pout. "Rumors. Who believes them? If you had one ounce of romance in your soul, you wouldn't say such things about a wonderful man like Geoff." Her sappy smile and dewy eyes tell me she's a goner again.

She poses in the shade of a cottonwood tree like a movie star. In that white sundress, with the late afternoon sun shining down through the leaves, she looks almost angelic.

Something snaps in the brush near the path and I turn to see who it is.

Goose bumps jump up my arms. Nobody there—just high bushes and forty-foot trees shrouding our path and leaves crunching under my feet. It's creepy to think somebody could be watching us.

Before I can rush to the edge of our tiny South Carolina river and kick off my flip flops, Cort calls to me: "Cameo! Don't jump."

So like my older sister to get everything totally wrong.

After squirming out of my jean cutoffs, I push back my messy brown hair, suck in my gut, and pretend my sixteen-year-old figure's as good as my sister's. It's depressing that she's like a size zero, when I'm the one who's always dieting.

"It's okay," I tell her. "I know where the rocks are."

I can almost taste that cool water and feel it washing over my parched body. Without another word, I dive deep into the river, anxious to get away from Cort and her take on the finer points of Geoffrey Whittington—at least for a few minutes.

 A luscious wetness covers and soothes me until something large swims in my direction. The pitch black underwater makes it impossible to see what it is. Something in my gut warns me whatever it is isn't friendly, and I swing into a fast breast stroke in the other direction.

The water below my feet sends chills up my body. A rough current tumbles me along the river bottom into a sunken tree. Something large bumps into my leg.

Oh God, alligators live here.

My inner compass is totally screwed up now, giving me no idea of which way to swim to find Cort. Adrenaline rushes through my body and I battle up from the muddy river bottom.

Something grabs my legs from behind.

This is not a fish.

For sure, this is not an alligator.

Water fills my nose and burns in my eyes. Lungs nearly exploding, I twist one leg free, kick against solid muscle, and am released. Up out of the water I leap and find myself next to shore, gasping for air.

Hanging onto a tree by the river bank, Cort stretches her free hand toward me.

Choking and kicking my legs, I grab her wrist and she pulls me up onto shore.

I flop on my back on the rocky ground and snort in some breaths.

She yanks my hair out of my eyes, and stares at me, brows down, lips up in a why-do-you-keep-doing-crazy-things? look. "You were down there forever. I didn't think you'd ever come up. What happened?"

 I gulp for air, not sure I know what happened. I could have dreamed being held down until I nearly drowned, but I doubt it.

"You shouldn't go swimming here. The tides are too dangerous." Cort puckers her face into a disparaging squint. If Cort has one thing down, it's being disparaging, but even then, she's got that blonde pretty thing going for her.

When I finally get enough air to speak, I sit up and stare into her corn-flower-blue eyes. "Somebody was down there. A guy. He tried to—"

She places one hand on the waist of her sundress, and stamps her sandaled foot. "Don't start with your fantasies. You're always dreaming up some kind of adventure."

I grab my jean cut-offs and don't argue because I'm always on the losing end with her. Instead, I bang on the side of my head with the palm of my hand to get the water out of my ear, and wonder if my parents would notice she was missing if I pushed her into the water and walked home. I shove my legs into my shorts. Nah, I couldn't do that, no matter how mad she makes me.

She is my sister, and we've been raised to protect each other from all outside-of-the-family forces. Inside family forces—well, that's an entirely different thing."Come on, let's go. Mom will have a cow if we're not home in time for supper."

She grabs the bucket of berries we'd been picking for dessert and we start off.

On the walk home, I try to tell her what happened underwater, but she keeps interrupting me with questions. "Should I wear my pink or my yellow dress tonight? I mean, the yellow one fits me better, but the pink, well, Geoff says that favors my beautiful skin."

I could care less if she wears a clown suit as long as she doesn't tell our parents what happened. If she does, I'll get grounded or worse, just because I dove into the river. According to them, well-bred young ladies don't dive into rivers.

The image of Cort's boyfriend forces its way into my brain. Now I remember him. I've seen the guy downtown, driving around in a red convertible, laughing in that sadistic way he has. For some reason, I think he could have been the one under the water, trying to drown me.

Of course, that's totally silly. Maybe I'm just suffering from post traumatic stress or something from half-drowning. Still, Cort's boyfriend's always around when barns burn down mysteriously or pet animals disappear. I even get an image of him torturing a tiny terrier in his basement laboratory. That makes me totally sick to my stomach.


Thank God, Cort doesn't breathe a word to our parents when we get home. Of course, she wouldn't, she's all about Geoffrey, the Great.

Mom greets us at the door, perfect blonde hair framing her smiling face. Cort got her looks; I got Dad's. She grabs the berries I push in her direction. "You girls did good, but you're a little late for me to make pie." She ushers us into the kitchen to help set the table and serve oven-baked BBQ ribs and biscuits with gravy.

At dinner, Daddy with his white shirt sleeves rolled up and tie loosened raises a bushy eyebrow after Cort goes on and on about her new beau. I give him a secret smile, knowing he's not totally taken in.

After we've cleared the table and I do the dishes, I make a point of peering out from the kitchen when Geoffrey, the Great, appears at the front door. He is handsome in a dangerous kind of way with black hair brushed back, intense brown eyes, and a tall, muscular body. 

I help Mom with the dishes and then try to read, but my mind keeps circling back to what happened under the water in the river today. There was a man. I’m certain.

Cort comes home late all breathless and wide-eyed. She’s got her lipstick on, so maybe he didn’t kiss her. That, or she reapplied it to pass Mom’s scrutiny at the door.

I figure Geoff’s bamboozled her totally, but I have to make another attempt to get her to break it off. I try to put as much sisterly concern in my voice as I can. “So, how was your date?”

She kicks off her shoes and nearly swoons while she’s taking off her dress. “Fantastic. Better than that. He is so polite, so gallant, so wonderful. And the restaurant he took me to. Fabulous French food served by waiters who actually speak French. Divine.”

“Umm hmm. I’m sure it was fantabulous, but what about his lab and guns? Did he show them to you?”

She scowls at me, and stomps over to her bed. “Of course not. A gentleman never brings a lady to his house so early in a relationship.”

Whew! I’m glad she’s still thinking it’s early in the relationship, but a little nauseated that he’s being so normal. How am I ever going to convince her he’s a murderer unless she sees him for what he is?

According to her he’s nothing but charming, polite, and oh-so-sexy.

When I make another attempt to tell her to break it off, she lies down in her bed and falls asleep. I pull the covers over her and go back to my bed.

I spend most of the night trying to come up with a plan, but nothing jells. What am I going to do about my sister? It feels as if the clock is ticking.


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34. Inheritance (The Evolution Chronicles Book 2) by RJ Palmer

It’s been twenty years since that fateful winter night in the Colorado asylum and the Donnelly twins are all grown up. Elizabeth is a bit of a bounder with a taste for adventure and Renee… Well, Renee just wants to be normal. Like that’s ever going to happen. When tragedy strikes the Donnelly family and everything goes haywire, Renee finds herself scrambling alone in a race against time to solve the riddle of a lifetime, fix what’s broken and figure out how it all went so horribly wrong to begin with.

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35. Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

1 Comments on Hello world!, last added: 10/2/2014
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Beryl Markham - a woman ahead of her time. http://buff.ly/1vpNXLl Promise the Night #mustread by Michaela MacColl Chronicle Books CHILDREN'S BOOK REVIEWS - PROMISE THE NIGHT by Michaela MacColl

from Google+ RSS http://ift.tt/1sNYRwL

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37. (Re)Tired

Here’s a thought I had today
(And really, it’s inspired):
It’s possible to be exhausted
When you are retired.

For if, in your retirement,
Some interests you’ve acquired,
You may be far too busy
For the sleep that you’ve required.

So if a work cessation is
A goal that you’ve desired,
Accept the fact that you will be
Both “re” and “re”-less tired.

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38. Welcome to the family by Mary Hoffman & Ros Asquith

welcometothefamilyFascinating and reassuring, thoughtful and funny, Welcome to the Family by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith is a very special book about all sorts of different families and the ways children end up in them. If ever a book was cut and bound with love, this is it.

It’s the perfect book if you’re part of a family with step-parents, adopted siblings, or any sort of family which is not vanilla Mum, Dad and 2.4 kids, and you want your family to see families just like yours in between the pages of a book.

It’s also the perfect book if you are part of a family with Mum, Dad and 2.4 kids and you want to help your kids understand that there’s not just one way of being a family, even if all families do have one very important thing in common: Love.

All sorts of children (and parents) will find themselves in this book; they will see themselves and their family set-ups acknowledged and celebrated without judgement. And as is appropriate of any celebration there’s lots of joy, happiness and humour in both words and pictures. Reassurance that the child is loved and welcomed is the beating heart of this book.


A special cuddly teddy bear provides commentary at different points in the text, allowing children to feel ok if what they’re reading is new or surprising for them. Sibling rivalry, anxiety and the difficulties which can arise in any family are also mentioned; this remains a realistic, not a sugar-coated view of family life, and it’s all the more comforting for that.

Whilst I adore this book more than I have found easy to say (I’ve drafted this review many times trying to find just mix of exuberance and professionalism), I think it worth pointing out that although all sorts of families are included, they are all core, nuclear families ie parents and children. No explicit mention is made of aunts and uncles, grandparents or cousins, and yet these people too are very important parts of many families.

Sharing this book (or letting your child discover it for themselves) is an easy and enjoyable way to introduce your primary school aged kids to everything from IVF babies to the fact that some kids are brought up by two Dads. It’s honest, welcoming text is brilliantly brought to life by spirited illustrations. It’s unpatronising, unthreatening approach is a breath of fresh air. Simply put, this is an outstanding book, a book that fights evil and ignorance with joy, love and respect.


Inspired by Welcome to the Family we made a set of family puppets.


We started by taking a load of photos of each other, with our faces showing different sorts of expressions. I cropped our heads out and resized them so they were only 1.5-2 cm tall, before printing them out.


(Alternatively you could also go to a passport photo booth and get have fun there, coming home with strips of faces.)

Next we drew bodies and clothing. I gave the kids pieces of paper between 10 and 15 cm long and encouraged them to draw their bodies/clothes to fill the space; if your printed head is about 2 cm big, you’ll need the bodies to be between 10 and 15 cm long if you want them to be approximately in proportion to the heads. The kids found the scale issue a little difficult to begin with, but it definitely helped to give them rectangles of paper approximately the right size, rather than big sheets of paper.

We cut out the heads and bodies and stuck them onto wooden barbecue skewers using label stickers, but you could use tape.


Now we were ready to act out all sorts of family dramas!


Whilst making our family puppets we listened to:

  • Love Makes a Family by Two of a Kind. In some ways the perfect song to match with Welcome to the Family
  • I Have Two Moms by Bria & Chrissy. Not the best music you’ve ever heard, but still potentially a useful song, about a boy with two moms in a same sex relationship.
  • Two Moms by Tom Knight. This one’s actually about step families (lyrics here)
  • Family Time by Ziggy Marley

  • Other activities which could work well alongside reading Welcome to the Family include these:

  • Use the photos from your family puppets to make family cloth dolls – here’s some inspiration from mokru
  • Make a family peekaboo board, like this one from His4Homeschooling. I think this would be a lovely thing for an older sibling to make for their younger brother or sister.
  • Draw up a family tree. This post from Sun Scholasr has lots of different ideas.
  • What are your favourite books about families?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of Welcome to the Family by the publisher.

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    39. CHILDREN OF THE WILDERNESS – Dianne Hofmeyr

    Picture a young girl growing up in a remote part of the Cape in South Africa in a village named Riemvasmaker (meaning strap tighteners… possibly stemming from a place where the harnesses of the ox wagons were shortened before crossing over the Orange River?) 

    The year is 1973. The Government want the land for the military. 1 500 people are arbitrarily removed to other areas by train and lorry with some of their livestock – but not before witnessing their houses being axed and torched in front of their eyes. It is cruel and barbarous.

    Six year old Pascalena Florrie finds herself deposited in Demaraland, in Namibia. Given that Namibia is the combined size of the UK and France together but only has just over 2 million inhabitants, the loneliness in the vast desert of Demaraland, can’t be imagined.

    In this bleak moonscape where no towns or schools or means of transport except donkey carts exist, and where only a few natural springs provide water, Pascalena becomes goatherd to her family’s goats.

    She takes them into the veld each morning to graze, along with some dogs to keep marauding leopard, desert elephant and lion at bay. No time for school – there is no school – and at night sleeping on the dung floor of a house made from unfired, mud bricks. This is no Heidi story.

    On a recent visit to Demaraland, I met Lena and she told me that as soon as she heard that Wilderness Safaris was setting up a conservancy in the area, she applied for a job as waitress. In spite of the fact that she spoke only Afrikaans, the language forced on the Nama people by the Government, she was given the job. She persuaded the Camp Manager – the first white person she had ever laid eyes on – to give her list of words every day – simple words like broccoli, butter, glass, coffee, good morning.

    Today Lena is Area Manager responsible for four camps in north-west Namibia and she was the first black Namibian to be appointed as a manager of a guest lodge after the country’s independence. She provides the link between Wilderness Safaris and the local communities who are joint venture partners of these four camps. She initiates local projects, hosts journalists and agents and attends the community meetings, helping them participate meaningfully as stakeholders.

    On the day after I met her she attended one of these meeting and the next morning, she was beaming and said she was feeling very ‘powerful’. Such is her energy!
    This is a long preamble to something meaningful for us as children’s writers. Many of you have already generously contributed books through dynamo Nicky Schmidt’s plea on Facebook, to the Children In the Wilderness Project. 

    Two weeks ago I met Janet Wilkinson who heads the Project and donated some of my books – both of us coincidently wearing white shirts but her's emblazoned with the Wilderness Safari logo! While chatting I realised I was about to visit some of the very camps where the children of Children In the Wilderness are hosted.

    The children stay in the same camps normally taken up by tourists, to learn how to communicate not just with nature but with people too and to learn to be good stewards of the world. They hold binoculars for the first time, see the eyelash of an elephant up close, put on frog feet and goggles in the coastal camps and study the pulsating life of a jellyfish. The excitement is tangible. To this heady mix, add your books that will give them the fluidity of language to describe what they see and feel and do. 

    If you know the landscape into which your books are going and what the children are gaining, you will understand the need and the value attached to your contributions.

    Franco Morao was born in 1983 on a remote farm. At the age of two he was put into a children’s home (the SOS Children’s Village) in Windhoek, where he stayed for most of his school life. On completion of secondary school and by a stroke of incredible timing, Wilderness Safaris' Children In The Wilderness programme approached the SOS Children's Home to bring some of the orphans out into the wilderness to experience their country's natural wonders. In this group was a young, ambitious and eager Franco.

    His words on the experience…
    "We were hosted at Kulala Wilderness Camp. This overwhelmed me because most of us had never had such an opportunity to learn about the environment by being in the wilderness itself. I was brought up in a very enclosed environment, so that the only life I knew was that within the orphanage. When I saw the open spaces I realised that this was where I wanted to be. I had found a new family. Where there was a sanctuary and where everyone always feels welcome."

    After completing the internal training that Wilderness Safaris offered, he was appointed as a trainee guide at the same lodge where his life-changing experience took place. 'Now he is one of the most loved guides in Namibia - children adore him...'  says Janet. Today Franco is learning Italian, Spanish and German to be able to communicate with overseas guests and is now working as a Specialist Guide for touring groups. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet him.
    From goat-herd to Regional Manager, from orphan to Specialist Guide – just two examples of words and knowledge having made all the difference. Your books are meaningful in a landscape where libraries are few. Hopefully soon there will be a central point in the UK where donated books can be collected to save on the heavy postage costs.

    Thank you dynamo Nicky for making us aware of this opportunity to give books to Children In the Wilderness that will help turn them into the more encompassing, Children of the Wilderness. If these are the children who are learning to manage and conserve the world, perhaps the future of the rhino will not be so bleak. Real sustainability is realised by a culture that involves children. 

    No I didn't fly the 6 seater single prop plane! 
    Photographs of Lena and Franco courtesy Wilderness Safaris
    All other photographs copyright Dianne Hofmeyr

    Dianne Hofmeyr's latest picture book Zeraffa Giraffa, illustrated by Jane Ray and published by Frances Lincoln, is on the UKLA longlist.

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    40. Spark, by Kallie George: bringing smiles & patience to beginning readers (ages 5-8)

    Our second graders loved today's read-aloud: Spark, by Kallie George. And I adored their comments, connections and questions. If you're looking for a book to bring smiles and patience to a young reader, definitely look for this charming story.
    by Kallie George
    illustrated by Geneviève Côté
    Simply Read Books, 2013
    Your local library
    ages 5-8
    Spark wants to be able to breath fire like a big dragon, but he can't control his flame. His mama asks him to practice roasting marshmallows and he's just sure he can do it. Just look how cute he is:
    "I can do it!" said Spark.
    But every time he tries, "WHOOOOSH" out comes a huge flame.  He can’t control his fiery breath. Even practicing doesn’t help. I just love how his parents kept their cool (get it?!) and told him that he was still young. When he was older, he'd be able to control his flame.
    "Whoosh! Out came a big flame."
    We connected this to our reading. Sometimes I tell kids they aren't ready for a book yet. Maybe when they're in fourth grade, it will be just right for them. They know how hard it is to wait. And they knew how much it meant to Spark that he was patient and tried again.
    Spark's birthday party
    The culminating moment several months later, after Spark, when Spark lights his birthday candles is so full of joy that it brings a smile to everyone's face.  Here are some of our students' comments:
    • “It’s a really good book because it’s funny. I like the way Spark blows FIRE.”
    • “At the last part, how is he going to blow out the candle?”
    • “I like the way the ending lets us imagine what’s going to happen next.”
    • “I like how Spark kept trying. He was patient, and was able to blow them out in the end.”
    We are excited to Skype with Kallie George soon. Our students want to know how she gets inspired, whether she keeps a writer's notebook, how she deals with getting frustrated when she's writing.

    The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick Books, but I've already purchased three more copies to share with teachers and families. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

    ©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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    41. Wish

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    42. BEA14 Variety

    Donna Spurlock of Charlesbridge

    At Book Expo 2014 in NYC, I interviewed a wide range of publishers about their forthcoming Jewish titles. Hear my chats with reps from:

    Press the play button to listen to the podcast now:

    Or click MP3 File.  


    Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
    Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries 
    Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band 
    Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast 
    Twitter: @bookoflifepod 

    Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473. 

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    43. Reading Roundup: September 2014

    By the Numbers
    Teen: 10
    Tween: 3
    Children: 2

    Review Copies: 10
    Library: 3

    Teen: Sway by Kat Spears
    I really liked this examination of a morally grey kid with a surprisingly good heart.
    Tween: My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros (link goes to my review)
    It's a tale as old as time - dumped by your BFF on the first day of seventh grade. Luckily for Nina, there's nowhere to go but up from here.
    Children: Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George
    The third adventure for the royal family finds them far from home and trying to work out what really happened hundreds of years before. You really have to have read the whole series to understand everything that's going on in this one, but if you have, this continues the enjoyment.

    Because I Want To Awards
    Because What Could Go Wrong with a Jailbreak?: The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas
    Good kid, poor choices. Lots of poor choices. Oh, so many poor choices.
    The Path of True Love Never Did Run Smooth: Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan
    See, this is what Shakespeare meant by that. After getting together at the end of the last bo
    ok (I'll Be There), Sam and Emily find themselves hitting speedbumps, hard. Nice to see a book where happily-ever-after isn't shown as smooth sailing.
    Almost Named a Standout: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
    It was so hard to pick, you guys. SO HARD. Nelson's novel of estranged twins, each narrating a different era in their lives, is full of sneaky surprises and lovely language.

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    44. Inviting you to two Schuylkill River talks, on behalf of the River of the Year honor

    (I will be giving this talk on Tuesday October 14 at Montgomery County Community College and on October 16 at Trinity Urban Life Center, Philadelphia, PA. Both talks are free and open to the public. We would love to see you.)

    Schuylkill River Heritage Area
    140 College Drive

    Pottstown, PA  19464

    For Immediate Release

    September 29, 2014
                                                                                        Laura Catalano
                                                                                                      (484) 945-0200

     Author to Speak about Schuylkill River and the Imagination

    POTTSTOWN–“That’s the thing about this river: you have to imagine it to see it.” That line was written by award-winning author Beth Kephart in the prelude to her book Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River.

    On Tuesday, October 14 Kephart will talk about the place the Schuylkill River has forged in her own imagination. Her talk will take place at Montgomery County Community College West Campus, in the Community Room in South Hall at 7 p.m. A second presentation will be held on Thursday Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Trinity Center for Urban Life in Philadelphia.

    Both talks are free, but attendees are asked to register at riverdreams.eventbrite.com or by calling the Schuylkill River Heritage Area at 484-945-0200.

    In addition to speaking about the place the Schuylkill River has in her own imagination and teaching, she will also look at the impact rivers have on all our lives, and the legacy of those who have worked to restore Philadelphia’s essential waterways.

    Kephart is a National Book Award finalist and an acclaimed author and educator. Her book, Flow, is an imaginative telling of the life of the Schuylkill River written in short, thought-provoking, impressionistic chapters. The book was published in 2007 by Temple University Press, and was reprinted in paperback earlier this year.

    The Schuylkill was named Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year. Kephart’s talk, entitled RIVER DREAMS: History, Hope and the Imagination, will serve as the keynote address for the Schuylkill River Heritage Area’s River of the Year Speaker Series. Kephart developed the presentation specifically for that purpose. 

    “At a time of global uncertainty, the restoration of our rivers—and of our Schuylkill in particular—is a kind of poetry, proof of what remains possible," says Kephart. "I’m interested in the possible. I’m leavened by it.” 

    “Our goal in hosting a River of the Year speaker series has been to introduce people to various aspects of the Schuylkill River,” said Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl. “We are pleased to be able to offer two presentations by a very talented author that focus on how the river has affected her as a writer and a teacher.”

    Earlier presentations in the series included a talk by author Chari Towne about the environmental cleanup of the river, and a campfire presentation at Valley Forge about the role the Schuylkill River played during the Revolutionary War. The final installment in the series will be a screening of the film DamNation, about the environmental impact of dams. That will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. at Alvernia University’s Francis Hall, in Reading.

    The Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, managed by the  non-profit Schuylkill River Greenway Association, uses conservation, education, recreation, historic preservation and tourism as tools for community revitalization and economic development.Visit www.schuylkillriver.org to learn more.

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    45. Inheritance (The Evolution Chronicles Book 2) by RJ Palmer

    They were midflight when the trouble started. Raine had tried not to think about the deep disquiet that had settled in the pit of his gut when he and Sierra had boarded the plane. He had tried to concentrate instead on them simply taking their seats and had pushed the horrifying notion that something was going to go terribly wrong to the side of his consciousness. Clairvoyance was not among his many talents. For all that it was he was capable of, he could not see the future.

    Sierra was all too happy to chatter somewhat aimlessly about cakes, food and decorations. She didn’t even care that Raine was only really listening with half an ear. She was completely involved in planning a graduation party for Renee and had successfully blocked out most everything else.

    Elizabeth was supposed to be there, too. She had planned on taking time off of work to come and see her sister graduate from college. Elizabeth had chosen differently than her sister in life. While Renee had furthered her education, seeking a degree in neuroscience of all things, Elizabeth had thrown herself full tilt into the adult world immediately upon graduating high school. Sierra could not be any more proud of either of her daughters and she wasted no time bragging about them both to anyone who would listen.

    Raine had seen the various consequences of his choice to keep moving the kids around after that fateful night at the mental institution all those years ago. After about six years of them moving around all the time and never staying in one place for more than a year, he and a “Higher Authority” as he liked to call them had reached a tentative agreement. He would not wreak havoc where ever he went, and they would leave his family alone to live and grow as was their right. They really had no other choice, he reflected bitterly. The girls and Sierra had grown tired of moving around from state to state to try to “keep under the radar” and he was ready to settle and live in the same place for awhile, as well. They needed stability in their lives and he knew the “Higher Authority” could keep them running forever. The “Higher Authority” knew that all Raine had to do was think it and they would be cleaning up frightful, massive messes that would have been all that would be left of a few good men. Tentative truce, indeed.

    The years of moving around had taken their toll on the girls anyway. Elizabeth never stayed in one place for very long and Renee placed too much importance on staying in one place. Both girls had taken it too far to extremes. Elizabeth refused to even sign a lease on a place of her own, preferring instead to rent rooms where she could simply move in and out at will. She never dated any one man for very long and always spent most of her extra money running from party to party. She called it “the fun life” while Raine thought of it more as wandering aimlessly.

    Renee had worked tirelessly during her college years and now had most of the money she needed to buy a home of her own. She had even gone so far as to state that she would never move again once she had the house she liked. Raine had asked her about it once being a worried father and she had said that she just wanted to wake in the same bedroom every morning for the rest of her life. It wasn’t that he could blame her, for he understood all too well. It was simply that he saw in her an uncompromising nature that could well make her life lonely and solitary and even though she had always been the introverted type, she would regret it later in life.

    Raine thought about all this while he listened to Sierra talk about different foods for a graduation party and whether or not she might have it catered. He also began to see the flight attendants begin to urge passengers back to their seats. Their outward calm was unshakable, but the tension around their eyes was unmistakable. Their voices as they talked to one another were low and tense and here and there, some of them had darting gazes. Raine knew something was going on, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

    Then a voice came over the intercom, filled with forced calm and cheer and Raine felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. The voice stated that they were flying through some turbulence and the next few minutes would be a bit of a bumpy ride but that everyone could rest assured that they would be free of it very quickly and the rest of the flight would be smooth as silk. Flight attendants worked to secure passengers and then themselves. No one seemed to notice the slight temperature change in the air or the fact that the lights burned brighter for a moment.

    Raine worked to try to control himself. He knew better than anyone else just how disastrous a loss of his self-control could be. More than once, he’d left people nearly dead when he lost his ever tenuous hold on his instinctive power. Sometimes, he simply couldn’t control it and the effects were devastating. Houses leveled, buildings crumbled and people driven utterly insane by the intruding presence in their heads. He’d rather just try to hold onto his errant talents and leave others safe.

    He took deep breaths while the plane began to shimmy. Sierra stopped talking and looked at him with a vaguely alarmed expression and said, “It’s getting warmer in here, Raine.”

    He tried to manage a small smile for her sake which probably looked more like a pained grimace and continued to breathe deeply. The plane dropped by several feet and then leveled again and some of the passengers stifled cries of alarm.

    The lights flickered and temperature in the air rose by several degrees. No one but Sierra and Raine paid any attention to the flickering lights. No one thought anything of it. They were the only ones who knew what was going on and Raine fought with everything he was to try to stem the tide of power. Sierra began to kick him in the shin to try to shock him out of it. Sometimes it helped and others it didn’t. Sometimes it stopped him cold and sometimes, Sierra just earned an angry husband and a bruised foot for her trouble. There really was no telling what would happen.

    Find it on Amazon at Inheritance (The Evolution Chronicles Book 2)

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    46. New Cookbooks for September: Making the Most of the Harvest

    September, when we are still working to preserve our summer fare amidst the first rains of fall, brings books on harvesting and preserving. Let's enjoy these last of the summer-oriented cookbooks and also: Cookbook Season! September, October, and November bring a bumper crop of new cookbook releases. Keep an eye out next month for a [...]

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    47. Book-length Fiction Competition: 2014 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize

    2014 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize, Black Balloon's annual award of $5000 and a book deal for an outstanding fiction manuscript.  

    We are accepting submissions October 1st - 31st, 2014, and we are hoping you and your department colleagues will share news of this prize with your faculty, students, alumni, and social media communities. There's no reading fee to submit, and any previously unpublished, original, and completed fiction manuscript over 50,000 words in length is eligible. There isn't another prize like this awarded by an independent publisher, and we are proud to help talented writers find their readership!

    Next month, Black Balloon will publish Fat Man and Little Boy, the novel by Mike Meginnis that won the 2013 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize. The book has already received great early buzz, with The Sisters Brothers author Patrick deWitt calling the novel “beguiling, strange, and strangely lovely,” Publishers Weekly proclaiming it "imaginative...both surprising and incisive," and the Brooklyn Book Festival naming Meginnis one of "the year's most impressive debut novelists." 

    Details at our website.

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    48. Hans My Hedgehog

    Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

    Hans My Hedgehog Print

    Download this story for your devices as a mini ebook by clicking the links below

    Hans My Hedgehog pdf (15) Hans My Hedgehog epub mobi (7)

    Hans My Hedgehog

    A Short Fairy Tale Retelling by Manelle Oliphant

    year ago I promised my father I would marry a hedgehog. Today I married him.

    Father met him when he was lost in the forest. It frightened him to meet a man all hedgehog on his top half, but the hedgehog introduced himself as Hans and helped him find his way. In return, Father promised to give the hedgehog the first thing he met when he arrived home. He thought it would be his dogs or one of the servants but I raced ahead, and sealed my fate.

    As a princess, I knew it wasn’t likely I would marry for love. Only, marrying a royal stranger from a distant place to secure an alliance is easier to stomach than marrying someone not quite human.

    When he arrived I watched from my tower room. He rode through the gate on his rooster and the guards admitted him to the castle. After about an hour my father sent up a message. All was in order and I was to prepare myself.

    I dressed myself, hoping that by doing what’s right and keeping a promise, it would turn out well. I think that’s what faith is, doing what you know is right and trusting in God things will turn out well, even if it seems impossible they could.

    Now I wait in my bedroom, wearing my night shift, the fire the only light. Hans enters. I see his silhouette in the doorway until he shuts the door.

    “You are my wife now,” he says to me from the dark.

    “It is true,” I say

    “It is an ugly thing for a pretty girl like you to be married to me.”

    I feel tears form behind my eyes but I blink them away. “Not as ugly as breaking a promise.”

    I hear a little snort. “You are right, not so ugly as that.”

    He takes a step closer. I see his large form in the firelight. I feel faint and place my hand on the mantel for support. He shakes and snorts and I see him slough off his coat of quills. He drops it in front of me. After a minute I kneel down and touch it. The quills are soft. I look up. A man stands in front of me, a normal, not-half-animal, man. I look at his eyes. They are brown and nice and pleading.  The moment stretches out between us but he doesn’t speak. I open my mouth but he shakes his head.

    He wants me to do something. I look around confused. I look back to him. He stands still, his brown eyes begging for something. I look at the coat of quills, the fire, and back to him. He looks relieved, and I know what he wants me to do. I grab the quills and throw them into the flames.  As they burn he falls to the floor and cries out. I see his skin turning black.

    Have I done wrong? I turn to  pull the coat back out of the fire, but it’s burning fast and hot. The flames light up the whole room. Hans screams again, the black on his skin spreads. I glance around and see the wash basin by the bed. I grab it and pour it over the writhing man. For a second I am surrounded by steam. When it clears Hans is calm and the black has washed away. I kneel down next to him.

    Hans groans, and turns his head toward me. “Thank you wife. You have freed me from a life-long curse.”

    I smile. “You’re welcome.”

    Hans sits up. I help him to the bed and fetch more water. He nods his thanks as he takes it. Our eyes meet. His are still kind. I can see he is a good man and we will have a happy life. I can’t explain how I know this but I feel the truth of it inside me. I smile at him and take his hand. He smiles back.

    The End

    If you enjoyed this story I hope you’ll tell your friends. 

    To support the artist and the creation of more stories like this visit my Patreon page

    Prints of the image used in this story are available at http://www.manelleoliphant.com/shop-2

    Text and illustrations © 2014 by Manelle Oliphant

    Not to be sold without written permission

    This short story is based off of the Brothers Grimm tale of the same name. To read the original story visit http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm108.html


    The post Hans My Hedgehog appeared first on Manelle Oliphant Illustration.

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    49. Call for Poetry Submissions: Hartskill Review

    Hartskill Review is looking for challenging, evocative, and insightful long poems for its December issue. In this context, a "long poem" is considered anything between 4 and 12 manuscript pages. No submission fee; pays one contributor copy.

    Submittable link.

    And, as always, regular length poems are welcome. Please consider submitting to Hartskill Review!

    Submission details on Hartskill Review website.

    Submit 1-3 poems at a time.
    Gather your submission into one file.
    Poems should be single spaced on the page.
    Submit rich, complex, and ambitious poems that reward repeated readings.
    Submit poems that mean something to you and stand a chance of meaning something to others.
    Simultaneous submissions are okay (notify if accepted elsewhere).
    Please include a short biographical note about yourself.
    Write "comments welcome" if you wouldn't be averse to receiving comments from the editor.

    Responds in 1-4 weeks.

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    50. Writing Competition: The Great Plains Emerging Writer Prize

    The Great Plains Emerging Writer Prize, sponsored the Great Plains Writers’ Conference at South Dakota State University, is given annually to a writer of the Great Plains region who has not yet published a book, but whose work and career shows exceptional promise. The winner will receive a $1000 honorarium and a featured reading at the conference in Brookings, SD in March, 2015, as well as land travel and lodging.

    Submissions open October 1, 2014. Postmark deadline December 1, 2014. All genres open; include a maximum of 15 pages of poetry or hybrid-genre work, or a maximum of 20 pages of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or screenplay. Work submitted may be previously published, but must be stripped of all information identifying the author or the venue. Judging will be blind. Entry fee $15. 

    The Great Plains region is broadly defined as reaching from western Minnesota to eastern Montana and from the Canadian border to central Oklahoma. We consider writers to be “of” this region if they have resided here more than three years or have a demonstrable historical link to the region (e.g., you grew up here and moved away). Please state your relationship to the region in your cover letter.

    For full guidelines visit our website.

    Submit electronically here.

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