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1. Courtney Summers, author of ALL THE RAGE, on a book belonging to the readers

We're honored to have Courtney Summers here to tell us more about her powerful new novel ALL THE RAGE.

Courtney, what is your favorite thing about ALL THE RAGE?

I’ve been working on this book in some form or other since around 2009 or 2010, and after it sold, it took a little over two years and somewhere around six drafts to complete. So just seeing it finished, to know that it’s finally ready for readers, is my favorite thing about All the Rage. I’m very proud of it.

What was your inspiration for writing ALL THE RAGE?

All the Rage is a response to rape culture and an examination of its consequences. The way we fail victims and survivors of sexual violence, the constant victim-blaming, is heartbreaking and infuriating. It’s important that we talk about these things so that we can do better, and that was something I wanted to explore in my work.

What do you hope readers will take away from ALL THE RAGE?

Once a book is out, it doesn’t belong to me anymore—it belongs to the readers. But I do hope that it gets people angry about rape culture. I hope they channel that anger into keeping the conversation about rape culture going.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I do all my best writing at night, with music playing in the background. And I always have to have a cup of coffee and a bottle of water nearby!


All the Rage
by Courtney Summers
St. Martin's Griffin
Released 4/14/2015

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Purchase All the Rage at Amazon
Purchase All the Rage at IndieBound
View All the Rage on Goodreads


COURTNEY SUMMERS was born in Belleville, Ontario in 1986 and currently resides in a small town not far from there. At age 14, she dropped out of high school to pursue her education independently and spent those years figuring out what she wanted to do with her life. At 18, she knew she was meant to write.

To date, she has authored five novels. Her first novel, Cracked Up to Be, was published when she was 22 and went on to win the 2009 CYBIL award in YA fiction. Since then, she’s published four more books–2011 YALSA Top 10 Quick Pick and White Pine Honour book, Some Girls Are, 2012 YALSA Quick Pick, Fall for Anything, and 2013 YALSA Top 10 Quick Pick and White Pine Honour book This is Not a Test and All the Rage as well as an e-novella, Please Remain Calm (a sequel to This is Not a Test).

When she is not writing, Courtney loves playing video games, watching horror movies and obsessing over the zombie apocalypse. Her favourite colour is green and she’s a total feminist.

Note from the formatter: ALL THE RAGE is seriously one of my favourite books of 2015. It's an important and powerful book, please make sure to check it out!

What did you think of our interview with Courtney Summers, author of ALL THE RAGE? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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2. Wittgenstein and natural religion

In the philosophy of religion ‘Wittgensteinianism’ is a distinctive position whose outlines are more or less unanimously agreed by both its defenders and detractors. By invoking a variety of concepts to which Wittgenstein gave currency – language games, forms of life, groundless believing, depth grammar, world pictures – the defenders aim to defuse rationalistic criticisms of religion by showing them to be, in the strict sense, impertinent.

The post Wittgenstein and natural religion appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Learning country music in the digital age

Recently reading through the Notes and Discographies section of Greil Marcus’s book Mystery Train (first published in 1975), I was struck by Marcus’s meticulousness when it came to recommending records.

The post Learning country music in the digital age appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. Getting to know Brian Muir

From time to time, we try to give you a glimpse into our offices around the globe. This week, we are excited to bring you an interview with Brian Muir, an Online Marketing Assistant on our Direct Marketing team in New York. Brian has been working at the Oxford University Press since March 2014.

The post Getting to know Brian Muir appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Jane Higgins, author of THE BRIDGE, on letting reading teach and inspire you

We're thrilled to have Jane Higgins join us to share more about her award-winning novel THE BRIDGE.

Jane, how long did you work on THE BRIDGE?

I worked on it for about three years, although I was playing with the idea of it for a while before that.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Try these: they are all compelling. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden, the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Feed by MT Anderson.

What do you hope readers will take away from THE BRIDGE?

For me, THE BRIDGE is about two things. First, there’s the possibility that when you meet your enemy face to face you might discover that your world is more complex than you thought.  And secondly, it’s about the power of friendship. I work a lot with young people in my day job as a researcher and I’m always struck by how important their friends are to them.  Ultimately, THE BRIDGE is a story about friendship, what borders it might take you across, and what you might discover about yourself and your world on the way.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I have one ‘training wheels’ novel sitting in a drawer at home. I guess I worked on that for six or seven years. It got rejected by numerous agents and publishers, but that’s okay; I learned a lot while I was writing it. In 2008 I joined a writing group consisting of established writers and poets as well as beginners like me.  I wrote THE BRIDGE with helpful feedback from them. In 2010, after two substantial rewrites, I submitted it to a New Zealand publisher, but it got rejected, so I did another rewrite and finished that in time to enter it in Text Publishing’s Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. To my profound and lasting delight, it won. Text (in Australia) published it in 2011 and it was picked up for North America by Tundra after that.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

There was no big revelation, but there was a moment when I realized that this was not going to work as a short story, and that I had to let it be the novel it wanted to be.  After that, I wrote in an exploratory kind of way – I was discovering the world of Cityside and Southside at the same time that my protagonist, Nik, was.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I have a day job as a researcher, so I have to squeeze my writing into the ‘nooks and crannies’ of my day (and night). When I get the chance I write at home at a desk that is a little crowded with writing stuff: books, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a candle, pens and pencils; also a miniature TARDIS which is not exactly writing related but I do like to look at it to ponder the power of the imagination. I don’t usually listen to music. If I do, it will be instrumental because I find lyrics distracting. I’m definitely more of a pantser than a planner and I like to hone and polish as I go, which is undoubtedly inefficient, but it’s the fun bit! When I finish a section I read it aloud because I want to write with cadence and rhythm and the best way to test that is to read aloud. When I’ve finished a whole draft, I read it aloud to my husband Paul, who listens and asks questions, spotting plot problems and contradictions and helping me solve them.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

I guess my favourite piece of advice is also the most obvious, and that’s to read. Read, read, and read some more. Read widely and well, read great writing, read as a writer, let it teach and inspire you.

What are you working on now?

At the end of last year I finished a sequel to THE BRIDGE. It’s called HAVOC and it’s set about six months after the end of THE BRIDGE. It has just been published in New Zealand and Australia by Text. And now I’ve started something new.


The Bridge
by Jane Higgins
Tundra Books
Released 4/14/2015

The City is divided. The bridges gated. In Southside, the hostiles live in squalor and desperation, waiting for a chance to overrun the residents of Cityside.

Nik is still in high school but is destined for a great career with the Internal Security and Intelligence Services, the brains behind the war. But when ISIS comes recruiting, everyone is shocked when he isn't chosen. There must be an explanation, but no one will talk about it. Then the school is bombed and the hostiles take the bridges. Buildings are burning, kids are dead, and the hostiles have kidnapped Sol. Now ISIS is hunting for Nik.

But Nik is on the run, with Sol's sister Fyffe and ISIS hot on their trail. They cross the bridge in search of Sol, and Nik finds answers to questions he had never dared to ask.

The Bridge is a gritty adventure set in a future world where fear of outsiders pervades everything. A heart-stopping novel about friendship, identity, and courage from an exciting new voice in young-adult fiction.

Purchase The Bridge at Amazon
Purchase The Bridge at IndieBound
View The Bridge on Goodreads


Jane was born in Christchurch, New Zealand. Over the years, she has traveled away, but she returned in the 1990s; she and her husband, Paul, live there still, even though the ground now shakes at regular and unnerving intervals and has done since the earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011.

Growing up, she read a lot of classic science fiction, fantasy and myth, and was captivated by the astonishing beauty and strangeness of the universe and by the writers who explored it – in fiction and non-fiction. She tried some exploring of her own, in the company of the very cool people in the Canterbury Astronomical Society – people who made their own telescopes and tracked the patterns of the solar system from their own backyards. She watched Dr. Who (almost, but not quite, from the beginning), Star Trek (favourite episode: The Trouble with Tribbles – great, because so silly) and The Prisoner (great, because so weird), and kept reading. She went to university and completed a degree in astronomy and mathematics and thought about spending her life sitting on a mountain being an astronomer.

A trip away to Europe, post-degree, derailed those ambitions. Seeing serious poverty and serious preparations for war for the first time was a powerful experience. She came home to study social science and learn from some amazing people about its concrete expression in the world through campaigns against poverty, oppressive labour laws and racism in New Zealand and elsewhere.

She became an academic at the University of Canterbury then at Lincoln University, specializing in research with young people about their lives. She wrote a lot of non-fiction for academic journals, kept reading and finally had a go at writing a novel.

She was lucky to be part of the inaugural intake of the Hagley Writers’ Institute – more wonderful people, including tutors and fellow scribblers. In their company, The Bridge grew from a short story into something longer and more complicated.

She still works as a researcher with young people, still reads, still writes (and still watches Dr. Who).

What did you think of our interview with Jane Higgins, author of THE BRIDGE? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

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6. Lance Rubin, author of DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE, on making writing a regular habit

DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE is the debut novel from Lance Rubin, and we're excited to have him with us to share more about it.

Lance, what is your favorite thing about DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE?

This may be a strange answer, but honestly, my favorite thing about DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE is that it exists. Over the years, I've had so many ideas for creative projects that never went beyond the four walls of my brain or the notes section of my iPhone. In fact, before I wrote a single page of this book, it sat in my mind as an idea for around two to three years. Back then, I thought it was going to be a screenplay starring characters in their twenties, and it was only when my acting career totally stalled out at the same time as I read and loved The Hunger Games that I thought "Maybe I should take that idea I had, make the characters teenagers, and try writing it as a young adult novel."

So now, to sit here almost exactly four years later and answer this question, the book not only finished but about to be published, is surreal and magical. I can't believe people I don't know are reading this story.

What do you hope readers will take away from DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE?

For starters, I hope they laugh a lot while reading it. I hope they recognize themselves or people they know in the characters. I hope that the book surprises them, that it takes them on an enjoyable, unpredictable journey.

But I would also love for this book to make readers think about their life in new ways. Their death, too. In my ideal scenario, a reader would put this down and feel newly inspired to--at the risk of sounding painfully cliched--live life to the fullest, to make bold choices, to honestly connect to the people around them, to be fully present and appreciative for each day of being alive.

And, if that doesn't happen, I just hope they've laughed a lot.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Don't wait for someone to ask you to write something. Start TODAY. Right now. And then make sitting down to write a regular habit, whenever you can squeeze it into your life, even on the days when inspiration doesn't strike. It will be challenging and painful and not always fun, but you will learn so much about yourself--from the failures especially--and be fulfilled in many ways you never could have predicted.

What are you working on now?

There is a second DENTON book that I'm in the final stages of rewriting, and I'm in the super-early stages of a new book that has nothing to do with DENTON. I'm not really sure what it is yet, but I do know it has a female protagonist.


Denton Little's Deathdate
by Lance Rubin
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 4/14/2015

Fans of John Green and Matthew Quick: Get ready to die laughing.

Denton Little's Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day they will die. For 17-year-old Denton Little, that's tomorrow, the day of his senior prom.

Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle (as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend's hostile sister. Though he's not totally sure. See: first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton's long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters…. Suddenly Denton's life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.

Debut author Lance Rubin takes us on a fast, furious, and outrageously funny ride through the last hours of a teenager's life as he searches for love, meaning, answers, and (just maybe) a way to live on.

Purchase Denton Little's Deathdate at Amazon
Purchase Denton Little's Deathdate at IndieBound
View Denton Little's Deathdate on Goodreads


Lance Rubin
Lance Rubin spent his twenties working as an actor and writing sketch comedy, with several successful runs of The Lance and Ray Show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. He has now turned his comedic talents to fiction, and Denton Little’s Deathdate is his first novel. You can find him on the Web at LanceRubin.tumblr.com and on Twitter at @LanceRubinParty.

What did you think of our interview with Lance Rubin, author of DEONTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,
Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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7. Crazy Horse and Custer

Fifteen years ago, not long after publishing Anthology of Modern American Poetry with Oxford, I began to receive the typical mix of complimentary and complaining letters. In the latter category, faculty members wanted to know why a favorite poem or poet was left out and some poets who were not included wrote pointed letters to let me know they weren’t happy with the fact. But one poet, William Heyen, took a different approach.

The post Crazy Horse and Custer appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Pete Hautman, author of EDEN WEST, on reading your work out loud

We're thrilled to have award-winning author Pete Hautman stop by to share more about his latest novel EDEN WEST.

Pete, tell us about your inspiration for writing EDEN WEST.

I began Eden West back in 2002, at the same time I was working on Godless. Both books deal with the differences and relationship between religion and faith, both are coming-of-age stories, and both are about a young man in conflict with his father. But in Godless, the conflict is generated intellectually—it is Jason’s thoughts that create dissonance—whereas in Eden West, Jacob’s apostasy is impelled by external forces. One might say that Eden West is an inside-out version of Godless.

As for the specific inspiration that got me started on Eden West, I was thinking about fences—chain-link fences in particular—and imagined two people meeting through such a barrier, and I wondered why the fence was there, why they were on opposite sides of it, and what it takes to make them climb over.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Scenes involving multiple characters—such as the banquet scene, or the scene where Father Grace announces his betrothal—are always difficult for me, and I am never completely at ease with the result. Probably my favorite passage in the book is when Jacob is alone, following the gray owl through the Mire. I’ve spent a lot of time alone in bogs hunting for mushrooms. That scene feels particularly vivid to me.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

That’s a tough one, since I try hard to write books that are different from what is out there. I would NOT point them to other “cult books.” Maybe something like Lois Lowry’s The Giver, or Kindred, by Octavia Butler, whose work I recommend at every opportunity.

How long did you work on EDEN WEST?

Twelve years, with several starts and stops.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Every book is an education, yes? Working on Eden West, I discovered I have more empathy for those who are immersed in nonstandard belief systems than I expected to be. It’s easy to be snarky or intolerant of people-of-not-my-faith, and to forget that we are all fellow travelers. I think often of a line from Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer: “That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin.”

What do you hope readers will take away from EDEN WEST?

I don’t really think that way. I’ve come to accept that I cannot control what happens once a book leaves my hands. When people start reading Eden West (or any book), they will make it into something new, something I never intended. Books continue to be “written” by readers after publication—the act of reading is a part of the creative process. I’ve done my bit as a writer; now I pass the baton.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

Pretty much all of my extant work has been or will be (I hope) published. Keep in mind that I wrote and destroyed thousands of pages before I ever submitted anything to a publisher. I was pretty tough on myself, in retrospect. But once I thought I’d gotten good enough, I sold my first novel (Drawing Dead) fairly quickly: six months to find an agent, twelve months for the agent to find a publisher, then another eighteen months for the book to come out. It felt like forever, but by industry standards, that’s pretty typical.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

It was a long road, so there were too many AHA! moments to count. There were also a lot of AAARGH! moments when I thought the novel had crashed and burned. At one point I went AAARGH! and set it aside for two years.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I’m kind of boring that way. I do all my writing at home sitting at my desk. In a coffee shop I am more interested in watching the people and eavesdropping when possible. I guess that’s part of writing, but not the part where words are being put on the page. I love the library, of course, and I spend many hours there doing research. That’s part of writing too. But I don’t “write” while I’m there.

I do get work done while running. That’s when many plot issues are resolved. When I get home from a run I often head straight for my computer where I drip sweat on the keyboard while recording dialogue that came to me during my run.

I don’t listen to music while writing, but I often have an informal playlist—songs I find myself listening to repeatedly that seem to get me into whatever headspace a particular story requires. For Eden West I listened to a lot of K.D. Lang and Dr. Dre. I know that’s weird; I can’t explain it.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Other than the usual—read, write, observe, rewrite—I’ll suggest one technique that has worked for me: Read what you’ve written out loud and record it, then wait a day or two and listen to yourself reading your own work. I use my cell phone to record, then play it back over the car stereo while I’m driving around. Painful and time consuming, yes, but I learn a lot about pacing, and I catch a lot of mistakes.

What are you working on now?

As I write this (in mid-March), I’m working on a rather unusual unboxing video. I just got my first author’s copy of Eden West, but I haven’t yet opened the scary package. I have the chainsaw, the goggles, and the mask. I am at this moment waiting for my camera operator to show up.

{Pete sent us the unboxing video of the scary package - click here to view it.}

I have a middle-grade sci-fi comedy coming out this fall (The Flinkwater Factor), and I’m putting the final touches on a YA novel about birth order and eating contests.


Eden West
by Pete Hautman
Released 4/14/2015

Tackling faith, doubt, and transformation, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman explores a boy’s unraveling allegiance to an insular cult.

Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all seventeen-year-old Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. When the Archangel Zerachiel descends from Heaven, only the Grace will be spared the horrors of the Apocalypse. But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl from the adjoining ranch, who tempts him to sample the forbidden Worldly pleasures that lie beyond the fence. Jacob’s faith, his devotion, and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer. Eden West is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Purchase Eden West at Amazon
Purchase Eden West at IndieBound
View Eden West on Goodreads


2762Pete Hautman is the author of Godless, which won the National Book Award, and many other critically acclaimed books for teens and adults, including Blank Confession, All-In, Rash, No Limit, and Invisible. Mr. Was was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Pete lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Visit him at petehautman.com.

What did you think of our interview with Pete Hautman, author of EDEN WEST? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

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9. NPM Project: Jumping Into Form - Interview with Marilyn Singer

In preparation for sharing forms this month, I wrote to a number of poets and asked if they would respond to a short list of questions on poetry, writing, and form. I'm thrilled every time one responds positively and find they have all been extremely generous with their time.

Today I'm sharing the thoughts of Marilyn Singer, author of more than 80 books in a range of genres, including non-fiction, fairy tales, picture books, mysteries, poetry, and more. Recent poetry titles include Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents (2013), Follow Follow: A Book of Reversos (2013), A Strange Place to Call Home (2012), The Superheroes Employment Agency (2012),  A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play (2012),  A Full Moon Is Rising (2011), Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Poems (2010), and First Food Fight This Fall and Other School Poems (2008).

How does a poem begin for you — with an idea, a form, an image, or something else?
Marilyn: For me, a poem can begin with any of those things.  Sometimes, it’s an image.  I saw the full moon between skyscrapers near Times Square, NYC, where the Broadway theatres are, and it led to the image of the moon as an actor waiting in the wings to make an entrance.  That in turn led to the poem “Broadway Moon” in A Full Moon Is Rising (Lee & Low).  Other times, it’s an idea that sparks a poem.   I was thinking about the nature of fire and these lines came into my head:  “Fire has contradiction/at its heart/from that wintry blue part/to its jagged golden crown.”   They became the opening of the poem “Contradiction” from Central Heating (Knopf).  For my reverso poems, the process of writing obviously begins with form. A reverso is a poem in two parts.  The second part reverses the lines from the first part, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and it has to say something different from the first part. Mirrror Mirror and Follow Follow, both published by Dial, are my books of reversos based on fairy tales, and I have a third book of reversos, Echo Echo, based on Greek myths, coming out next spring. When I decide to create a reverso, I have to find a narrative that will fit that form. I look for two sides to a story, and then I find lines that can be flipped, which requires a lot of participles, questions/declarations, etc.  I usually write poems by hand on paper, but I have to write the reversos on a computer in order to shift around lines more easily and see what makes sense.

How do you choose the form of your poems?
Marilyn: Other than the reversos, which are a deliberate choice, I’m not really sure how I choose the form of my poems.  I don’t think that there’s one thing at work which determines my choice. Sometimes a line begs to be repeated, for example, “A stick is an excellent thing,” from the title poem from A Stick Is an Excellent Thing (Clarion).  That call for repetition suggested that I use the line in a triolet, one of my favorite forms.  But often, my choice is more like: I’m going to write about spadefoot toads for my book about animals in dangerous habitats, A Strange Place to Call Home (Chronicle), and I’ve researched them, and, they’re in the desert, which is dry and sparse, and the poem’s about nature, and  how about a haiku: “They can deal solo/with dryness, but give them rain,/and then: toads explode.”

Are there any forms you haven't tried but would like to? Why or why not?
Marilyn: There are lots of forms I’ve seen on lists and don’t know anything about. Tetractys? Tyburn? Dorsimbra? Maybe I’ll get to some of them—and maybe I won’t. I tried my hand at some villanelles and enjoyed them, though they were quite difficult. I’ve never written a sestina, and I don’t know if I ever will.  It seems a bit daunting. In general, I’m drawn to forms that are more concise—triolets, cinquains, haikus, as well as free verse—forms that say a lot in a little.  But, who knows, maybe I’ll wake up some morning with the burning need to write epic verse (though probably not!).

What tools (rhyming dictionary, book of forms, etc.) do you use in writing poetry (if any)?
Marilyn: I use all of the above—a rhyming dictionary (mostly online), a thesaurus, and reference sites to forms—as well as spell check.  ;-)

What would you like students or children to know about poetry?
Marilyn: When I was very young, my parents read poetry to me.  It made me fall in love with words and what they can convey.  It also made me believe that there is not just one view of the world. Poetry is about surprise—seeing a cat, a stone, a trip to the ocean, an annoying neighbor, racial politics, climate change, bird migration, something conceptual or concrete in a unique way.  And the poet’s efforts to do that allow the reader or listener to share that view, and perhaps use his or her own mind and senses to look at things differently.

Also, poetry can be a fun game. Writing my reversos, in particular, has been the ultimate word game. And I think, for readers, figuring out what the poems say and how they say it (and then maybe trying to write reversos themselves) is also a good game.

Finally, one of your esteemed colleagues suggested I ask for a poem in a foreign verse form. Would you be willing to share a poem for this project?
Marilyn: Here’s the title poem from Follow Follow.  It’s based on the Pied Piper tale.  Who is speaking in each part of the poem?


Hundreds of rats,
my dear citizens of Hamelin,
shall never return!
All the children
once again play merrily in the streets.
On this festive day
I will
tell the council to relay what I say:
“Many thanks
for your
There will be
no pay.
It is time, Piper, to go away.”

It is time, Piper, to go away?
No pay?
There will be
for your
"many thanks."
Tell the council to relay what I say:
I will,
on this festive day,
once again play merrily in the streets.
All the children
shall never return.
My dear citizens of Hamelin—
hundreds of rats.

Poems ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

A million thanks to Marilyn for participating in my Jumping Into Form project this month.

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10. A Jazz Appreciation Month Playlist

Established in 2001, Jazz Appreciation Month celebrates the rich history, present accolades, and future growth of jazz music. Spanning the blues, ragtime, dixieland, bebop, swing, soul, and instrumentals, there's no surprise that jazz music has endured the test of time from its early origins amongst African-American slaves in the late 19th century to its growth today.

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11. Video Sunday: “You fill me with inertia.”

Hallo, folks!

So today is the last day of National Library Week.  In celebration, enjoy this delightful video from Common Craft for your average non-library literate layman.  If you are a librarian, show this video to those members of your family who heard you had to get a Master’s degree and asked you, “What? So they teach you how to put your hair in a bun and go ‘Shh’ all day?”

More info here.

There is a saying in my family: A music video isn’t viral until soldiers perform a version of it.  Admittedly it’s a relatively new saying.  The same might also be said for librarian parody videos, though.  When they’re doing a song you haven’t heard of, you best be looking that puppy up.  Case in point . . .

The moment he’s reading Beloved sort of stands out.  Otherwise, perfectly fine.  The ending is pitch perfect.  Thanks to Melanie for the link.

One more.  This time with a Taylor Swift-centric vibe.  Author Patricia Hubbell ought to be well pleased:

In other news I was so pleased to see James Kennedy and his 90-Second Newbery shenanigans appear on this recent episode of Kidlit TV.  You should watch it if, for no other reason, the fact that you get to see Ame Dyckman briefly prance.  And prance she does!!

Next up, the Mazza Museum!  I love that place, but the smiling blonde is way way way perky.

Speaking of perky, Scholastic ups the ante with a professional announcer talking up their summer reading challenge.  Not a bad idea.  Offer kids the chance to be in a world record and watch your participation numbers skyrocket.

And for our off-topic video, this week this post alerted me to the existence of this movie scene from the film Bedazzled.  This constitutes my new favorite thing.


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12. Present with ALSC at an Upcoming Conference!

2016 ALSC National Institute

Apply to present at the 2016 ALSC National Institute (image courtesy of ALSC)

ALSC is now accepting proposals for innovative programs for the 2016 ALA Annual Conference and the 2016 ALSC National Institute. Be part of this exciting professional development opportunity by submitting your program today! Each event has its own site for submitting a proposal:

2016 Annual Conference
To submit a program proposal for the 2016 Annual Conference, please visit the ALSC website at http://www.ala.org/alsc/AC16cfp for the submission form and instructions. All proposals must be submitted by Sunday, June 7, 2015. The 2016 ALA Annual Conference is scheduled for June 23-28, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

2016 National Institute
To submit a program proposal for the 2016 National Institute, please visit the ALSC website at http://www.ala.org/alsc/institute for the submission form and instructions. All proposals must be submitted by Sunday, July 12, 2015. The 2016 ALSC National Institute is scheduled for September 15 -17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The ALSC Program Planning Committee is looking for a wide range of themes and topics such as advocacy, technology, multiculturalism, administration and management, early literacy, research, partnerships, best practices, programming, and outreach. ALSC committees, members, and other interested individuals are welcome to submit a proposal.

Please note that participants attending ALSC programs are seeking valuable educational experiences; the Program Coordinating Committee will not select a program session that suggests commercial sales or self-promotion. Presentations should provide a valuable learning experience and avoid being too limited in scope.

Please contact the chair of the ALSC Program Coordinating Committee, Patty Carleton, at PCarleton@slpl.org with questions.

The post Present with ALSC at an Upcoming Conference! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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13. Erin Bowman, author of FORGED, on writing to music without lyrics

FORGED is the final novel in the Taken trilogy, and we're delighted to have Erin Bowman here to tell us more about it.

Erin, what scene of FORGED was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

There is a scene about halfway through the novel that made me sob uncontrollably as I wrote it. It was a very difficult scene to get on paper, but a necessary one. I'm hoping readers aren't too mad at me for it! ;)

I also very much love the final scene of the book. I think it leaves readers with a very hopeful image after a book of dark twists and untimely character deaths. (Again, sorry readers! I swear I don't enjoy torturing you!)

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I don't have too much of a ritual--I write when I have time, but it does always include coffee and music. I tend to avoid songs with lyrics, though. I find that distracting. Instead I focus on film scores and instrumental music. You can listen to some examples of the stuff I gravitate towards while writing here.

What are you working on now?

I just finished up my work on Vengeance Road, a YA western standalone that comes out from HMH on 9/1/15. I'm now back to staring at the blank page and dreaming up new stories. Here's hoping my muse cooperates soon!


by Erin Bowman
Released 4/14/2015

Gray Weathersby and his group of rebels must make their final stand in the epic conclusion to the Taken trilogy, which New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu called "an action-packed thrill ride from beginning to end."

The Order is building an unstoppable army, with every generation of Forgeries harder to detect and deadlier than the one before. It’s time for Gray and his fellow rebels to end the Order's world of lies. But when the most familiar faces—and even the girl he loves—can’t be trusted, Gray will have to tread carefully if he wants to succeed. Or survive.

Purchase Forged at Amazon
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View Forged on Goodreads


Erin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words. She lives in New Hampshire with her family and when not writing she can often be found hiking, commenting on good typography, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter.

Erin is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger. She is the author of TAKEN, FROZEN, and FORGED (4/14/15) from HarperTeen. VENGEANCE ROAD is forthcoming from HMH (9/1/15).

What did you think of our interview with Erin Bowman, author of FORGED? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

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14. Niall Leonard, author of SHREDDER, on the importance of hard work

SHREDDER is the last novel in the Crusher trilogy, and we're pleased to have Niall Leonard stop by to tell us more about it.

Niall, what was your inspiration for writing SHREDDER?

Shredder was the culmination of a trilogy that started with Crusher. I suppose the driving idea for this part of the story was of one guy caught between two or three unstoppable forces and how with wits and courage he manages to play one off against the other.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The last scene was the hardest to write for reasons that will become apparent to the reader.  But at the same time it had a poetic rightness to it.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or vice versa?

Any of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels, I think.  Though his are a little longer than mine and my hero is less convinced of his own rightness.

How long did you work on SHREDDER?

It took about six months to write but a year or two to plot out and daydream before that.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

That when you put your imagination to work there are no limits on what you can depict.

What do you hope readers will take away from SHREDDER?

A feeling of exhilaration, and maybe some regrets…

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

Funny you should ask that question - I just cleared out the attic of my old house and found a few copies of the first book I ever wrote, finished when I was 20 years old.  It never got published, and for that I am extremely grateful - not because it's bad (though it's not very good) but because it's gushingly autobiographical.

When I first started writing professionally it was for TV because I'm good at dialogue, and good at taking notes from producers and making script changes quickly and efficiently.  All the same I got a bit of a reputation after a while for being 'difficult' because I got more and more frustrated at the compromises I had to make and the way my ideas got mangled to fit the demands of television.  After all that pressure, writing a novel was amazingly liberating - no-one messes with your work or tells you to do it differently.  Sometimes your editor might make a suggestion, but they never change anything without your permission.

Many people know I wrote the first novel of this trilogy, Crusher, in about a month.  What's less well known is that I had been plotting it on and off for about three years before I finally set pen to paper. If you've planned your story properly it's not such a challenge to write it quickly. That said, every author has their own approach.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

They key to writing a novel is to sit down and write the blasted thing.  If you wait for an AHA! moment you may be waiting the rest of your life.  Aha moments come from focusing for ages on the problems of your story until you come up with an answer - from hard work, in other words.  Inspiration is for poets - unpublished ones.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I never listen to music, it's too distracting. I usually work at my desk but sometimes the temptations of the Internet and email are too great - then I go work longhand in the kitchen, or very rarely to a café.  I like to write trickier scenes out in longhand, where I can tear out pages and crumple them up and throw them away in anger like a proper author.  Then when the scene is in a shape I like I put it onto a PC and carry on working.  I try to set myself a quota of words or scenes each day, and to get to the end of that one way or another.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

A quote I read this morning from Steven King, which goes something like 'talent is cheaper than table salt - what separates the talented individual from the successful is a lot of hard work'.  In other words, talent ain't enough - don't count on it to get you where you want to be.

What are you working on now?

I am finishing off a period detective novel based on a genuine historical character so amazing nobody will believe he existed.


by Niall Leonard
Delacorte Press
Released 4/14/2015

In the gut-wrenching third and final novel in Niall Leonard’s Crusher series, Finn Maguire is lured back into the warring factions of the underworld by way of blackmail.

Finn “Crusher” Maguire has one simple task: to set up a meeting. But when that meeting is between the Guvnor and the Turk, two psychotic criminals vying for control of London’s underworld, Finn’s task proves to be anything but simple. As the city cracks under a blistering heatwave and the UK is rocked by a series of terrorist outrages, Crusher finds himself caught up in a gang war full of carnage, corruption and treachery. To save himself and the girl he loves from being shredded to a bloody pulp between opposing factions, Finn faces horrifying risks and impossible choices.

Purchase Shredder at Amazon
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Niall Leonard grew up in Newry, Northern Ireland. In 1977 he attended the University of York to study English, and from there went on to The UK National Film and Television School where he trained as a screenwriter and director. His first film was Absolution, an old-fashioned revenge thriller with a supernatural twist, filmed on location in Newry in 1983 and starring Derek Halligan. Niall returned to Newry In 1985 to shoot locations for his graduation movie, the black comedy No Man’s Land, starring Patrick Bergin and Des McAleer.

After graduating from the NFTS in 1986 Niall’s first broadcast work as director was the comedy series Phil and Arthur Go Off for Channel Four, followed by stints on ITV’s long-running cop show The Bill. Meanwhile Niall pursued his own projects, writing and directing the one-off black comedy Rotten Apples starring BJ Hogg and Ian McElhinney, and developing Over The Wild Frontier, a six-part comedy drama set on the Irish border, for Channel Four.

Niall’s first TV script to be broadcast on the network was an episode of Jimmy Nail’s cop show Spender, closely followed by Pie In The Sky with Richard Griffiths.

In 1994 Niall took up a year-long contract as a Script Editor at BBC Northern Ireland, where he got to work with his long-time hero Graham Reid on Life After Life and made the acquaintance of Belfast’s Hole In The Wall Gang. His work as script associate on their pilot for Give My Head Peace led to a partnership that continued for ten years, with Niall contributing to every episode of the immensely successful satirical sitcom and its spinoff stage productions.

In 1995 he returned to full-time writing with a script for the groundbreaking Irish comedy drama Ballykissangel and went on to create episodes of Silent Witness, Hornblower, Sea of Souls, Second Sight, and Holby City. Niall adapted the Minette Walters thriller The Dark Room for BBC1, and wrote numerous episodes over several series of Monarch of The Glen, Wire In The Blood and Wild At Heart.

Recently Niall completed screenplays for two big-budget two-part thrillers for US cable TV, loosely adapted from novels by Alastair Maclean. Air Force One is Down started shooting on location in Luxembourg in May 2012, with Puppet On A Chain slated to go into production later the same year.

As part of the 2011 Nanowrimo novel-writing event Niall wrote Crusher, a gritty crime thriller set in London featuring Finn Maguire, a dyslexic young offender investigating the murder of his father. The novel was picked up by Random House for publication in October 2012, and Niall is currently working on its sequel.

Niall has led seminars and workshops on screenwriting and script editing for the BBC, the Northern Ireland Film Council and the Irish Screenwriters’ Guild, and lectured on the creative process at the University of Reading.

He is married with two kids and a rather smelly dog and lives in West London.

What did you think of our interview with Niall Leonard, author of SHREDDER? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

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15. Katie Sise, author of THE PRETTY APP, on throwing challenges at your characters

We're excited to have Katie Sise here to tell us more about THE PRETTY APP, her companion novel to THE BOYFRIEND APP.

Katie, what was your inspiration for writing THE PRETTY APP?

When writing THE BOYFRIEND APP, I always felt like there was more to Blake's story. I wanted to know more about why she acted the way she did. And I was intrigued by the idea of writing about a teenager who thinks the only thing of value about her is being beautiful.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

My favorite scene in the book is between Blake and her sister, Nic. It occurs at Notre Dame, (my alma mater), and the college where Nic is enrolled and where Blake and Audrey will attend in the fall. As I was writing THE PRETTY APP, the way the relationship between the two sisters develops was as (or more!) important as the romantic relationship between Blake and Leo.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
Elizabeth Eulberg's books! 

She's also a friend of mine, so I'm partial, but I always hear readers say that there's a similar tone and style.

How long did you work on THE PRETTY APP?

Much longer than THE BOYFRIEND APP! THE BOYFRIEND APP took about four months to write. THE PRETTY APP took much longer-- maybe about eight months--because there were so many stops and starts. It was just a harder book for me to figure out. Sometimes that happens! But I'm happy with how it turned out, so all of those rewrites were worth it :)

What do you hope readers will take away from THE PRETTY APP?

That everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and that you don't know someone's reasons for being the way that they are until you walk in their shoes. (Not that it excuses Blake's behavior in The Boyfriend App, but remembering that helped me to understand her as a character.)

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Someone once told me to continually make things hard on your characters, no matter how much you love them. That helped! Throwing challenges at my characters in every chapter helps move the book along and creates suspense.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I always write in quiet. I get too distracted with music. I do love writing in a coffee shop, but for now, I write at home while my son naps, and on weekends, too. So that means I write a little less than twenty hours a week. When my children are in school, I'll go back to a full-time writing schedule. But for now, this works!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Just keep writing. Every day. I think the only reason I got published was because I'd written for so many years and had practice at it, so when the more salable idea came along, I was ready!

What are you working on now?

I'm so excited to be working on another romantic comedy for Balzer + Bray! This one has an entire new casts of characters, and it's been so much fun to write so far!


The Pretty App
by Katie Sise
Balzer + Bray
Released 4/14/2015

Poor Blake Dawkins! She's rich, she's gorgeous, and she's the queen bee of Harrison High. The girls want to be her; the boys want to—okay, enough said. But it turns out Blake’s life is not so perfect—just talk to her dad, who constantly reminds her that she's not up to par, or to her ex-bff, Audrey, who doesn't even look her in the eye.

Then Harrison—and every other high school in America—becomes obsessed with posting selfies on the ubiquitous Pretty App. Next: Leo, an adorable transfer student, arrives at Harrison and begins to show Blake that maybe being a queen bee doesn't mean being a queen bitch. And though Audrey suspects somebody’s playing foul, Blake finds herself catapulted to internet fame after being voted one of the prettiest girls in the country. She's whisked away to star in a reality show—in Hollywood, on live TV. But she doesn’t know who to trust. Because everybody on the show wants to win.

And nobody is there to make friends.

The Boyfriend App author Katie Sise spins another irresistible tale of technology, secrets, and big-time romance in this story of what it takes to be #trulybeautiful.

Purchase The Pretty App at Amazon
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View The Pretty App on Goodreads


Katharine “Katie” Sise is a New York City based author, jewelry designer and television host. Years ago, at age twenty-four— after dropping a rare and very expensive bottle of champagne on her way to deliver it to Robert De Niro’s table—she realized she needed a way to fund her acting and writing career that didn’t involve balancing a tray full of cocktails. That fall, she taught herself to make jewelry and launched Katharine Sise Jewelry. Within a few months, Lucky Magazine called her a “Designer to Watch” and her company appeared in every major fashion magazine—including Vogue, W, Elle, Self, Lucky, InStyle, Bazaar, Allure, Us Weekly, People, In Touch, Page Six Magazine, Real Simple, FN, Life and Style, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Women’s Wear Daily, Marie Claire and Glamour. Before she knew it, her celebrity clientele included Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Kelly Ripa, Ellen Pompeo, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Beyonce Knowles, Anne Hathaway and Drew Barrymore.

Katharine has been profiled on dozens of online fashion and lifestyle outlets including Forbes.com, Elle.com, InStyle.com, People.com, Sweet, The Huffington Post and The New York Post. Her jewelry has appeared on television shows such as The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, E! News, Good Day New York, Full Frontal Fashion, Movie and a Makeover, The O.C., Brothers and Sisters and Gossip Girl. While Katharine was chatting with the ladies from The View, one of her necklaces broke on air and fell from her neck to her lap because she didn’t spend enough time getting the clasp right. That moment is preserved, forever, on a DVD at her parents’ house.

Katharine has designed jewelry for national campaigns like Vera Wang, Gap and Keds. In 2009, Target launched Katharine Sise for Target.

Katharine has worked as a fashion and lifestyle consultant, appearing on-air for networks like HSN, Oxygen, Discovery Channel, CNBC and ABC’s Good Morning America. For eighteen months, Katharine co-hosted a live monthly television show for The Home Shopping Network. She also appeared as The Daily Special’s resident style expert.

Katharine’s first book, Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career (Perseus/Running Press) hit shelves in September of 2010. Creative Girl is written for every woman who wants to make her living in the creative world, whether in an office job or at the helm of her own business. The book is an encouraging and practical take on how to make a living doing what you love.

Katharine’s first novel, The Boyfriend App, was published by HarperCollins Balzer + Bray on April 30, 2013. The Boyfriend App tells the story of a girl who, in order to win a scholarship offered by a secretly-evil global computing corporation, invents an app that makes any boy fall madly in love with her, with chaotic results. The Boyfriend App has received rave reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, and VOYA.

Katharine has a BA in Film, Television and Theater from The University of Notre Dame. She lives in New York City with her family.

What did you think of our interview with Katie Sise, author of THE PRETTY APP? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

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16. Delilah S. Dawson, author of HIT, on being inspired by South Park and an iPod update

HIT is the latest novel by Delilah S. Dawson, and we're delighted she's joining us to share more about it.

Delilah, what was your inspiration for writing HIT?

It was inspired by South Park, believe it or not. One night, I watched the Human CentiPad episode, in which accepting Apple's terms of service legally contracts you to be sewn into a human centipede. The next day, my own iPod downloaded a new version (without my permission, I might add) and forced me to accept a new TOS. Basically, either you Accept it, or you throw away your useless piece of tech and lose all your music and songs forever. I pressed Agree and prepared myself to be sewn to another foolish iPod owner.

And then I started to think about how easy it would be to slide something sneaky into a long, unreadable Terms of Service agreement. What if, when signing up for a new credit card, they tweaked the wording so that instead of "This agreement may be terminated at any time," to "This cardholder may be terminated at any time?" Would anyone notice? And if they agreed anyway, what would happen when the bank took advantage of that stipulation?

That was the story seed: What if you could be legally killed for not paying your debts?

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The opening scene was actually the hardest to write. Part of Patsy's problem is that the more people you kill, the easier it gets, but that first one's a doozy. As I've never killed anyone (Promise!), it was hard putting myself into the shoes of someone standing there, gun in hand, watching the clock count down.

I'm super proud of the scene between Patsy and Jeremy. It wasn't in the first draft, but it always makes me emotional.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I would say that if you want to read about the first step of a dystopia, this is the book for you. I mean, I love The Hunger Games and Divergent, but you look at those worlds and think, "Uh, how did we get to the point where we're all divided up by arbitrary lines and wearing gray tunics?" I wrote this book as the first event that changes the core of America and sends us down a path that gets increasingly twisted. My pal Trent Reedy is doing something similar in his Divided We Fall Trilogy about the war that could happen tomorrow, if we're not careful. No tunics necessary.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I'm writing the sequel to HIT, which is called STRIKE and will be out in 2016. It picks up right where HIT ends, but... it's got an even higher body count. The good news is that Patsy doesn't go to the Capitol to take on the New Government, which is one of my pet peeves in dystopia. The bad news is that she loses someone very close to her...

I'm also in edits for WAKE OF VULTURES, a Fantasy I recently sold to Orbit in a two-book deal. It's the book that inspired the vulture feather tattoo on my right forearm, and it will be out this October under the name Lila Bowen. Which is still me. :)


by Delilah S. Dawson
Simon Pulse
Released 4/14/2015


The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that we were bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of anarchy across the country.

Patsy didn’t have much of a choice. When the suits showed up at her house threatening to kill her mother then and there for outstanding debt unless Patsy agreed to be an indentured assassin, what was she supposed to do? Let her own mother die?

Patsy is forced to take on a five-day mission to complete a hit list of ten names. Each name on Patsy's list has only three choices: pay the debt on the spot, agree to work as a bounty hunter, or die. And Patsy has to kill them personally, or else her mom takes a bullet of her own.

Since yarn bombing is the only rebellion in Patsy's past, she’s horrified and overwhelmed, especially as she realizes that most of the ten people on her list aren't strangers. Things get even more complicated when a moment of mercy lands her with a sidekick: a hot rich kid named Wyatt whose brother is the last name on Patsy's list. The two share an intense chemistry even as every tick of the clock draws them closer to an impossible choice.

Delilah S. Dawson offers an absorbing, frightening glimpse at a reality just steps away from ours—a taut, suspenseful thriller that absolutely mesmerizes from start to finish.

Purchase Hit at Amazon
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Delilah S. Dawson writes whimsical and dark Fantasy for adults and teens. Her Blud series for Pocket includes Wicked as They Come, Wicked After Midnight, and Wicked as She Wants, winner of the RT Book Reviews Steampunk Book of the Year and May Seal of Excellence for 2013. Her YA debut, Servants of the Storm, is a Southern Gothic Horror set in Savannah, GA, and HIT is about teen assassins in a bank-owned America. Her Geekrotica series under pseudonym Ava Lovelace includes The Lumberfox and The Superfox with The Dapperfox on the way. Look for Wake of Vultures from Orbit Books in October 2015, written as Lila Bowen.

Delilah teaches writing classes at LitReactor and wrote the Island of Mesmer world for Storium.

Delilah lives with her husband, two small children, a horse, a dog, and two cats in Atlanta. Find out more at www.whimsydark.com.

What did you think of our interview with Delilah S. Dawson, author of HIT? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

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17. Stuck Rubber Baby at 20

Before 1995, Howard Cruse was best known as an underground comix artist, first coming to prominence with Barefootz in the 1970s, with his editorship of Gay Comix in the early 1980s, and then hitting a real stride with the Wendel comics in The Advocate throughout the '80s. Wendel ended in 1989, though, and Cruse began a major new project, his first graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, released by the DC Comics imprint Paradox Press. It gained notice and won awards, but never had the breakout success of something like Maus, Persepolis, or Fun Home, though I would argue that it is at least close to equal in merit.

Stuck Rubber Baby is a true graphic novel — unlike many other books that get that label, it was not conceived in pieces or published serially; it was always intended to be a long, unified narrative. It tells the story of a man named Toland Polk, mostly through his memories of growing up in Alabama during the early 1960s as a white guy who doesn't really know what he wants from the world or his life, coming to grips both with the civil rights movement and his own homosexuality. Partly in an attempt to try to cure his gay desires, he ends up in a relationship with a fiery college student, activist, and singer named Ginger, and she becomes pregnant. Meanwhile, protests against segregation and racism are growing more and more ferocious, and the white establishment fights back, with tragic, horrifying results. Throughout it all, Toland meets queer characters of various races and ages, and finally decides both that political action is necessary and that he can't pretend to be heterosexual any longer. This primary story is framed as the memories of Toland thirty years later, apparently in a stable relationship with a man, living a solidly bourgeois urban gay life, but still haunted by the past. Other characters' stories and fates are woven through Toland's memories, creating a complex view of this past and his remembering of it.

I've had a weird relationship with Stuck Rubber Baby over the course of its lifetime: I looked through it when it was first published and decided it wasn't for me; I read the whole book sometimes in the early 2000's and liked it but didn't really engage with it; I recently read it very carefully and closely, which led to something like awe. (The last time I had as powerful a reading experience was when I read J.M. Ledgard's Submergence over a year ago.)

Many people I know — otherwise intelligent people of impeccably refined taste — don't like Stuck Rubber Baby. Some claim to appreciate it, but to be put off by its artwork, which they invariably describe as ugly or "just plain bad." The art is one thing that caused me to bounce off the book when I first tried to read it sometime in 1996 or 1997, when I saw it at the old Shakespeare & Co. bookstore on lower Broadway in Manhattan and spent some time reading through it. (I used to go there when I was bored, or wanted to get away from people, or just felt like hanging out in a bookstore. They were open till midnight and didn't seem to mind if I sat there and read without buying anything.) The images seemed to me then unappealing, cramped, dark. I was also put off by the story's historical setting — I didn't want to read about Alabama in the 1960s, I wanted to read about contemporary New York queers.

I returned to the book in the early 2000's when I found a used copy somewhere and was thinking about doing an essay on various literary representations of AIDS activism. Though not at all directly about AIDS activism, I suspected (rightly) that it was relevant to that topic. I never got far with what I was writing, though, as life and other projects intervened.

My most recent experience of reading Stuck Rubber Baby was for a course on graphic narratives that I'm taking for my Ph.D. (this is my final term of coursework). It may have been that context that helped open up the book for me, since it required me to read it carefully and deliberately, but I think the more significant factor is simply age. Much of what concerned Cruse when he wrote Stuck Rubber Baby is now of more concern to me than it was when I encountered the book earlier: questions of memory and experience, of looking back on youthful political awakening, of trying to save something of a younger self for the present age, of making sense of an upbringing in a place very different from New York City, of queer identity.

Queer, indeed. Something that struck me especially forcefully as I read the book this time is how well it captures the feeling of queerness in every sense of the word, even among friends and supportive family members, a feeling that is not only a matter of desire, but is also inflected by the pitfalls and obstacles of making sense of an individual identity within a group — knowing always that there will be something strange about you to anyone, no matter how similar they may seem in experiences or yearnings.

Perhaps that's why the art didn't bother me this time; indeed, for once the art seemed absolutely right for the material. The human figures look like mannequins or weird, plump wax sculptures. The pages are mostly cramped, the panels claustrophobic. (That effect is enhanced by the decision to print the book in a small format so that it would be displayed on bookstores' fiction shelves rather than in the humor section. I think the art suffers for this, and it would be nice to have a larger format edition, but the cramped feeling is certainly heightened.) The shading often makes it difficult to distinguish skin tones, a powerful effect in a book about the civil rights era, where race seems so obvious and incontrovertible to the characters. Cruse draws an off-kilter world, a sometimes disturbing world, a world where cartoonish figures must find some way to reconcile themselves to very uncartoonish violence and horror.

It's an extremely talky book. The few panels without text stand out, and their presence inevitably feels either like a relief or a shock. The characters are constantly trying to talk their way through things, to find the right words, and more often than not they fail. At the same time, other characters wield words as weapons, with deadly consequences. Again and again, the book returns to ideas of representation and performance, of how identity, performance, and memory can merge or split. Sometimes words help, but often they do not — they accumulate, obfuscate, crowd out action and sight. It's significant that the book becomes more quiet at the end, as Toland finds ways to reconcile himself to the past, to move forward while preserving memory, to admit his own failures and horrors and not simply reduce them to stories he tells over and over again. Music weaves through his memories, and it is music that accompanies him in the end — "There's something I wanna show ya," he says, and the panels open up, the music weaves through the images, and we are left with the silent peace of a city snow storm.

I was struck during this reading at how easily Stuck Rubber Baby moves through its characters' timelines, how well, for the most part, it prevents us from getting confused as stories are told within stories, memories within memories. The structure overall is basically linear for the major events, but within sequences (and sometimes even individual pages) the movement is more fluid and associational. We're set up for this structure right from the first page, which introduces many of the visual motifs that will reappear throughout the book: the Kennedys, protests, dead bodies... In the first three pages, we move from Toland as an adult in the mid-1990s to Toland as a child and young teenager to Toland and his sister shortly after their parents died in a car accident. The fourth and fifth pages then circle back to develop some of what was glimpsed earlier, then use this new information to bring in Ginger standing with Toland at the March on Washington, where she asks him, "Who're you lookin' at?" to which Toland replies, "Just someone I used to know." (Despite all their talking, what matters most often is what and how these characters look at the world. Also, what is shown and not shown: Cruse is very careful to depict some events and not depict others.) It's an exquisite moment, encapsulating so much of what the book wrestles with, giving poignance to a scene early in the story, and also beginning to develop the characters who will be central to the primary story.

One of the things that makes the Wendel comics so delightful is Cruse's almost infallible sense of short story form. He produced those comics very quickly, often right up against deadline, and yet more often than not they have a balance of elements that produces far more resonance than many longer works. Reading Stuck Rubber Baby, you would hardly know that Cruse had never before written any comic much longer than 10 pages, and he melds his short story skills to the longer form by allowing the flow of memory to guide the overall narrative, and so the various short sequences can all work separately on their own toward the larger goal, allowing the book as a whole to leave and return to sequences much as the Wendel comic did, though now when he wrote it, Cruse could edit both backwards and forwards in a way he could not do when publishing a new installment every couple weeks. Thus, Stuck Rubber Baby has a far more intentional, unified form than the Wendel collections. (That said, the Wendel collections are more fun — their improvisatory energy is, for me at least, pure delight.)

Cruse began the Wendel comics just as people began to recognize the full horror of the AIDS crisis, and reading Wendel in chronological order is a particularly powerful experience because what begins as a light, slice-of-life comedy can't help but reckon with life in an ever more terrifying world, a world of yuppies and Reagan and plague. There's a remarkable Wendel comic from the fall of 1987 in which Wendel and friends go to a big AIDS demonstration in Washington. The majority of the story is given over to a song by a character named Glenn, who has taken on the responsibility of entertaining everybody on the bus from NYC to DC, and who is, he says, wearing the same gown he wore during the night of the Stonewall riots. The comic ends thus:

Cruse doesn't typically use photographic images in his comics, but here reality invades in the form of the Reagan administration and its cronies. The place and date are specific, and the sense of historical continuity is strong — by having Glenn wear the clothes he wore during the Stonewall riots, Cruse insists on the importance of the current moment for gay history and gay liberation.

AIDS is not explicitly mentioned in Stuck Rubber Baby, but it's an integral context for the story. The book was published before the advent of the drug "cocktail" that helped make HIV, for some people, a chronic, manageable disease rather than a death sentence. Gay people of all backgrounds and beliefs had to come together for political action because their lives were on the line. Silence equals death. Cynicism equals death. Complaisance equals death. In Stuck Rubber Baby, Toland learns a similar lesson. The connection between Toland's world in the 1960s and his world 30 years later did not need to be spelled out to readers in 1995, and the only reference making the connection is a single, tiny, unobtrusive image in a small panel on page 207:

Behind the picture of Ginger holding the baby before it is given up for adoption hangs the iconic "Silence = Death" ACT UP poster.

Stuck Rubber Baby is, then, a story of political awakening, but it was written as a call to consciousness, not a comforting nostalgia trip. In the mid-'90s, it was hard to maintain hope. Bill Clinton did not seem to be a significant improvement over George Bush on AIDS policy or gay rights, the Catholic Church was still vehemently anti-gay and anti-safe-sex (I participated with ACT UP in a small protest against the Pope's visit to New York in, I think, 1996), and progress still seemed far off.

Coming of age queer for my generation meant assuming that you had a high risk of dying young. I think one of the reasons I found Stuck Rubber Baby so powerful when I read it this time was that Toland's struggle against his homosexual desires, his fear that they were not just aberrant but deadly, and his experience of people being killed because of those desires, connected with my own memories of coming to awareness of desires that in all likelihood would lead to a terminal disease. Because of the AIDS crisis and because of how that crisis was represented in the news media and spoken of by the people I knew, queer identity felt to me like a doomed fate. Though I still carry traces of that feeling, and will probably never shed it, given that that was how I first learned to see myself, it doesn't stand in the foreground the way it used to, it doesn't create as much of a sense of being inevitably besieged, of needing to live fatalistically, of forgetting about any future. There is a chasm between that mid-'90s world and now, even though so much of the mid-'90s feels to me like it was just a couple years ago. Toland seems to feel that way about the '60s: he carries its traces and hauntings inside himself, and it isn't until the end that he learns what to do with it all. I'm still learning, myself, what to do with a sense of lived history, when what feels like yesterday also feels like multiple lifetimes ago, and when the terrors of youth still sometimes scream out in the quiet night of adulthood.

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18. Darwin’s “gastric flatus”

When Charles Darwin died at age 73 on this day 133 years ago, his physicians decided that he had succumbed to “degeneration of the heart and greater vessels,” a disorder we now call “generalized arteriosclerosis.” Few would argue with this diagnosis, given Darwin’s failing memory, and his recurrent episodes of “swimming of the head,” “pain in the heart”, and “irregular pulse” during the decade or so before he died.

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19. Sold Audiobook Review

Title: Sold Author: Patricia McCormick Narrated by: Justine Eyre Publisher: Tantor Audio Publication Date: November 26, 2012 Listening copy via Sync Sold by Patricia McCormick was a National Book Award finalist, a lyrical, heartbreaking story about Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old girl who is sold by her stepfather into the sex trade. Justine Eyre does a phenomenal job narrating Lakshmi's story,

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20. 30 Days of Teen Programming: The NILPPA Study: What We are Hearing about Teen Programming

As a librarian, you probably see the impacts of programming every day. You know your work is important based on interactions with your teens. And they probably make it clear – through their words or behavior – when a particular program has hit or missed the mark.

But what if you had more than anecdotal evidence? What if you had data to tell you what works, what doesn’t, and why?

In December, ALA’s Public Programs Office released a first-of-its-kind research study to quantify the characteristics, audiences, outcomes and impacts of library programming. The National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA) describes the current state of library programming and proposes an ambitious, eight-year research plan for further study. NILPPA also poses a number of questions, including: What counts as “success” in library programming? What impact does programming have on participants and communities? What skills must programming librarians hone to maximize impact and reach underserved communities?

But let’s back up for a moment. What is the Public Programs Office (PPO)? Located one story up from YALSA in ALA’s Chicago headquarters, PPO promotes cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service. Operating on grant funding, our 10-person staff offers professional development activities, programming resources, and grant opportunities to help libraries fill their role as community cultural centers — places of cultural and civic engagement where people of all backgrounds gather for reflection, discovery, participation and growth.

Library programming has changed since PPO was founded more than 20 years ago. Back then, support for library programs for adults was limited and fragile, and the title “programming librarian” was most likely to refer to someone in tech services. Today, there is a robust community of librarians whose job descriptions include the creation of programs for all ages.

The fast-changing nature of the library field is one motivation for the NILPPA study. We want libraries to have the knowledge and tools they need to successfully reach their communities through programming. We want to help libraries develop best practices to advance the field; enable them to “make the case” for funding and resources; and most importantly, foster support for lifelong learners of diverse backgrounds.

After the NILPPA report was published, we asked readers to weigh in with their own experiences on the NILPPA website, listservs and social media. We collected more than 170 comments – feedback that will help us decide where resources are needed most as we move into future phases of this project.

One question we asked – “What are your library’s greatest strengths and weaknesses in regard to programming?” – elicited several responses about teen programming. Below is a sampling:

“At [library name], our programming strengths are programs for children.  We can almost always get an audience and they are up for anything.  We still struggle to find audiences for tween and teen programs.”

“Our weakness is providing programming for the millennials. We have a lot of things for youth, but once they graduate we have nothing for them…”

“Strength - programs for younger children and families; Weakness - programs for middle school/teens…”

“Strengths: children's programming including story time and summer reading. There is great awareness of what is happening in the library regarding this age group.  Weaknesses: YA and Adult programming.  Our YA programming does not exist and we get limited participation in our adult programming attempts.  Our library is in an affluent area and there are many distractions for teens and adults outside the library.”

“Strength: all baby, kid, tween and teen programming. We bring it and they come. After school clubs for school-age kiddos is particularly hot these days. As is our monthly lunch-time book club hosted at the high school.”

“Strength: Lots of good programming for kids & teens (i.e. Children's Book Club, Teen Writing Club, SDC Storytime, etc.).  Weakness: Non adult programming (due to lack of interest).”

“Youth and Teen Services manage their programming themselves and balance staff time with program needs well.  Our Teen Librarian constantly looks for programs that will bring Teens into the Library.  We are looking to increase tech services available to them.  YS librarians reach out to schools, summer camps, and youth program organizers to increase our outreach to underserved youth.  Our membership of the [program name] brings every kindergarten class in [School District 1], [School District 2] and [School District 3] into the Library at least once a year for special programming.”

While at some libraries, teen programs appear to be thriving, others seem to struggle with this young adult demographic. Do these comments resonate with you? How is your situation similar or different? What is making your teen programming successful? Please share your reactions in the comments below. You can read the full report and comment at http://NILPPA.org.

YALSA’s Future of Teen Library Service report and the new Teen Programming Guidelines are so valuable to the Public Programs Office’s work in this area. We are eager to hear from you about how you are working with these resources as well.

You can also stay up-to-date on PPO programs and initiatives at our website, www.ProgrammingLibrarian.org, or sign up for a PPO listserv

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21. A woman’s journey in Kashmiri politics

Nyla Ali Khan’s recent book The Life of a Kashmiri Woman: Dialectic of Resistance and Accommodation, though primarily a biography of her grandmother Akbar Jehan, promises to be much more than that. It is also a narration of the story of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the charismatic political leader who is still recognized as the greatest political leader that Kashmir ever produced.

The post A woman’s journey in Kashmiri politics appeared first on OUPblog.

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22. Michaela MacColl, author of THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY, on writing mysteries centered around famous authors

We're delighted to have Michaela MacColl join us to share more about THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY, the latest novel in her series of literary mysteries. Michaela has also agreed to give away an ARC, so make sure to enter the giveaway below.

Michaela, what is your favorite thing about THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY?

My favorite thing about The Revelation of Louisa May (Chronicle 2015) is probably Louisa May Alcott herself. I just liked her so much! When I write these literary mysteries I always start with biography. I learn as much as I can about the writer who will be my main character. I feel a little bit like a sculptor – adding bits and pieces of my understanding of the character until she’s fully formed in my head. When I start to write, the voice comes naturally. But Louisa was special – I understood her from the beginning.  She was bright and contrary even as a toddler (her wacky parents did all sorts of educational experiments on them and documented the results!).  The most practical member of the family, even at 12 her harassed mother (Marmee) confided in her way too much about the disastrous family finances. Louisa’s response was to vow to earn enough money to support the family … with her pen.  And she did. Little Women was published in 1869 and has never gone out of print. Louisa was a millionaire and yes, she supported the whole family.  She had grit and I liked that.

What was your inspiration for writing THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY?

I’m doing a series of literary mysteries for Chronicle that are tagged as “tales of Intrigue and Romance.”  The idea is to get readers hooked on the writer – then the kids are bound to go to their amazing works. We began with Emily Dickinson, then the Bronte sisters. Louisa May Alcott was a natural choice for the third installment. How many librarians do you know who weren’t hooked on that book? So many of us grew up yearning that the next time we reread the book somehow Jo would change her mind and end up with Laurie!

As I said, these books are mysteries. So I usually scour biographies looking for a body or a hint of one. I discovered early on that the Alcotts, in keeping with their humanist and transcendental philosophies, were also members of the Underground Railroad and Louisa mentions sheltering a fugitive slave named George in their kitchen. As soon as I began to think about fugitive slaves I thought about secrets. And slave catchers. And blackmail.  From there it was an easy jump to murder!

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

One of my favorite scenes is not a hugely important one. Louisa is visiting with her good friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He’s an adult who is a good friend to her family (Emerson encouraged the Alcotts to move to Concord and helped them out financially more than once) and he has always encouraged her love of reading.  The room that Louisa loves best in the world is his library.  Emerson guarded his time and his workspace, but Louisa was always welcome there. In that scene there’s a quick memory that flashes through Louisa’s mind of when Emerson’s beloved son dies of scarlet fever. Louisa had been sent with a note to the Emerson house. The distraught father meets her at the door and tells her his boy is dead. They sit on the steps for a long time crying together. With that kind of foundation for a friendship, it’s not surprising to the reader that when murder and scandal come close to touching the Emersons, Louisa is there to defend them.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I have a lovely office where I hardly ever work. I like curling up on the couch or in a chair in front of the fireplace. When I’m under a time crunch I go to the closest Paneras – mainly because the coffee is OK and I don’t like the food!  I spend a lot of time in libraries doing research. My town’s library is ridiculously busy  -- a true center of the community – but not very quiet. The local university library on the other hand is a ghost town until finals. So I go there and make the day of the research librarian.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing the final copy edits on the next literary mystery. This one is about Jane Austen and is still untitled.  What’s fun for me (besides writing and reading Jane Austen!) is that all the other characters I’ve written about also read Jane Austen. Emily Dickinson was delighted to see that a woman could be a serious writer. Charlotte Bronte felt that Austen books were passionless and too genteel.  And Louisa May Alcott of course was just delighted to know that it was possible to earn a living with her pen!


The Revelation of Louisa May
by Michaela MacColl
Chronicle Books
Released 4/14/2015

Louisa May Alcott can't believe it—her mother is leaving for the summer to earn money for the family and Louisa is to be in charge of the household. How will she find the time to write her stories, much less have any adventures of her own? But before long, Louisa finds herself juggling her temperamental father, a mysterious murder, a fugitive seeking refuge along the Underground Railroad, and blossoming love. Intertwining fact, fiction, and quotes from Little Women, Michaela MacColl has crafted another spunky heroine whose story will keep readers turning pages until the very end.

Purchase The Revelation of Louisa May at Amazon
Purchase The Revelation of Louisa May at IndieBound
View The Revelation of Louisa May on Goodreads


Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. She has written about a teenaged Queen Victoria (Prisoners in the Palace, Chronicle 2010) and Beryl Markham’s childhood (Promise the Night, Chronicle 2011). She is writing a literary mystery series for teens featuring so far a young Emily Dickinson in Nobody’s Secret (2013) and the Bronte sisters in Always Emily (2014). She has recently begun a new series with Boyd’s Mill/Highlights called Hidden Histories about odd events in America’s past. The first entry in the series is Rory’s Promise and will be published in September 2014. She frequently visits high schools and has taught at the Graduate Institute in Bethel, CT. She lives in Westport CT with her husband, two teenaged daughters and three extremely large cats.

What did you think of our interview with Michaela MacColl, author of THE REVELATION OF LOUSIA MAY? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Happy reading,
Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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23. A Passion for Writing – How to Rekindle Yours

NOTE: This post is for the Letter “P” as part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.

As a professional writer, are you so concerned about the “business” of writing these days that you seem to have lost your overall passion for writing itself?


This can happen when you feel overwhelmed by all you must to do on a regular basis to promote your writing and your writing business.

But here’s a way to rekindle your passion for writing.

Set aside just 30 minutes every day during the next week to work on something you’re most passionate about. This could be that novel you’ve put aside for a while because you’ve got too many other paying projects, or it could be that how-to book you’ve been meaning to write, or maybe it’s a short story you really, really want to write someday, yet “someday” has just never come.

Once you’ve set aside just 30 minutes for each day in the coming week, plan to write just ONE page (of this work that you’re most passionate about) each day.

Then simply show up each day in the coming week to write that ONE page. Use a kitchen timer and set it for 30 minutes each time you sit down to write your ONE page. If you finish one page BEFORE the timer goes off, keep writing, or go back and rewrite what you have already written.

You may think you’ll never finish this book or story if you write only one page at a time like this. But you’re wrong.

In a week’s time, you’ll have 7 pages. That’s longer than most short stories, so you’ll probably finish your story within a week. The next week you can go back and polish it for 30 minutes a day until it’s ready for submission. If you’re working on a book, 7 pages is probably a chapter, or most of a chapter – so a chapter a week is GREAT progress. In less than a year, you’ll have written a complete book!

A few words of caution here: Don’t spend more than 30 minutes a day on this project you’re most passionate about – even though you may be tempted to do so after a few days. If you do, chances are you won’t be able to stick with it after a while. If this happens, you’ll get frustrated and the project you’re so passionate about will go to the back burner, yet again.

So what are you waiting for? Rekindle your passion for writing. It only takes 30 minutes. You can start today.

Try it!

And for more writing tips, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge at www.morningnudge.com.

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24. Cultural Clashes in the Classroom

Are Cultural Misinterpretations A Root Cause For Disproportionate Discipline Of African-American Students?

Numerous studies have revealed that African-American students are more likely than their white peers to face referrals to the office, suspension, expulsion or other forms of discipline at school.
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But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Renae Azziz, founder and director of Virtuoso Education Consulting (www.virtuosoed.com), which provides professional development training to teachers and school district leaders.

Azziz, a school psychologist who helps districts across the nation resolve disproportionality in discipline, says in many cases it’s a clash of cultures, and not necessarily racism, that leads to disproportionate punishment for minority students.

“Teachers need to understand that sometimes what they see as misbehavior is not viewed the same way by African-American students,” Azziz says. “It’s just that in these cases the educators come from different cultures than their students. The teachers need to increase their knowledge about those differences and improve their skills for handling the situations.”

Azziz says there are a number of promising strategies schools can and are using to reduce disproportionality in discipline.

• Develop supportive relationships among and within school staff and students through the implementation of restorative-justice frameworks, which use conflict resolution and open dialogue. Restorative justice focuses students on the ramifications of their actions so that they take ownership of those actions and learn from their poor decisions.

• Engage in culturally relevant and responsive instructions and interactions to make the curriculum engaging for all learners.

• Change disciplinary codes of conduct to align with positive school climates through the implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) that are culturally responsive.

• Commit to ongoing professional development for teachers focused on developing their awareness, knowledge and skills related to culture.

African-American students often have more negative views of their schools than white students because they perceive them as being less fair and consistent with discipline. That this perception exists, Azziz says, reinforces the idea that educators need to be culturally responsive so that the school environment meets the needs of students from all cultural backgrounds.

It’s not that schools have failed to make an effort to address problems with discipline. For two decades, the method known as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports has been implemented across the nation as a way to decrease suspensions and expulsions, Azziz says.

That worked – sort of, she says.

Data indicates PBIS does indeed reduce the overall rates for those disciplinary actions, but there’s a caveat. Minority students, especially African Americans, still receive the majority of the punishments.

“That tells me that PBIS is not as effective for African-American students as it is for other ethnic groups,” Azziz says. “So why is that?”

The answer may lie in those cultural differences, she says.

Here’s an example: Teachers who expect students to raise their hands before responding in class often send African-American students to the office for repeatedly talking out.

But many of those students see classroom discussions as more informal, Azziz says.

“Some students, particularly African-American students, show that they are listening and engaged by blurting out their thoughts instead of raising their hands,” Azziz says. “This is a communication-response style called back-channeling and it’s often seen in the African-American culture.”

Teachers who understand that back-channeling is a cultural pattern of behavior can better teach the students when that behavior is appropriate in the classroom and when they need to raise their hands, she says.

“When teachers don’t know about this communications style,” Azziz says, “all they see is a student who disrupted their class and it becomes a top reason for discipline referrals.”

Renae Azziz

About Renae Azziz

Renae Azziz is the Founder and Director of Virtuoso Education Consulting (www.virtuosoed.com). She and her team of consultants support educators nationally in the areas of Response-to-Intervention, Data-Based Decision Making, Assessment, Positive Behavior Support, and Culturally Responsive Practices. Before starting Virtuoso Education Consulting, Renae practiced as a school psychologist in Indiana. Renae also worked on grants funded by the Indiana Department of Education supporting Indiana’s Initiatives on Response to Intervention, Culturally Responsive PBIS, and Minority Disproportionality in Special Education. She was also appointed by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to the Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services, which resulted in several legislative outcomes. Further, Renae and her team of consultants have served as project evaluators for statewide initiatives and Corrective Action Plans in Indiana and Louisiana.

Renae received her educational training at Indiana University earning an Ed.S. in School Psychology, an M.S. in Educational Psychology, and a B.A. with honors in Psychology and is working towards completion of her Doctorate in Education at The Johns Hopkins University specializing in Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education.

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25. Juliana Romano, author of FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER, on really listening when people give you notes

We're pleased to have Juliana Romano stop by to tell us more about her debut novel FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER.

Juliana, what is your favorite thing about FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER?

My favorite thing about “First There Was Forever” is how girl-centric it is. Even though it’s a story of two girls fighting over a guy, the book is really an exploration of the inner lives of these two friends: Lima and Hailey. Even though Nate, the guy they both like, is a big character, the book really isn’t about him. Lima and Hailey are complicated and thoughtful, much more so than Nate. Grappling with sexuality and jealousy is part of growing up, but that doesn’t define these girls. And the friendship between them, even though it’s platonic, is as loving, demanding and rewarding as any romantic relationship.

Also, for me personally I think I like that the book is embedded with threads from my own life, like the music and the places they go! I loved being able to reference my own high school experience for those things. Meredith’s cat is named Leonard Cohen, and me and my friends were obsessed with Leonard Cohen’s music in high school. Especially the early stuff, like “Suzanne” and “Bird on a Wire” and “Chelsea Hotel.”

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Emotionally, the hardest scene for me to write was when Hailey and Lima say all the things to each other that they’ve kept bottled up. I put off writing it for a long time, I think because I knew it would be hard. And during the writing process, I was back and forth with my agent, she kept encouraging me to take it further. But now, it’s one of my favorites. Also, the sex scene!

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I’d like to think that people who love my book would also love “The Summer I Turned Pretty” by Jenny Han, and “Uses for Boys” by Erica Lorraine Scheidt. Also, “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. Can I say that?! That book inspired me so much because Anna hurts so many people but I love her so much anyway. And her choices are so limited. In high school, your choices are very limited, too.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?


What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

My best experience writing has been when I’m juggling it with other things. When I started writing “First There Was Forever” I was just plopping down at my computer in between other responsibilities. It didn’t matter where I was or what time of day it was, or if I had the perfect music on. I think when I’ve started to get to precious about how and when to write, my writing suffers. I always try to remember that special time when I first began and I felt like writing was my secret escape.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Write what you want and don’t let anyone tell you that your content isn’t important! But on a more practical level, learn how to take notes. We can never be objective readers of our own work, so we really need to listen to people when they tell us what they think. Notes, even hard ones, are a generosity from the person who is giving them. It can be challenging because writing is so personal and it’s frustrating when people don’t take away what you want them to, but on the flip side, people also take away amazing things that you didn’t intend.

What are you working on now?

My second book is about a girl growing up in New York City who wants to go to art school. I went to art school, and I’m really glad to reflect on that experience. This book is a summer-in-the-city book, and I love New York in the summer. It’s so hot and it can be dirty, but that just adds to its romance.


First There Was Forever
by Juliana Romano
Dial Books
Released 4/14/2015

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door, Juliana Romano's expressive debut is an absorbing and bittersweet story about first love, first loss, and the friends that carry us through it all.

Lima and Hailey have always been best friends: Lima shy and sensitive, Hailey funny and free-spirited. But Hailey abandons Lima to party with the popular kids and pursue Nate, her disinterested crush. As their friendship falters, Lima and Nate begin spending more time together. And before Lima knows what she’s feeling, she and Nate do something irreversible. Something that would hurt Hailey....if she knew it happened.

Lima thinks she’s saving her friendship by lying, but she’s only buying time. As the secrets stack up, Lima is forced to make a choice: between her best friend forever, and the boy who wasn’t meant to be hers.

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julianafromanoJuliana was born in 1982 in New York, New York and grew up in Santa Monica, California. She received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 2004 and an M.F.A. in Painting from U.C.L.A. in 2008.

What did you think of our interview with Juliana Romano, author of FIRST THERE WAS FOREVER? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Martina, Jocelyn, Shelly, Jan, Lisa, Susan, and Erin

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