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26. Bono Stars in Comic Book

Fame BonoBluewater Productions has created a biographical comic book profiling U2 frontman Bono.

According to the press release, Michael L. Frizell wrote the story, Jayfri Hashim created the interior artwork, and David Frizell produced the cover art.

For Frizell, “Bono is a fascinating artist. Equal parts rock star, goodwill ambassador, and humanitarian, his work has stood the test of time…In writing the comic, I wanted to convey the legendary performer as the ultimate Everyman.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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27. The NaNoWriMo Progress Report: How Are You Feeling?

Just about three weeks of participating in National Novel Writing Month can leave even the best, consistently faithful writer sleep-deprived, ornery, and a little nonsensical. But if you’ve made it this far, that’s something worth celebrating.

The question becomes, are you writing now just to hit your goal of 50,000 words? Are you simply trying to meet a word count to say you did it? Or are you trying to construct something meaningful and worthwhile, even if it’s something that you won’t let see the light of day for quite some time?

In short, how do you feel about your writing right now? Are you satisfied with how NaNoWriMo forces you to work? Do you enjoy the quickened pace and constricted guidelines, forcing your inner-critic and inner-editor to take a backseat (until December)? Or do you wish you could plot along more, fine-tuning and tweaking?

What’s your plan for the final stretch? Share it with us in the comments!

Have you missed any of the other posts in our NaNoWriMo blogging series? Be sure to check the others out:

Question: Have you been disappointed or pleased with your NaNo efforts thus far? What has made it so? How do you plan on improving or keeping it up over the final 2+ weeks?


Natania Barron: I’ve honestly been really pleased. I don’t want to say it’s the easiest NaNo, but it’s a different kind of NaNo. Part of it is having a responsibility to another writer. Part of it is being in a different place, writing for a different reason. I had enough of a slow gain leading up to the weekend that I didn’t have to write much at all—it was my 10th anniversary—but I still wanted to, and I was still thinking about the story a great deal. It’s compressed creativity, but this time around it doesn’t feel like so much work.


Rachel Herron: Oh, boy, I’m always disappointed by my NaNo words. I think it’s healthy and normal to be that way. We’re sprinting here, folks. Remember: the only goal is TO MAKE WORDS. Awful, terrible, furiously bad words are par for the course. Everything can be fixed, but we don’t do that in November. We write the worst things we’ve ever written in November, and then we brag about how badly we’re writing. Here’s an excellent example, straight out of my manuscript: “Fern was even paler now, if that was possible, but her eyes were twin blackened marks of heat WEARS A LOT OF EYELINER.” (I make myself notes in all caps, wherever the idea occurs to me. This keeps me from going backward.) And no, I’m not going to try to write better words. I’m just aiming for that 50,000 mark. Better words are what we make out of crappy words, later. I aim for quantity, not quality. And man, am I good at it. 


Nikki Hyson: Until a couple days ago I was very disappointed. I didn’t feel like I’d taken care of my time management very well during the first week and my word count suffered in major ways (okay, so I was exhausted and sleeping through alarms, but still!) Then, this weekend, I hit my 2nd (or maybe my 3rd) wind and powered through 9,600 words in about 33 hours. I just crested the 20k on the evening of the 15th which is (kinda) close to the middle. To maintain momentum I think it’s time to take my novel on the road: to work, to doctor appointments, to the coffee shop, anywhere and everywhere. Just jotting words in whatever chunks of time I can find will keep me from needing a full-on marathon at the end. Although those are seriously a lot of fun.


 

November/December 2014 Writer's Digest

 With resources, tips, and advice from a bevy of experts the
November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest is a surefire
way to help you finish your goal of 50,000 words during November.


Regina Kammer: I’m befuddled, really. Two of my characters are darker than I had originally intended. Another is surprisingly heroic for a minor character. So maybe this means I’m pleased because the magic of NaNoWriMo is happening.

On the other hand, I have a target publisher , so I’m spending way too much time ignoring my own advice of just writing and suppressing the inner-editor. I’m worried that the work might not be what they’re looking for. I need to stop that.

All I can do for the final two weeks is keep writing. I still have the pivotal scene and the climax to write, so those are like proverbial carrots on a stick. I need to take my own advice and just write the parts of the story I’m sure about!


Kathy Kitts: Here is a great anecdote that helps me get through the tough slog that is the 30 thousands. Ray Bradbury had just given a lecture and was taking questions. An undergraduate asked him how he could be so prolific. How he could write when he wasn’t in the mood? He replied that writing took care of those moods.


Kristen Rudd: My novel took a turn that I was completely unprepared for, and I’ve spent the better part of several days trying to get it back on track. So, on the one hand, I’m pleased that it seems to be its own living, breathing beast. On the other hand, I’m bummed because it seems to be its own living, breathing beast. It all happened from what I thought was an innocuous line of dialogue. I followed it where it led, and I’m worried I may have written myself into a corner. When I vented, a friend asked me, “But is the corner defensible? Does it have a nice view?”

I am determined to let the story lead me and hope that it knows what it’s doing. So, yes. We are in a committed relationship, my novel and I. I have plenty of originally planned scenes I can always switch over to if I need. I am all of the prepareds. I will just keep writing, trusting that writing will solve all of my problems.


EJ Runyon: What’s pleased me is that I’m using excerpts from past NaNo’er for this book. That’s a great feeling, seeing work from a few years ago. And what’s disappointing is that it looks like 30K+ words will leave me with a finished How-to-Guide, and that leaves 20K +/- still to write on one of my WIP novels. Good thing this is a Rebel year. Maybe Ill turn that disappointment into a stab at more than one WIP, and touch three of them. Make the time count in a big way, instead of trying to just fill the time & word count


Jessica Schley: I’m behind schedule, but I’m actually very pleased with how this NaNo is going. This has been one of the first where more days than not, I’m hitting the word count and pushing my story forward. It also is shaking out pretty close to my outline—one thing I’ve discovered in revising my NaNo novels is that the pacing is usually WAY off in my finished draft, because while the fun of NaNo is that secondary characters and plot twists tend to show up ad hoc, that often means that a lot of explaining goes into them and they come in at the wrong point, making my novels out of whack. So I was hoping that this time, I could write something that was more evenly paced if I outlined a slightly more rigid 3-act structure.  The Act I turn happened right where I wanted it to, and the midpoint of the novel is on track to hit when I hit that word count. I’m very pleased with that.

How do I plan on improving? Just keeping on keeping on. I went to a great write-in this week with my NaNo community (we have a wonderful group here in the nation’s capital) and I’m going to hit up more of those to keep me going. Plus, I’ve won two NaNos with 10,000+ word counts on the final day (one was 20), and with half the month left to go, I still have a very reasonable daily word count to hit. So, I’ll just hit that. :) Easier said than done, I suppose, but as I said in the last post … it’s really hard not to finish once you cross 35K. Even if you cross 35K in the morning of the 30th of November!


Brian Schwarz: I have been happy with my efforts. I had lofty goals prior to NaNo that included finishing the first book in my series prior to November (I had 3 months) and then the second book during Nano, but instead I ended up with 10k words on the first one in 3 months. Given that I’m at 18k more in 16 days, I have to be pretty satisfied with that. If NaNo ended tomorrow, I could accept my progress as is. But, being that I’m a driven over-achiever, I do not plan on relenting. I am going to increase my word count, trying to furiously catch up (one day last week i actually wrote 8k words in a day) and I’m going to be happy when I make it. I have a rhythm now, which isn’t exactly one I was hoping for. I spend my weekends pretty much forgetting about writing while I spend my work-week going into work an hour early and writing furiously to make up for the two days lost as well as the previous days missed. I won’t question my flow, and I’ll just try to be more productive in it. For some reason writing before bed or in the morning hasn’t been as productive or effective this time round (whereas last year I did a vast majority of my book at night before sleeping), but I don’t mind how it happens. I just know I will find a way to make it happen.

*     *     *     *     *

Question: What is one weird word to describe your novel so far?


Natania Barron: Spiderpunk.


Rachael Herron: Erratic.


Writer's Market Deluxe Edition“The Writer’s Market book is an incredible resource on its own, just as the WritersMarket.com website is a wonderful resource. Combine the two, and a 60-mintue webinar on freelancing, and you get the power-packed combo of the Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition. It’s the same Writer’s Market print book, but it comes with an activation code good for a one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com, which houses more listings and more updates throughout the year.”

-Robert Lee Brewer, Writer’s Market Content Editor


Nikki Hyson: Unpredictable. At least while writing it. I don’t know. I may reread it in a month and realize you can see every plot twist a mile off. Right now my characters are toying with me.


Regina Kammer: Compost.

(Layers of rich well-developed material with a bunch of rough and green bits thrown in.)


Kathy Kitts: Sidestepping.


Kristen Rudd: Alive. My novel is like Frankenstein’s monster. It’s no longer under my control and is going wherever it damn well pleases, apparently. I’m just chasing after it at this point, trying to keep up.


EJ Runyon: “Simple”—that’s it. I’m rebelling this month, and revising a How-to-Write book on Revisions. Like my Tell Me (How To Write) A Story, (NaNo 2008, published 2014) this one also shows simple ways of looking at your work. Novembers come to a close, and in the time that follows, something simple is needed to keep a writer going. Hopefully this “simple” guide will be one of those things.


Jessica Schley: Convoluted. I don’t know if that’s a very weird word. But every scene I write introduces a new twist. So it is turning out very twisty. I hope I can bring all these threads together in Act III! 


Brian Schwarz:  I’d go with “Barmicide”. Look it up! :) God knows I did.

*     *     *     *     *

Write-A-ThonFind the focus, energy, and drive you need to start—and finish—your book in a month. Write-A-Thon gives you the tools, advice, and inspiration you need to succeed before, during, and after your writing race. With solid instruction, positive psychology, and inspiration from marathon runners, you’ll get the momentum to take each step from here to the finish line. You’ll learn how to: train your attitude, writing, and life—and plan your novel or nonfiction book; maintain your pace; and find the best ways to recover and move forward once the writing marathon is finished and you have a completed manuscript in hand!


Cris Freese is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest Books.

 

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28. Thursday Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

Summary: Mortal Heart is the final book (SAD FACE) in Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin trilogy (Book 1 reviewed here; Book 2 reviewed here). The books take place in medieval Brittany and France, a setting which the author has obviously researched... Read the rest of this post

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29. Amanda Bullock Moves to Literary Arts, Inc.

Amanda BullockLiterary Arts, Inc. has named Amanda Bullock to take on the role of festival and events manager for the Wordstock Festival. Prior to this move, Bullock served as the director of public programming for the nonprofit cultural institution Housing Works Bookstore.

Literary Arts acquired the Wordstock Festival earlier this year. This literary event will be re-launched on November 07, 2015 at the Portland Art Museum. Powell’s Books has signed on to serve as a community partner for this venture.

Bullock gave this statement in the press release: “Wordstock 2015 will reflect the dynamic literary culture of Portland and the Pacific Northwest, as well as attract authors and attendees from across the country and around the world. I am excited to start the next chapter of my career and my literary life. I hope to bring my experience in New York City publishing, literary programming, and community building to reinvigorate Wordstock and collaborate with the amazing literary community to create a festival that will be bigger and better than ever: a destination event that is truly Portland.”

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30. Violence, and diverse forms of oppression

The theme of the American Society of Criminology meeting this November is “Criminology at the Intersections of Oppression.” The burden of violence and victimization remains markedly unequal. The prevalence rates, risk factors, and consequences of violence are not equally distributed across society. Rather, there are many groups that carry an unequal burden, including groups disadvantaged due to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, place of residence, and other factors. Even more problematically, there is an abundance of evidence that there are marked disparities in service access and service quality across sociocultural and socioeconomic groups. Unfortunately, even today this still extends to instances of outright bias and maltreatment, as evidenced by ongoing problems with disproportionate minority contact, harsher sentencing, and barriers to services.

However, there is promising news, because advances in both research and practice are readily attainable. Regarding research, there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve our existing state of knowledge. To give just a few examples, we need much more research on hate crimes and bias motivations for violence. Hate crimes remain one of the most understudied forms of violence. We also need many more efforts to adapt violence prevention and intervention programs for diverse groups. The field has still made surprisingly few efforts to assess whether prevention and intervention programs are equally efficacious for different socioeconomic and sociocultural groups. Even after more than 3 decades of program evaluation, only a handful of such efforts exist. Program developers should pay more systematic attention to ensuring that materials that use diverse images and settings. However, it is also important to note that cultural adaptation means more than just superficial changes in name use or images.

Clasped Hands. Photo by Rhoda Baer. Public Domain via Wikimedia.
Clasped Hands. Photo by Rhoda Baer. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Regarding practice, what is needed is more culturally appropriate approaches. In many cases, this means more flexible approaches and avoiding a “one size fits all” approach to services. Most providers, I believe, have good intentions and are trying to avoid biased interactions, but many of them lack the tools for more culturally appropriate services. One specific tool that can help is called the ‘VIGOR’, for Victim Inventory of Goals, Options, and Risks. It is a safety planning and risk management tool for victims of domestic violence. It is ideally suited for people from disadvantaged groups, because, unlike virtually all other existing safety plans, it has places for social and community issues, financial strain, institutional challenges, and other issues that affect people who experience multiple forms of disadvantage. The safety plan does not just focus on physical violence. The VIGOR has been tested with two highly diverse groups of low-income women, who rated it as better than all safety planning they had received.

The VIGOR also offers a model for how other interventions can be expanded and adapted to consider the intersections of oppression with victimization in an effort to be more responsive to all of the needs of those who have sustained violence. With greater attention to these issues, there is the potential to make a real impact and help reduce the burden of violence and victimization for all members of society.

Dr. Hamby attended an Author Meets Critics session at the ASC annual meeting yesterday morning. The session was chaired by Dr. Claire Renzetti, co-editor of the ‘Oxford Series of Interpersonal Violence’.

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31. Francesca Lia Block apologized for Native stereotyping in WEETZIE BAT

On November 11, 2014, the We Need Diverse Books campaign hosted a twitter chat about LGBTQ literature. During that chat, Emily Campbell (@Ms_Librarian) tweeted that Francesca Lia Block's book, Baby Bebop, was important to her. She included Block in the tweet. I replied, saying "The Native content in her bks is stereotyping 101." Here's a screencap:



Campbell asked for more information, and I sent her a link to my analysis of Weetzie Bat. The next day, November 12, Block replied to me and Campbell, saying "No offense meant. My apologies. All respect for all." Here's that screencap:



I thanked her, saying "Most ppl mean well but lack awareness, esp of Native ppl & how culture is used/misused." Here's the screencap of that; I don't know why its font is larger than the others:


She replied again, saying "I would like to learn and grow, until I am no longer alive." And I thanked her again, saying "Your voice as ally pushing back on broad/deep misrepresentations of Native ppl is important." Here's the screencap of that exchange:



I don't know what, if anything, Francesca Lia Block has said or done about this since then. Most authors who respond to my critiques of their work are defensive. Her response was different, and I appreciate that, but I wonder if she's said anything more about my critique, elsewhere, to friends, perhaps?

Block's apology came up this morning in a tweet exchange I had with a colleague about Daniel Handler, the author of Lemony Snicket books who made several racist remarks last night (November 19) at the National Book Awards. He called them "ill conceived humor" in an apology he tweeted today (November 20). His remarks weren't "ill conceived." They were racist.

Block and Handler are key figures in children's and young adult literature. They are authors of best selling books. They could change a lot of hearts and minds if they'd say more than either has said so far.

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32. Do Men Read Books Written By Females?: INFOGRAPHIC

goodreads_icon_200x200_febDo men read books written by female authors?

To answer this question, the Goodreads team examined the reading habits of 40,000 active members (20,000 men and 20,000 women). From there, the collected data was used to create an infographic called “Sex and Reading: A Look at Who’s Reading Whom.”

Here’s more from the Goodreads Blog: “This year the #readwomen movement inspired us to take a closer look at where readers fall along gender lines. There’s a lot of well-documented press about the fact that women’s books tend to have ‘girly’ covers instead of gender-neutral ones, and the VIDA count shows us that traditional book reviewers are predominantly male and books being reviewed in ‘top tier’ publications are mostly by men.” We’ve embedded the entire graphic after the jump for you to explore further.

(more…)

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33. The Grolier Club is Hosting the ‘Quotations of Chairman Mao’ Exhibit

getImageThe Grolier Club is hosting an exhibit focused on the “Quotations of Chairman Mao.”

Here’s more from The New York Times: “The exhibition begins at the beginning, and even before, with several precursor anthologies that can be seen as steppingstones to the Quotations, first issued with a white paper cover in spring 1964. Vinyl bindings in three shades of blue were tried out, but within a few months, the red vinyl cover with an incised red star in the center, now familiar, appeared, and red it remained, all over the world. One of the more arresting display cases includes nearly identical copies of the Quotations in dozens of languages, from Albanian to Uighur.”

Justin G. Schiller, a collector and rare bookseller, loaned many items for this display. It was organized in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Communist leader’s little red book. A closing date has been scheduled for January 10, 2015. Follow this link to read an English translation of some of the text.

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34. Ivan Pavlov in 22 surprising facts

An iconic figure of 20th century science and culture, Ivan Pavlov is best known as a founding figure of behaviorism who trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell and offered a scientific approach to psychology that ignored the “subjective” world of the psyche itself.

While researching Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science, I discovered that these and other elements of the common images of Pavlov are incorrect. The following 22 facts and observations are a small window onto the life of a man whose work, life and values were much more complex and interesting than the iconic figure with whom we are so familiar.

  1. Pavlov didn’t use a bell, and for his real scientific purposes, couldn’t. English-speakers think he did because of a mistranslation of the Russian word for zvonok (buzzer) and because the behaviorists interpreted Pavlov in their own image for people in the U.S. and much of the West.
  2. He didn’t use the term and concept “conditioned reflex,” either – rather, “conditional,” and it makes a big difference. For him, the conditional reflex was not just a phenomenon, but a tool for exploring the animal and human psyche – “our consciousness and its torments.”
  3. Unlike the behaviorists, Pavlov believed that dogs (like people) had identifiable personalities, emotions, and thoughts that scientific psychology should address. “Essentially, only one thing in life is of real interest to us,” he declared: “our psychical experience.”
  4. As a youth, he identified worriedly with Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov – fearing that his devotion to rationality might strip him of human morality and feelings – but also believed that science (especially physiology) might teach humans to be more reasonable and humane.
    Daniel P. Todes - Pavlov 2
    Ivan Pavlov. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
  5. Although one would expect that this investigator of reflexive reactions would think otherwise, he believed in free will.
  6. Pavlov was from a religious family and trained for the priesthood, but left seminary for science studies at St. Petersburg University. He pondered the relationship of science, religion, morality, and the human quest for certainty throughout his life. Although an atheist, he appreciated religion’s cultural value, protested its repression under the Bolsheviks, and supported financially the local church near his lab at Koltushi. (His wife was deeply religious and their apartment was full of icons.)
  7. Pavlov’s beloved mentor in college was fired as a result of student demonstrations against him as a Jew, a political conservative, and (most importantly) a hard grader. This was a great blow to Pavlov and left him on his own as he attempted to make a career.
  8. He first got a “real job” at age 41 – as a professor of pharmacology.
  9. He didn’t win his Nobel Prize (1904) for research on conditional reflexes, but rather for his studies of digestive physiology.
  10. He more than doubled the budget for his labs by bottling the gastric juice he drew from lab dogs and selling it as a remedy for dyspepsia. (A big hit, not just in Russia, but in France and Germany as well.
  11. Like Darwin, Pavlov believed that dogs had full-fledged thoughts, emotions and personalities. His lab dogs were given names that captured their personalities and were routinely described in lab notebooks as heroic or cowardly, smart or obtuse, weak or strong, good or bad workers, etc. Pavlov constantly interpreted his own biography and personality in terms of his experiments on dogs (and interpreted dogs according to what he thought he knew about himself and other people).
  12. He was famous for his explosive temper –“spontaneous morbid paroxysms,” as he put it. Students and coworkers all had their favorite stories about these vintage explosions. Afterwards, he would make his apologies and get on with his work.
  13. Pavlov was an art collector – with a massive collection of Russian realist art in his apartment. His best friends before 1917 were artists.
  14. To maintain a “balanced” organism, Pavlov spent three months every year at a dacha (summer home) where he avoided science entirely. A devotee of physical exercise, he spent these months gardening, bicycling, and playing gorodki (a Russian sport in which the players throw heavy wooden bats at formations of other heavy bats, trying to knock them down in as few throws as possible; Pavlov was a champion player even in his old age).
  15. He seriously contemplated leaving Russia after the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917, but finally decided to stay. His Western colleagues helped him financially during the hungry years of civil war (1918 – 1921), but did not offer to support him as a scientist in the West: they thought that, at age 68, he was washed up – but the research on conditional reflexes that would make him an international icon continued full blast for another two decades.
  16. He corresponded with Communist leaders Nikolai Bukharin and Vyacheslav Molotov and was one of very few public critics of the Bolsheviks’ political repression, persecution of religion, and terror in the 1930s. He also praised the state for its great support of science and highly respected some of his Communist coworkers, who succeeded in changing his opinion about some important scientific issues.
  17. Publically always very confident, privately he suffered constantly from what he called his “Beast of Doubt” – his fear that the psyche would never yield its secrets to his research.
  18. Pavlov’s closest scientific collaborator for the last 20+ years of his life, Maria Petrova, was also his lover.
  19. During a trip to the U. S. in 1923 he was mugged and robbed of all his money in Grand Central Station, and wanted to go home “where it is safe,” but was convinced to stay and had a great visit.
  20. When the Communist state sent a political militant to purge his lab of political undesirables, Pavlov literally kicked him down the stairs and out of the building.
  21. When he died, Pavlov was working on two surprising manuscripts that he never completed: one on the relationship of science, Christianity, Communism, and the human search for morality and certainty; the other making an important change in his doctrine of conditional reflexes.
  22. According to Pavlov, the most terrible, frightening thing in life was uncertainty, unforeseen accidents (sluchainosti), against which people could turn to religion or – his choice – science.

How many of the above facts did you already know about the life of Ivan Pavlov?

Featured image: Pavlov, center, operates on a dog to create an isolated stomach or implant a permanent fistula. After the dog recovered, experiments began on an intact and relatively normal animal, which was a central feature of Pavlov’s scientific style. Courtesy of Wellcome Institute Library, London. Used with permission.

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35. Circulating Science Kits

My manager and I toss around What Ifs all the time. What if we tried this? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do that? What if it’s finally time to try that crazy idea out? The Fizz Boom Read summer reading theme seemed like the perfect time to try one of our most beloved What Ifs: circulating science kits.

Backyard Science Kit

Backyard Science Kit

This was a challenge firmly outside our wheelhouse. We’ve done some science programming in the past, generally for preschoolers, but it’s no one’s passion. I browsed Lakeshore Learning and Amazon for ideas and divided my favorites by age, preschool, elementary and tween (4th to 6th grade), while keeping some practical guidelines in mind: we wanted to include a related, high-quality nonfiction book in each kit, everything had to fit the backpacks I had already selected, and we needed to avoid consumable items. I split most of my orders between Lakeshore Learning and Amazon. My favorite exception was owl pellets, which came from a school supply store complete with forceps and identification booklets. That kit has received a lot of responses – mostly amazed and thrilled, only a few horrified.

Disection... Owl Notes

We ended up with 17 themes, 3 copies each at the main library and about a dozen total at each of our two branches. Prepping the backpacks was probably the most onerous part of the project; it took me several days and plenty of assistance to organize, de-package, and pack. We photographed each kit’s contents to assist patrons, but ran out of time to laminate and include them. We included small notebooks for comments, but these are not often used and most of the feedback has been verbal. We allowed three exceptions to the “not consumable” rule: owl pellets, rainbow scratch sheets and sunpaper. For these, I put ten into a baggie labeled with a request to only use 1 to 2 per child, and everyone has respected that. Our library associate Jenny doubles as our Kit Mistress, doing random checks of the kits every month and any necessary restocking or repair. For labeling, we bought badge holders and luggage loops. The badge holders contain color coded cards with the zbar on one side and the title/recommended age on the other. These are the one thing that often seem to go missing! We had to re-barcode several before we swapped the loops out for zipties. I chose to use coatracks and hangers for display, which didn’t take up much room and made browsing simple. Due to space issues, we chose not to make the kits available for holds. Brief catalog records were suppressed so patrons couldn’t search for them but we could access them from the staff side. On day one, 25 out of 51 were checked out. Day two, they were all out! We never had more than 10 checked in at a time all summer long. Even at our branches, which always see much lower circulation stats, there were only 1-2 available on any given day. We checked the numbers after three months – in 13 weeks, with one-week checkouts, every kit had circulated between 8-10 times, a few as high as 13. A month later, after school started, each kit had gone out another 1-3 times. Even the Bedtime Math kits, offered only because we already had the logs, went out consistently. Now that we have about 20 checked in on any given day, we store them in a divided cart, which offers more room. The kits were a runaway success, and we’ve heard so many positive comments from kids and caregivers alike. When I was given more money this fall, though, I knew what changes I wanted to make.

  1. Discovery Kits Logo

    Discovery Kits Logo

    We tend to call them our science kits, but we’ve never wanted them to just be science. Officially, they are Discovery Kits, and our next round will include writing, music, art, foreign language and more technology.

  2. Age groupings are too limiting. Anyone can do just about anything if they have the interest and adult support. Geometry (Spirograph, Playsticks, Growing Spirals) was color-coded elementary, but preschoolers and tweens like it, too. We’re still finalizing our new categories, either mostly All Ages, with a handful of Beginner and Advanced, or by topic: Physical Science, Life Science, Math and Engineering, Technology, Arts and Music, Language Arts.
  3. We bought an extra of every activity for what we thought were inevitable replacements, but no more! It takes too much storage space, and people have been handling everything so carefully that we’ve only had to replace two things. We’ll repurchase on an as-needed basis.
  4. Cubby

    Discovery Kits Cubby

    The divided cart holds all the backpacks, but gets messy quickly. We purchased cubbies from Lakeshore Learning – one backpack per cubby. This will make the kits easier to browse and easier to keep neat. This is important as we add another 30 backpacks into the mix.

  5. Patrons want to know what’s inside. On our next set, the attached cards will list out brief descriptions of content. They’ll also include our brand new kit logo, from our in-house graphic designer.

Our full list, including new themes, is here: http://bit.ly/OPPLKitList This has been an exceptionally fun and rewarding collection to launch. The planning and organizing were a bit time-consuming, largely because I started out so ambitiously, but the returns have been incredible. I love seeing the kids marching out of the library wearing their new Discovery Kit – although it’s even better when they bring it back and beg to get another one right away! I can’t wait to see the response to the expanded selection of themes.

(All pictures courtesy of guest blogger)

****************************************************************************

ShelleyElevenShelley Harris is a Children’s Librarian and Family Learning Coordinator at the Oak Park Public Library in Oak Park, IL. She can be contacted at ssh.librarian@gmail.com. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC. If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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36. Should we let them play?

Ched Evans was convicted at Caernarfon Crown Court in April 2012 of raping a 19 year old woman, and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released from prison in October 2014. Shortly after his release Evans protested his innocence and suggested that his worst offence had been cheating on his fiancée. He also looked to restart his career as a professional soccer player in the third tier of the English league with his former club Sheffield United. What has ensued is a huge debate about whether the club should offer Evans a new contract. One side argues that Evans has served his time and should be allowed to continue his career, whereas the other claims that his role as a professional sportsman marks him out as a role model for his local community and the youngsters that support his team. A rape conviction they say is not compatible with the standards that society demands from its sports stars.

The debate in England over Evans is nothing new. In the US the National Football League (NFL) has had a personal conduct policy in place since 1997. This allows the NFL to take action against any player convicted of a domestic abuse offence including suspensions and fines. Similarly in Australian Rules Football (AFL) the governing body introduced its Respect and Responsibility programme in 2005 to educate players about violence against women. The problem in all these cases, indeed a difficulty for most branches of the sporting world, is that the big box office draws are highly paid male athletes operating out of dressing rooms that are hyper masculine and underpinned by an atmosphere of sexual aggression. As the star players are vital to the industry and ensure that box office receipts and television income remain high, the governing authorities of many male team sports have been slow to act decisively in cases where players have been charged or convicted of rape or domestic abuse. Since the start of the new millennium 48 NFL players have been found guilty of domestic abuse. In 88% of the cases the NFL either banned the player for a single game or else took no action. Similarly the AFL has been slow to take action against players. In the last two years players at the St Kilda Saints and North Melbourne clubs were charged with rape, and in both cases the clubs and the AFL stated that the players would remain available for selection and on full salaries prior to their trials.

ched
Ched Evans representing Wales in 2009. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

It is clear that the male sporting world has not taken the issue of violence against women seriously. Clubs and managers that demand a strong dressing room, where loyalty to the team is paramount and aggression is part of the game has create a masculine environment where women cannot be respected. In a sporting world where those players are then highly paid, cosseted by their management and agents, women have little function beyond their sexual availability.

The debate in the US around the case of NFL player Ray Rice, who was caught on camera punching his partner unconscious, and that of Ched Evans in England, have piled pressure on clubs and governing bodies to take the issues of sexual and domestic violence by players seriously. In the Ched Evans case the Sheffield born gold medal winning athlete, Jessica Ennis-Hill, stated that if Evans was offered a contract by the club she would ask that her name be removed from the stand that was named after her when she won her Olympic title in 2012. Ennis-Hill stated that ‘those in positions of influence should respect the role’s they play in young people’s lives and set a good example’. And herein lies the whole contradiction around the issue of male sports stars and their attitudes towards sexual and domestic violence.

Modern sport had its roots in Victorian Britain, and would spread around the world in various forms. No matter what type of sport emerged in any given setting across the globe the Victorian obsession that sport had an ethical ethos of fair play and gentlemanly conduct was hard wired into the meaning that society gave sport. As a result contemporary sport is supposed to be played in the right way in accordance with the rules, and athletes are supposed to conduct themselves in a certain way. To be an elite athlete is to be a role model and society expects athletes to display positive attributes on and off the field of play. But why should society expect that athletes, often from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum and with poor educational attainment, to behave like some form of idealised Victorian gentleman? However, as the sports star is expected to be the model citizen, because the ethics of sport are so deeply embedded in the collective consciousness, their conduct does matter. It matters to many followers of sport, is of interest to the media, and is increasingly becoming important to sponsors as they assess the value of any team or athlete in terms that stretch beyond their success on the field of play.

This is why sports teams and governing bodies will have to start taking firm action against those found guilty of sexual and domestic violence. Guilty players will have to be banned from the game and lose their chance of earning their fortune. Not only will this send a clear message to players that violence against women in unacceptable, it will also shape the thinking of the generation of young boys who see their sporting heroes as role models. If, in the future, they see players who respect women, then male attitudes will improve across society. Those who govern the world of male professional sport have to realise that they administer not simply their games, but they are also responsible for the meaningful creation of men with positive values who can act, in the best ways, as role models.

Featured image credit: “Blades”, by Kopii90 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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37. The Five Stages of Fan-Girling

The Five Stages of Fan-Girling 
by Ashley Dawson



So if you're anything like me, I freak out pretty hard when I finish a great book and hear that the next installment in the series is coming out soon. Now, this isn't your every day, run of the mill freak out. Oh no. We're talking a full on fictional fan-girl episode, complete with little girl screams when cover reveals are announced  So, in order to highlight the greatness that is YA fiction, here are the Five Stages of YA Fan-girling: 


1. Finish the Book, Cry a Little


It never fails. I finish that last line, and immediately turn to my pillow for comfort. Why did it have to end with a cliffhanger? Can the next book come out faster? Is my life going to be the same after this? All good questions, no good answers. And because of this, I cry. Sooner rather than later someone finds me with an open cup of Jell-O pudding and a frown, and they know I've finished the book I've been reading for the last fourteen hours straight. 


2. Googled it- Comes out Next Month


Okay. So I've consulted my friendly Google search engine, and Amazon tells me my favorite author is relieving me of my troubles and releasing the sequel in exactly one month. One. Month. I bite my nails for a full thirty-one days, each day a deliberate step toward that fateful day when the months change and my book love is home in my arms. Or, I just click the pre-order button. Let's go with that. 


3. Cover Reveal


Oh. My. Gosh. That's the most beautiful thing I've ever laid my eyes on. Sure enough, it's staring up at me from the front page of my favorite YA blog, and I can't look away. Love at first sight. I'll spend countless hours thinking I see that cover on a local bookshelf, only to realize that it hasn't been released yet. Yet. 




4. Check my Mailbox Religiously 


My mailbox becomes my best friend. Seriously. None of my actual friends exist for the 3-4 day shipping period, and they are all very used to this. They bring me food while I wait and I eat like I'm fueling for a half marathon. Because I totally am. Sort of. 


5. It's Here


I scream, bee-line for my bed, and rip the packaging off. There it is. The perfect thing. I flip to a random page and smell the freshly printed pages for just a moment, before diving in. 

Then, fourteen hours later, I'm finished. 

And book three doesn't come out for a year. 

Repeat from step one. 


Best wishes and happy fan-girling,

-Ashley Dawson 





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38. Nerd Riders Drive Through Movie Review - Mockingjay Part 1 - #YAMovieDay

 

Hey everyone! Welcome to our first Drive Through Movie Review, brought to you by the Nerd Riders and hosted exclusively on YABooksCentral.com!

Do you know how excited we are about this new feature on YABC? Here's a clue:

 


Today's film review is all about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. 

What did Clint and Kristin think about it? Watch their video review to find out!

 

 

Have you seen the film? What did you think? Do you agree with the Nerd Riders? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Read More

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39. The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin

The Chicken Squad: The First MisadventureJ. J. Tully certainly stays busy these days. One would think a retired search-and-rescue dog could laze around the yard and enjoy a peaceful afternoon nap. However, J. J. does not know that luxury. Sugar, Poppy, Dirt, and Sweetie make up the Chicken Squad and they always keep things interesting. These four fuzzy little chicks are constantly getting into mischief and it’s J. J.’s job to keep them out of trouble.

It seems like a normal day for the Chicken Squad until Tail the squirrel dashes into the chicken coop with a huge dilemma. Tail has seen something in the yard that is BIG and SCARY! What could this big and scary thing be? The chicks try to get more information from Tail but it is an extremely difficult task as the squirrel keeps fainting from being scared. Will the chicks learn what this big, scary object is and protect everyone in the yard? The Chicken Squad is certainly up to the task!

This is a comical delight for young children who are beginning to read longer books. The black and white illustrations by Kevin Cornell enhance the story by perfectly depicting the range of zany emotions that each character experiences. The drawings are also paced throughout the story to break up the text for readers just starting with chapter books. If you enjoy these wacky chicks you can read more about them in their next adventure called The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken, or check out some of their previous escapades in the J. J. Tully Mysteries.

Posted by: Katie


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40. Simon & Schuster Modifies its Library eBook Program

SimonSchusterlogoSimon & Schuster has made some changes to the rules for its library eBook program.

Henceforth, all the digital books from the publisher’s catalog (this includes both frontlist and backlist titles) will be made available to all libraries throughout the country. Prior to this, a library could only access these titles with participation in the “Buy It Not” merchandising program.

CEO Carolyn Reidy gave this statement in the press release: “Since we first began offering ebooks to libraries, we have been gratified by the enthusiastic response and valuable feedback we have received from our partners in the library community. We very much look forward to serving the broadest possible segment of the library community in order to bring our ebooks to their patrons, while at the same time we hope libraries will consider ‘Buy It Now’ as a new and viable option to generate revenue for the library and provide a service for their patrons.”

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41. What Daniel Handler’s National Book Award Comments Say About Publishing

Last night, the National Book Awards (NBA) ceremony took place here in NYC. There were many things to celebrate at the event, including Jacqueline Woodson’s NBA win for her book Brown Girl Dreaming, First Book Founder Kyle Zimmer being honored for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, and Ursula K. LeGuinn’s terrific acceptance speech.

But the event took a bad turn when the MC for the night, Daniel Handler (better known as Lemony Snicket), followed up Woodson’s acceptance speech with these comments:

Handler: I told you! I told Jackie she was going to win. And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned this summer, which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.

And I said you have to put that in a book. And she said, you put that in a book.

And I said, I am only writing a book about a black girl who is allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morisson, and Barack Obama saying, “this guy’s ok! This guy’s fine!”

Video here (those comments start at about 39:00)

Author David Perry does a good job on his blog explaining why Handler’s comment is so problematic, so I won’t go into that too deeply. If you’re curious about the history of the watermelon stereotype and why it’s racist, this Atlantic article linked by Perry gives a good rundown. Suffice it to say,  it’s not a nice thing to make jokes about, and particularly not a nice thing to make jokes about in reference to a very talented author when you’re a white man hosting an award ceremony. In front of a huge audience.

But what I really want to talk about is not Handler himself (who, yes, has issued a short apology via Twitter, the first choice Apology Outlet for all those who have made tasteless jokes) but the larger publishing community. Because the joke may have been Handler’s, but the environment which made a joke like that permissible is everyone’s problem and responsibility. It’s well known and well documented that publishing is, to put it lightly, homogenous. According to Publisher Weekly’s most recent salary survey, around 89% of publishing staff identifies as white/caucasian. That means, in a country where nearly 40% of the general population is comprised of people of color, only 11% of publishing staff are—and, I’d venture a guess, probably even less when you start looking at management roles.

Publishing is also notorious for being totally out of touch with diversity and race issues. Take a look at the low numbers of books published by/about people of color over the last 18 years:

Diversity in Children's Books

Yet, in this year’s salary survey, almost 40% of respondents were neutral or actually disagreed with the statement, “The publishing industry suffers from a lack of racial diversity.” As my grandma likes to say, Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

Publishing routinely treats people of color poorly in so many ways: limiting the number of diverse books they will acquire, giving those books meager marketing budgets, whitewashing covers, creating all-white lineups at major book events…the list goes on and on. So it’s really no surprise that Handler would feel that his joke might play well to the largely white and racially unaware audience sitting in that room. And he was right, because people laughed (and, hey, The New York Times even called him “edgy”! Thanks, New York Times!)

An apology from Handler is nice, but that won’t stop this kind of thing from happening again. What is required is a true commitment from publishing: to right wrongs, to make concrete and sustainable efforts to be inclusive, to educate staff on the nuances of racism and privilege and to move toward a state of deeper understanding. There are certainly many individuals within publishing who are already committed to these things. But whether the industry as a whole will ever commit, and what it will take for them to do so, is a question I just don’t know the answer to.

In the meantime, readers and authors aren’t willing to wait, and that’s one big reason why the We Need Diverse Books campaign has done so marvelously. As of today, the campaign has raised over $108,000 to fund various projects that will increase diversity in books. That money is proof that a lot of people care and won’t let the publishing status quo, which hurts so many, reign supreme. I hope publishers will be willing to work with them on many of the initiatives they’ve developed.

In a great speech on sexual abuse in the military, Army chief Lt. Gen. David Morrison said, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” I think that goes for all of us. Hey, publishing, we’ve all walked past a lot of things. Let’s not walk past this too.


Filed under: Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation Tagged: national book award, NBA

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42. Hachette Book Group Forms Contract to Acquire Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers

Hachette-Book-Group-LARGE11-300x89Hachette Book Group has established an agreement to acquire Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. The executives have designated Black Dog & Levinthal to be a new division at the Hachette Books imprint.

J.P. Leventhal founded the company in 1993; it specializes in publishing illustrated books and creative non-fiction titles. Hachette plans to retain the management team with Leventhal as publisher, Maureen Winter as associate publisher, and Rebecca Koh as editorial director.

Here’s more from the press release: “The impressive range and variety of the Black Dog & Leventhal list is evident in their recent bestsellers, which include The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker, Skyscrapers, Take Me Out to the Ballpark, The Complete Front Pages of the New York Times, The Louvre: All the Paintings, Theodore Gray’s The Elements, as well as the more recent Molecules, which is currently on the New York Times science bestseller list. The company publishes 20 to 30 books per year, in the categories of art, history, science, humor, cooking, crafts, music, and theatre, as well as a selection of books for young readers.”

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43. Guest Interview: Lindsey Lane on A Heap of Talking with Edward Carey

Edward in Edward Gorey's coat; photo by Allison Devers
By Lindsey Lane
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I am sitting at Sweetish Hill Bakery & Cafe, waiting to interview Edward Carey, author of the forthcoming middle grade/YA novel Heap House, Iremonger Book One.

If I’d read his bio before the interview, I might be a little bit intimidated.

Not only is Carey the author of two adult novels, Observatory Mansions and Alva and Irva: the Twins Who Saved a City, which have been translated into thirteen different languages, and both of which he illustrated, he is also a playwright with a long list of credits in England, Romania, Lithuania and Malaysia.

He has lived all over the world and currently makes his home in Austin with his wife Elizabeth McCracken and their two children and occasionally teaches creative writing and fairy tales at the Michener Center and the English Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

Gulp…Instead, I’m happily oblivious when Edward Carey bursts through the door of Sweetish Hill, hair blown back, red faced. I wonder if he’s driven here on a motorcycle.

Edward Carey: Parking. There’s no parking. I couldn’t find any parking. I had to run a great distance. I’m so sorry I’m late.

I assure him that six minutes past a meeting time in a town with too much traffic and not enough places to put cars is not late. In fact, my mother would argue, five minutes of lateness builds the anticipation of meeting someone. Particularly someone whose book I really loved.

Heap House is brilliant, original, inventive and unlike any book I’d ever read. The writing is smart and funny. The premise is ancient and fresh.

While Edward orders tea, I’ll share a brief description of the book:

Clod is an Iremonger. He lives in the Heaps, a vast sea of lost and discarded items collected from all over London.
At the centre is Heap House, a living maze of staircases and scurrying rats. Clod has an illness. He can hear the objects whispering. His birth object, a universal bath plug, says 'James Henry', A storm is brewing over Heap House.
When Clod meets Lucy Pennant, a girl newly arrived from the city, everything changes. The secrets that bind Heap House together begin to unravel to reveal a dark truth that threatens to destroy Clod's world.

Already, it has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

L2: Can you give me a one sentence description on Heap House?

EC: It’s a coming of age love story set in the rubbish heaps of Victorian London.

L2: So how did you come to write Heap House?

EC: I love Dickens. I love illustrations. I love kids books. I love Robert Louis Stevenson. I love books with a sense of adventure.

L2: Okay. But why Heap House? What was the inspiration?

Edward in China; photo by Hugh Ferrer
EC: Well, there was this museum outside Bejing. I can’t remember the name of it. And when I went in there, they had rooms full of things.

One room full of mirrors. One room full of keys, one full of doorhandles. One room was full of bathtubs.

And it seemed to me all these objects put together were somehow communicating with each other.

L2: Really?

EC: Well, that’s what it seemed like to me. A 14th century tub talking to 19th century tub. They were going on and on.

L2: And that visit led to a book about objects that talked?

EC: It started me thinking about it. In Victorian England, during the height of Britain’s Empire, there was also an horrendous amount of poverty and neglect, and poor people were just crushed under the weight of industry. There were massive amounts of poor people and children were left at orphanages with one object from their families.

There’s a place in London called the Foundling Hospital (now it’s a museum) and sometimes when the mother anonymously left her baby there in the night, she’d leave a small object behind with it, a thimble say or a button or the metal label from a gin bottle, and this would be all that was afterwards to give any hint of where the child came from.

Can you imagine? Your mother is so poor she can’t keep you and she leaves you at an orphanage with one object. What tremendous power these singular objects have.

L2: Ahh, I’m beginning to see the heft and history of the objects in Heap House and their relation to people. But at Heap House you have massive heaps of things and rubbish not just the characters’ birth objects.

EC: Right. That’s what we spend our whole lives doing. Consuming and spending and acquiring and what happens when we don’t look after those things? We throw them away.

And what happens when we die? Those objects, those precious things get orphaned and thrown into the rubbish.

Terribly sad, really.

copyright Edward Carey
L2: How did Clod start coming into focus amongst all the objects?

EC: I started drawing this odd, ill-faced child who looked slightly miserable and I wondered, Hmm, what do you have to say for yourself?

L2: Do you draw a lot?

EC: All the time. But not all of them become characters. Clod did, because he looked so concerned about something. I gave him a bathplug for his object. It worked symbolically because a plug keeps things in or lets them out.

L2: And Lucy? Her object?

EC: I gave her a box of matches. Her name comes from Lucifer. When she comes into the house, she turns things up side down. Almost like a burning, a purifying or a transformation. So…matches.

L2:What would you like your birth object to be?

EC: I think a pencil sharpener would be quite nice.

Edward and I digress and talk about a few of the characters’ objects for a while. He tells me the Grandmother in Heap House gets quite nasty. She’s the one who chooses peoples birth objects and some of them aren’t very nice. Like one poor fellow gets a noose. Not a bright future for that character.

If you would like to have a birth object, you can go to Edward’s website (scroll to bottom) and you will be assigned one. Mine is named Joseph Cecil Tennant and appears to be a little stool.

I try to wheedle the details out of him about Book Two and Three.

EC: Book Two’s done. It will be out next October. I haven’t worked out Book Three. I’ve got tons of stuff but it’s not filled in. I like not entirely knowing what’s going to happen so I have the freedom to surprise myself.

L2: That’s what I loved about your writing. It surprises. Like this description:

Bornobby washed with some sort of scented soap so you could always smell him coming, but always there was an undersmell with him, as if a ghost of a fish was following him about, swimming in his air.

It’s the kind of writing that give other writers permission to write more boldly, more inventively.

EC: Thank you.

copyright Edward Carey
L2: What writers give you permission to draw outside the lines, so to speak?

EC: Angela Carter. Leonora Carrington. Carson McCullers. Shirley Jackson. Patrick Ness. Neil Gaiman. That’s why I love to teach fairytales. Grimm, Hoffman, Andersen these are really dark stories. They are our original stories, Grimms’ tales are a primal source of fiction, which over time have often been sanitized. Originally there wasn’t a stepmother in Hansel and Gretel. It was the mother who sent the kids into the woods because there wasn’t enough food. I love those stories. There are always woods you can’t go into.

If you go into the darkness, what will happen? Death? Or Love?

I also love the Secret Garden, Rudyard Kipling, and J.M Barrie’s original Peter Pan. It has the greatest opening lines in children’s literature: “All children, save one, grow up.”

Or perhaps this first line:

“It really all began, all the terrible business that followed, on the day that my Aunt Rosamud’s door handle went missing.” --Beginning the narrative of Clod Iremonger

copyright Edward Carey


Cynsational Notes

Photo of Lindsey by Sam Bond Photography.
Adapted from Lindsey's website bio:

Lindsey graduated from Hampshire College with a BA in Theatre Arts-Playwriting and moved to Austin where she started writing plays like the award winning "The Miracle of Washing Dishes."

Later, she worked at The Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman where she interviewed death row inmates, cops and wayward millionaires.

When she wasn’t writing, she trained as a boxer and promoted the first all-women’s boxing event to raise money for the Austin Rape Crisis Center.

In 2003, Clarion published her picture book Snuggle Mountain, named Best Children’s Book of 2004 by Bank Street College of Education. Later, PicPocket Books published Snuggle Mountain as an app.

Lindsey received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2010. Her debut YA novel Evidence of Things Not Seen was released by FSG in September.

Event Report: Lindsey Lane & Evidence of Things Not Seen from Cynsations.

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44. Review of the Day: Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy

NeighborhoodSharks 235x300 Review of the Day: Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine RoyNeighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands
By Katherine Roy
David Macaulay Studio – Roaring Brook (Macmillan)
$17.99
ISBN: 9781596438743
Ages 7-12
On shelves now.

When you’re a librarian buying for your system, you come to understand that certain nonfiction topics are perennial favorites. You accept that no matter how many copies you buy, you will never have enough train or joke or magic books. And the king daddy topic to beat them all, the one that leaves a continual gaping hole in the Dewey Decimal area of 597.3 or so, is sharks. Kids can’t get enough of them. Heck, adults can’t get enough of them. Between Shark Week and movies like Sharknado, sharks haven’t been this pop culturally relevant since the good old days of JAWS. And sure, we’ve plenty of truly decent shark books on our shelves already. What we don’t really have are books that combine the blood and the facts with the beauty of full-color, wholly accurate paintings. We’ve never truly had a shark book that’s as accomplished and stunning as Katherine Roy’s Neighborhood Sharks. It’s crazy to contemplate that though shark books are never unpopular, only now did someone take the time and effort to give them a publication worthy of their terror and wonder.

A single great white shark cuts through the waters surrounding San Francisco’s Farallon Islands “just 30 miles from the city”. Prey comes in the form of a fine fat seal and before the mammal realizes what’s happening the shark attacks. What makes a shark the perfect killer? Consider its weapons. Note the body, covered in “skin teeth”, capable of acting like a warm-blooded fish. Observe its high-definition vision and five rows of teeth. Did you know that a shark’s jaws aren’t fused to the skull, so that they can actually be projected forward to bite something? Or the method by which you would go about actually tagging this kind of creature? With candor and cleverness, author/artist Katherine Roy brings these silent killers to breathtaking life. You may never desire to set foot into the ocean again.

It’s hard to imagine a book on sharks that has art that can compete with all those shark books laden with cool photographic images. Roy’s advantage here then is the freedom that comes with the art of illustration. She’s not beholden to a single real shark making a real kill. With her brush she can set up a typical situation in which a great white shark attacks a northern elephant seal. The looming threat of the inevitable attack and the almost Hitchcockian way she sets up her shots (so to speak) give the book a tension wholly missing from photo-based shark books. What’s more, it makes the book easy to booktalk (booktalk: a technique used by librarians to intrigue potential readers about titles – not dissimilar to movie trailers, only with books). There’s not a librarian alive who wouldn’t get a kick out of revealing that wordless two-page seal attack scene in all its horror and glory.

The remarkable thing? Even as she’s showing an eviscerated seal, Roy keeps the imagery fairly kid friendly. Plumes of red blood are far more esoteric and even (dare I say it) lovely than a creature bleeding out on land. You never see the shark’s teeth pierce the seal, since Roy obscures the most gory details in action and waves. There are even callbacks. Late in the book we see a shark attacking a faux seal, lured there by researchers that want to study the shark. Without having seen the previous attack this subsequent wordless image would lose much of its punch. And lest we forget, these images are downright lovely. Roy’s paintbrush contrasts the grey sea and grey shark with a whirling swirling red. You could lose yourself in these pictures.

Yet while Roy is capable of true beauty in her art, it’s the original ways in which she’s capable of conveying scientific information about sharks that truly won my heart. She’s the queen of the clever diagram. Early in the book we see an image of a shark’s torpedo-shaped body. Yet the image equates the shark with an airplane, overlaying its fins and tail with the wings and tail of a typical jet plane. Seeing this and the arrows that indicate airflow / how water flows, the picture does more to convey an idea than a thousand words ever could. I found myself poring over diagrams of how a shark can let in cold water and convert it in an internal heat exchange into something that can warm its blood. It’s magnificent. The close-up shot of how a shark’s five rows of teeth tilt and the shot that will haunt my dreams until I die of projectile jaws will easily satiate any bloodthirsty young shark lover hoping for a few new facts.

The projectile jaws, actually, are an excellent example of the tons of information Roy includes here that feels original and beautifully written. Roy is consistently child-friendly in this book, never drowning her text in jargon that would float over a kiddo’s head. Using the framing sequence of a shark attacking a seal, she’s able to work in facts about the creatures and their environment in such a way as to feel natural to the book. Neighborhood Sharks is one of the first books in the David Macaulay Studio imprint and like Mr. Macaulay, Ms. Roy is capable of artistic prowess and great grand factual writing all at once. The backmatter consisting of additional information, a word or two on why she decided not to do a spread on smell, Selected Sources, Further Reading, and a map of The Farallons is worth the price of admission alone.

The book is called “Neighborhood Sharks” for a reason. When we think of big predators we think of remote locations. We don’t think of them swimming along, so very close to places like the Golden Gate Bridge. Plenty of adults would be horrified by the notion that they might run into an unexpected shark somewhere. Kids, however, might see the prospect as exciting. Neighborhood Sharks has the potential to both satisfy those kids that have already read every single book on sharks in their local library and also convert those that haven’t already made sharks their favorite predator of all time. Remarkably beautiful even (or especially) in the face of straightforward shark attacks, this is a book that sets itself apart from the pack. If you read only one children’s shark book in all your livelong days, read this one. Disgusting. Delicious. Delightful.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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45. The Power of Journaling

Overcoming a painful past usually involves sharing one’s story and the associated feelings. Developing insight into past hurts, and connecting the dots between then and now enables one to make better choices moving forward. Journal writing is a powerful tool that opens the path to greater insight and self-knowledge.


 

Randy_Kamen_Gredinger 300 dpi colorBTD_Paperback_tone This guest post is by Randy Kamen, ED.D., author of Behind the Therapy Door: Simple Strategies to Transform Your Life. She is a psychologist and educator who helped pioneer new territory in mind-body medicine at Boston University’s School of Medicine and Harvard’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. She has long been on the leading edge of her profession, integrating insight oriented and cognitive behavioral therapy with holistic methods in her research and clinical work. She helps women build on their strengths and implement new strategies to deepen their experience of insight, healing, and happiness. Dr. Kamen has appeared on numerous TV and radio programs. She writes for the Huffington Post and other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @DrRandyKamen to learn about her speaking engagements and women’s retreats on Martha’s Vineyard and around the country or visit her website DrRandyKamen.com.


 

The pioneer work of James Pennebaker in his book Writing to Heal and subsequent research on the topic of journal writing, confirms what many of us already know intuitively: Journal writing is a highly effective way to manage stress and alter a wide range of problematic behaviors. Strongly encouraged in the field of psychology and medicine journaling fosters deeper insight, self-awareness, and behavioral change. Behavioral psychologists often say, “If you can track it, you can change it.”

Journaling opens the door for the writer to express personal impressions, daily experiences, and evolving insights as well as reflections about the self, relationships, experiences, dreams, fantasies, and creative musings. This can be done without judgment or restriction. Reviewing earlier entries cultivates the writer’s ability to learn from past events and circumstances that might otherwise go unnoticed. A repetitive, self-destructive behavior becomes more apparent when seen through the lens of these journal entries.

A Vehicle for Mindfulness

Journal writing can be a vehicle for deepening mindfulness as it helps to clarify and refine thoughts and emotions and brings the writer into the present. Like meditation, journal writing helps to clear the mind by transcribing emotional clutter onto the written page. The writer becomes a witness to his or her past behaviors which then paves the way for fresh thought and perspective. Journaling provides a forum that can be both cathartic and revelatory.

A journal creates a great companion wherever you go. It is a resource for observing shifts in your inner world and outer behavior.

Getting Started

Begin the journaling practice by buying a notebook that you can slip into a pocketbook or even a pocket. Consider keeping a separate notebook by the bed to record dreams. Keeping a journal as a private file on the computer is another option. Choose any method that enables you to write consistently for at least ten minutes a day. Some people find that lingering over the writing takes them into a state of reflection about the past, present, or future. Others prefer to track their thoughts about particular subjects, such as dreams, and certain behaviors like smoking, eating, or mood variations. Journaling helps to identify and clarify goals, wishes, and emotional reality without inhibition. Consider a brief meditation as a prelude to journal writing. At a minimum take a few deep breaths for grounding purposes before beginning each new entry. In this way, you will create the condition for even greater focus and lucidity in capturing thoughts and writing.

There are many ways to keep a journal. You may wish to consider the type of journal you would like to keep. There are four kinds of journal that I am proposing here: free associating, gratitude, sentence prompts, and dreams.

Free Associating Journal

In a free associating journal the writer records what- ever comes to mind. This type of journal helps with processing events and clarifying thoughts. It is a venue for noticing feelings, insights, and matters of the heart. This kind of journaling also creates an opportunity for recording life lessons and reflecting on important questions.

Gratitude Journal

In a gratitude journal the writer makes daily recordings about several events for which she is grateful. The idea behind the gratitude journal is to strengthen the part of the brain that focuses on positive thoughts and deepens the capacity to appreciate. This type of journaling is strongly associated with diminished depression and the heightened experience of inner peace and well-being.

Sentence Prompts Journal

In a sentence prompts journal the writer uses open- ended questions or incomplete sentences to evoke (unique) thoughts, feelings, and associations. For example: My relationships will improve when…A risk I am willing to take today is…My life feels most harmonious when I…My goal today is…I believe that…I have always wanted to…I have decided to…My greatest strengths are…I am grateful for…I love…I am happiest when…

Dream Journal

In a dream journal the writer records her dreams upon awaking. Dreams can be a powerful source of insight. Once you begin keeping this kind of journal, you are likely to improve your dream recall. Your dreams are a window into your subconscious mind, which is a powerful way to understand your inner world. Sometimes, in the time it takes say “Good morning” to your partner, your dream can slip away. At first, you may only remember fragments or images from your dreams, but in time you will find that you have access to more vivid recollections.

Healing Childhood Trauma through Connection

Getting in touch with one’s early childhood memories, particularly memories from a challenging history, can cause old emotional pain to resurface, sometimes with a vengeance. Journaling can be a powerful tool to rethink your past, your current behaviors, and explore opportunities for change going forward.

Enjoy the process

Journal writing can become your guide and confidant. Most importantly you can tap into your authentic self without inhibition or judgment. The precious time spent journaling will deepen insight, and wisdom. You may find that your journaling ushers you into a healthier and happier place within yourself and with others.

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.


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46. Understanding placebo effects: how rituals affect the brain and the body

In a typical prehistoric scene, say in 4000 BC, a wounded warrior is dragged to the shaman tent. The respected shaman takes a look at the wound and assures the warrior that he will be healed with the proper prayers and ritual dances. He then prepares a strong-smelling mixture of herbs and seeds, and as the whole tribe chants rhythmically around the campfire, he carefully applies it to the wound, all the while uttering incomprehensible sentences passed on to him by a venerable line of ancestral shamans.

Now let’s come to more recent times, say in 2010 AD. A wounded soldier is carried to the military hospital. The medical staff completes a physical examination. A CT scan to rule out internal lesions is carried out to the reassuring buzz of the most recent technology, and a respected clinician wearing a spotless white coat reassures the soldier that he will be healed with the proper drugs and physiotherapy.

Gillray_-_Treatment_with_tractors
A quack treating a patient with Perkins Patent Tractors by James Gillray, 1801. This remedy was used to illustrate the power of the placebo effect. James Gillray, 1801. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Across the divide of millennia, what do these two pictures have in common? The ritual of the medical and therapeutic act. Shamans of the past and clinicians of today share instinctual knowledge that the context surrounding a therapy is an important part of the therapy itself. Rituals have changed and adapted to the contemporary world, but they are still here. In spite of the huge time span across human history, contexts help both ancient and modern patients to develop trust and expectation that they will eventually regain their health.

Placebo effects work in this way too. Giving a placebo consists of essentially delivering a context without the substance. It is a wrapping devoid of content. Yet, the empty box itself acts subtly on the patient’s mind, just as an active drug would do, activating or silencing synapses, altering neurotransmitter content in specific brain areas, and modifying brain activity in ways that are today amenable to scientific inquiry. Placebos are not only the archetypal sugar pills but can be anything with the power to impact on the patient’s expectations. Placebos are made of words, symbols, rituals, meanings. What is important is not really the tool used, but the changes it triggers in neural activity, and how these changes ultimately affect psychological and bodily functions.

Within this framework, today we are witnessing an epochal transition in the medical paradigm, whereby general concepts, such as suggestibility and power of mind, can now be described in terms of a true biology of placebo effects and doctor-patient interaction. Thanks to modern scientific tools, important questions have been addressed and partially answered, such as psychological and emotional influences on symptoms, diseases, and responses to therapies.

The main concept that is emerging today is that placebos, words, therapeutic rituals and patients’ expectations modulate the same biochemical pathways that are affected by the drugs used in routine medical practice. As a matter of fact, this statement should be reversed. It would be more appropriate to say that drugs use the same biochemical pathways of rituals. In fact, rituals were born long before drugs.

Rituals heal but they can also kill. Nocebo effects are the evil twins of placebo effects, the negative consequence of negative rituals and contexts that induce distrust and hopelessness. These can be triggered by a variety of contexts in non-western societies, such as voodoo, and in western society, such as exaggerated health warnings in the media. A social contagion of negative expectations can spread across people very quickly, sometimes inducing worrisome mass phenomena.

Placebo effects are all of these things. The crucial point, and indeed the big revolution, is that today we can study these phenomena, once the domain of psychology, sociology and anthropology, with the tools of the modern biomedical paradigm. These biological tools involve cellular and molecular accuracy, with rituals and contexts interpreted in terms of specific brain regions and biochemical pathways, thus eliminating the old dichotomy between biology and psychology.

Heading image courtesy of Fabrizio Benedetti. Do not use without permission.

 

The post Understanding placebo effects: how rituals affect the brain and the body appeared first on OUPblog.

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47. Oxford Dictionaries Names ‘Vape’ Word of the Year

Oxford DictionariesThe Oxford Dictionaries have chosen “vape” as the Word of the Year for the United States.

According to the OxfordWords blog, this word “originated as an abbreviation of vapour or vaporize. The OxfordDictionaries.com definition was added in August 2014: the verb means ‘to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device,’ while both the device and the action can also be known as a vape. The associated noun vaping is also listed.”

As electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) rise in popularity, linguists predict that usage of word will only continue to increase. Some of the words that made it to the short list include “budtender,” “normcore,” and “slacktivism.” In past years, the organization picked “selfie,” “gif,” and “refudiate” to receive this honor.

 

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48. AJL Recommends Hanukkah Books for Children

Heidi's dad playing ukulele by the light of the shamash candle


HANUKKAH BOOKS

Over at "People of the Books" (the blog of the Association of Jewish Libraries), they've posted a list of recommended Hanukkah books for children

NEW BOOKS

There are brand new books listed, like one I'm especially excited about: Honeyky Hanukkah by Woody Guthrie, illustrated by Dave Horowitz, and accompanied by a Klezmatics CD. I interviewed Nora Gurthrie in 2006 about the Klezmatics CD Happy Joyous Hanukkah based on Woody's work, and I interviewed Dave Horowitz in 2007 about his hilarious picture book Five Little Gefiltes. I'm thrilled to see them come together to create this new picture book!

OLD BOOKS

The AJL post also lists Hanukkah-themed books that have been recognized by the Sydney Taylor Book Award as gold or silver medalists or with a Notable Book designation. The Sydney Taylor Book Award has been in business since 1968, so there have been quite a few Hanukkah-related winners over the years. 

In fact, the AJL list is not comprehensive, listing Notable Books only back to 2007. For Hanukkah Notables from earlier years, you can always check the entire list of all winners ever.

MORE BOOKS

AJL recommends the books for library storytimes or for gift-giving. The Jewish Book Council has also published some gift recommendations for adults and kids, some Hanukkah books and others that would just make nice presents. What better gift than a book?

BONUS TRACK

Click here to listen to Honeyky Hanukkah!

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49. Toughest Part of NaNoWriMo… So Far

You're beginning to falter. Tearing your hair out and your story apart. Looking for reasons to procrastinate rather than write. Sighing often. Telling yourself why bother.

Don't worry. It's not you. You're at the Crisis point in the month-long quest to write a story with a plot from beginning to end. Nearly 3 weeks in makes for the 3/4 mark of the month and as you know, the 3/4 mark of anything, according to the Universal Story is the Dark Night -- a time of breakdown for a possible break through.

You're being tested. Writing is not for the faint-hearted. Go for a walk. Meditate. Chant affirmations. Do whatever you need to keep your energy and spirit high. Slog through this time, knowing you're nearly there.

You've heard about people who give up right before something amazing would have happened. Don't let this be you. Persevere! You can do this.

This is also a time filled with great emotion and the need for courage to keep at your passion. Whether you have gathered together with other writers for NaNoWriMo or are persevering alone, the biggest test this month is staying passionately loyal to your goal and not giving up when challenged.

Today I write!

For plot prompts to move your writing everyday and reach each major turning point: The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing. To complete write your story in a month, complete 4 prompts everyday. (As one writer proclaims: The PW Book of Prompts is my lighted path…)

For plot help and resources during NaNoWriMo

1)  The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
2)  The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
3)  The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.
  ~~~~~~~~
To continue writing and revising (and, lots of writers are finding PlotWriMo the exact right resource to help pre-plot for a powerful first draft. Knowing what to look for in a revision helps create a tighter first draft):
  •  
  • PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month
 ~~ View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing. 8 videos (5.5 hours)+ 30 exercises

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50. NaNoWriMo Tip #14: Pare Down the Districtions

lifehackNaNoWriMo participants have 10 more days to complete their projects. To give writers that extra edge, we suggest paring down distractions.

According to lifehack.org, some methods that can help with reducing distractions include: cleaning up one’s workspace, arranging some alone time, and setting a timer for both writing and breaks. Do you have any further suggestions to add?

This is our fourteenth NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. To help GalleyCat readers take on the challenge of writing a draft for a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, we will be offering advice throughout the entire month.

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