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Are you a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth? The Museum of London is hosting the “Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die” exhibit.
Here’s more about the show: “Asking searching questions such as who is Sherlock Holmes, and why does he still conjure up such enduring fascination, this major exhibition – London’s first on the detective since 1951 – will explore how Sherlock Holmes has transcended literature onto stage and screen and continues to attract huge audiences to this day.”
Some of the items on display include notebooks, film clips, photos, and paintings. A closing date for this exhibit has been set for April 12, 2015. Follow this link to download a free digital copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. (via The Huffington Post)
"Now this way, now that way, and won't let me be! Keep him off, Bill - look here - don't let him come near! Only see how the blood-drops his features besmear! What, the dead come to life again! Bless me! Oh dear!"
The Dead Drummer or a Legend of Salisbury Plain from The Ingoldsby Legends a collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poetry supposedly written by Thomas Ingoldsby, actually the pen-name of an English clergyman Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845).
The legends were originally serialised in Bentley’s Miscellany Magazine and later in the New Monthly Magazine the version I'm featuring here was published by Macmillan in 1911. The illustrations are all by Harry G Theaker.
I was thrilled to be one of the lucky recipients of a giveaway hosted by the lovely Yvonne over at Winter Moon. My gift was a copy of The Savage Garden by Mark Mills and as if that wasn't enough Yvonne also included a gorgeous bookmark, a pretty card and a second card with my initial. Thank you so much Yvonne, I know what I will be reading this All Hallows Eve.
The Witching Hour is nearly upon us – are you reading anything scary?
Cartoonist and author Bob Eckstein has landed a book deal with the Potter Style imprint at Random House.
The new project, entitled Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores, was inspired by Eckstein’s “Bookstores of New York” series. The New Yorker published “part 1” in June and “part 2” earlier this week.
With this work, Eckstein will illustrate and write about the unusual histories behind several beloved independent bookstores. Senior editor Jay Sacher negotiated the deal with Joy Tutela of the David Black Literary Agency.
A Kid's Guide to Arab American History by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Maha Addasi (Chicago Review Press, 2013). Peek: "...dispels stereotypes and provides a look at the people and experiences that have shaped Arab American culture in a format enjoyable for elementary students. Each chapter focuses on a different group of Arab Americans including those of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Yemeni descent."
I Want What She's Got: The Disastrous Comparison Game by Emma Dryden from Our Stories, Ourselves. Peek: "There's a thief among us in the writing community: this thief is insidious, harmful, and causing an enormous amount of heartache, pain, and angst. And worst of all, this thief is stealing writers' ability to write. What is this thief?"
Here I Am by Brian Pinkney from CBC Diversity. Peek: "As a renderer of images that affect children, it’s essential that I stick to my commitment of showing black kids in all their glory. By doing this, I hope to be able to bring power, change, healing, self-expression, and heart to children of every color."
How Image Systems Can Supercharge Your Novel by C.S. Lakin from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Great novelists know the power of motif and symbolism, often using something like a repeated word or phrase, or an object of importance to the character, to bring a richness to the story and to enhance the theme of their novel. In effect, they are creating something similar to an image system."
Mini Trend: Grrrl Power Graphic Novels by Elissa Gershowitz from The Horn Book. Peek: "...excellent graphic novel memoirs (or fiction that feels an awful lot like) written by women about their adolescence."
How Can I Make Readers Cry by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: "Examine your entire story to be sure every plot point amps up emotional tension. Since plot serves character arcs in romances, events should pierce the characters’ deepest fears and most passionate hopes repeatedly."
Writers on Writing: Dear Professor H. by Lesléa Newman from Passages North. Peek: "If you meant to intimidate us, Professor H., you certainly succeeded. You distributed the syllabus and launched into the course requirements without once explaining the phrase 'serious pleasure' which stared down at us like an angry gargoyle."
My link of the week is Everything I Know About Plot, I Learned from Buffy by Dave King from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Whedon keeps this working because his morality, while always clear, is never simplistic. Good and evil are the sides, but characters sometimes switch sides or aren’t sure what side they’re on."
Over the last 17 years, it has become THE copywriting event of the year. And this year, 400+ aspiring and professional writers joined us in Delray Beach, Florida to have industry legends teach them how to build successful copywriting businesses — and to meet with over 75 marketers looking to hire AWAI-trained copywriters.
A lot happened in those 4 days … too much to cover in a simple blog. But I do plan to bring you some of the best ideas you can use on your journey to making a very good living as a writer.
Today I want to share with you something my partner Katie Yeakle — one of the Founders of AWAI — shared during her opening remarks …
She started by asking the audience a simple question:
How do you explain why some people are able to achieve things that seem impossible — while others only dream about changing their lives?
And then followed it up with some of the popular examples of AWAI members who have achieved real success …
How does someone like AWAI member Joshua Boswell go from being over $200,000 in debt, with creditors knocking at his door and 7 children to feed — to making $20,000 a month working 20-30 hours a week?
How does AWAI member Sean McCool go from being a guy who failed English in both 7th and 10th grades to being a highly-respected writer who contributes directly to the bottom line of multimillion-dollar companies?
How does AWAI member Starr Daubenmire go from being down-sized at age 60 … to a brand-new career that let her live her dream of spending 3 months in Italy … writing in the mornings, painting and exploring in the afternoons?
How does AWAI member Cindy Cyr go from being in a job where she couldn’t take time off to be with her sick sister … to today where she spends half her time traveling the country with her 14-year old recording artist son, while still earning six-figures?
Why is that some people succeed at copywriting … yet so many others don’t?
What accounts for the difference?
Is it education?
Sean would deny that. So would million-dollar copywriters Clayton Makepeace and Dan Kennedy. Those guys didn’t go to college.
Is it a natural talent for copywriting?
Cindy liked to write. But she didn’t even know what copywriting was.
Is it sales experience? Not for Starr. She was a quality control coordinator in an office. No selling going on there.
Master Copywriter Will Newman was a math teacher for kids with special needs; Krista Jones, AWAI’s very first $10K Challenge winner was an engineer …
So what is it?
The real answer to that question is right here in this room …
The answer is: they took decisive action to change their lives …
And then what Katie talked about next is what I’d like to talk to you about now. And, that’s the decisions that need to be made before you can successfully move forward towards living the writer’s life.
Before any of the people Katie mentioned took action, they had to make the very first decision of all … and that was if they truly wanted a change in their lives.
They all answered yes.
Next, they needed to decide how they were going to accomplish it.
Joshua, Sean, Starr, and Cindy all wanted to make a living writing and decided the best way for them to accomplish that was to pursue copywriting.
So they decided how they’d learn the skills …
They decided what support they needed …
And they decided what changes they’d need to make in their current lives to make that happen.
Next, they decided to follow through.
At every stage it was the same — a decision followed by action.
So today, I want you to give some more thought to what your version of the writer’s life looks like … what will your life look like when you’re making a living as a writer?
And then start making decisions and taking action …
If you’re just starting out, the first decision you may need to make is whether or not you want to make a change in your life. Is now the time?
Or it may be deciding which path you want to take … whether it’s copywriting, content writing, web writing, or something else. (Check out my recent post on the top 7 opportunities for writers.)
And then comes the critical (and exciting!) part: taking action.
When an old friend told me he had saved the former Edward Everett Hale house in Matunuck, Rhode Island from demolition and gifted it to a local historical society with an endowment fund for its restoration, I remembered there was a significant collection of E. E. Hale letters at the Library of Congress that might throw light on the house. How could I have guessed this would lead me to uncovering the revered minister’s decades-long love affair with a forgotten, much younger and truly remarkable woman named Harriet E. Freeman?
First I had to unlock the code the writers used in passages throughout some 3,000 surviving letters. As I transcribed the letters, I recognized the “code” as a defunct shorthand, which I traced to its inventor, Thomas Towndrow. Hale taught himself this shorthand while a student at Harvard, and Towndrow’s 1832 textbook became my “Rosetta Stone” to unlocking an intimate, sometimes passionate, and mutually supportive relationship — the nature of which was concealed by the two of them, their families, and generations of Hale biographers.
Hale’s public life and career are well documented, but who was this Harriet Freeman? As I discovered from reminiscences in the letters, Hale’s special relationship with Freeman had its origins in his close friendship with the wealthy Freeman family, his parishioners since her teenage years. In her early twenties, Freeman began working as a volunteer in Hale’s church, the South Congregational Church in Boston’s South End, just a block away from the Freeman’s town house. Soon, she became his favorite literary amanuensis, to whom he dictated more than half of his sermons and a significant number of his fifty books and countless articles. Their coded expressions of devotion to each other in the letters that begin in 1884, when Hale, married with six surviving children, was 62 and Freeman 37, often seem “over-the-top” in typical Victorian fashion, but the longhand portions of the letters are rich in evidence of their shared intellectual and activist interests and love of the outdoors. Quite simply, they were soul mates.
Far from being just an adjunct to an older man’s life, Freeman fashioned a full and useful life of her own. She had a passion for botany and geology, which she studied at the Teacher’s School of Science (a venture of the Boston Society of Natural History and Boston Tech, later MIT) and then as a special student at Boston Tech, when she participated in multiple field trips in North America. Active in leadership roles in a number of the women’s clubs and organizations that pursued philanthropy and reform in women’s higher education and human rights, she also became a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club once women were allowed to join in 1879. Spending her summers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where Hale joined her for the month of August and other shorter visits, she was an activist for preserving the severely threatened forests of the region, persuading Hale to lend his authority to the cause when he became chaplain to the US Senate in 1904.
The story of Harriet Freeman and Edward Hale is valuable for two reasons: it sheds new light on the already celebrated E. E. Hale and it comprehensively documents the life of a truly remarkable woman. I began by thinking that “Hattie” could only be overshadowed by the overpowering legend and charismatic personality of Edward Everett Hale. Instead, I found multiple reasons why he felt she transformed his life. At last, and 84 years after her death, the formerly obscure Harriet Freeman is recognized with a profile in American National Biography Online.
Decades ago--and now, too--I revel in the music of The Band. I was amongst those who went to see the film The Last Waltz. Of course, I bought CDs, too. At the time, I knew Robbie Robertson was Native, but didn't know much else about him. Today, I'm pleased as can be to share Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story. Here's the cover:
Thanks to this book, I've had the opportunity to learn a lot more about Robertson. Released this year (2014) by Henry Holt, the biography is written by Sebastian Robertson (yeah, Robbie's son). The illustrations by Adam Gustavson are terrific.
Robertson is Mohawk.
The second page of Rock and Roll Highway is titled "We Are the People of the Longhouse." There, we learn that his given name is Jaime Royal Robertson. His mother is Mohawk; his father is Jewish.
Allow me to dwell on the title for that page... "We Are the People of the Longhouse." That is so cool... so very cool... Why? Because this book is published by a major publisher, which means lots of libraries are likely to get it, and lots of kids--Mohawk ones, too!--are going to read that title. And look at young Robbie on the cover. Sitting on a car. Wearing a tie. The potential for this book to push back on stereotypes of Native people is spectacular!
In the summers, Robertson and his mom went to the Six Nations Indian Reservation where his mom grew up (I'm guessing that "Indian Reservation" was added to Six Nations because the former is more familiar to US readers, but I see that decision as a missed opportunity to increase what kids know about First Nations). There were lots of relatives at Six Nations, and lots of gatherings, too, where elders told stories. The young Robbie liked those stories and told his mom that one day, he wanted to be a storyteller, too.
That life--as a storyteller who tells with music--is wonderfully presented in Rock and Roll Highway. Introduce students to Robertson using this bio and his music. Make sure you have the CDs specific to his Mohawk identity. The first one is Music for Native Americans. Ulali, one of my favorite groups, is part of that CD. Check out this video from 2010. In it, Robertson and Ulali are on stage together (Ulali's song, Mahk Jchi, is one of my all time favorites. It starts at the 4:39 mark in this video):
The second album is Contact from the Underworld of Redboy. Get it, too.
Back to the book: Ronnie Hawkins. Bob Dylan. They figure prominently in Robertson's life. The closing page has terrific photographs of Robertson as a young child, a teen, and a dad, too.
Teachers are gonna love the pages titled "An Interview with My Dad, Robbie Robertson" in which Sebastian tells readers to interview their own parents. That page shows a post card Robertson sent to his mother while he was on the road. Things like post cards carry a good deal of family history. I pore over the ones I have--that my parents and grandparents sent to each other.
Deeply satisfied with Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story, I highly recommend it.
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The Barnes & Noble at Bay Plaza, based in the Bronx, will close at the end of the year.
According to David Deason, the vice president of real estate, the decision was made to shut down operations because the landlord plans to raise the price of rent. This branch is the first and only bookstore within this particular New York City borough. It opened in 1999.
Here’s more from The New York Times: “Stephen B. Kaufman, who was a state assemblyman from the Bronx in the 1990s, said he led the three-year community effort to bring Barnes & Noble to the borough after he tired of traveling to Manhattan or Westchester County for his books. Barnes & Noble mostly ignored the entreaties, he recalled, until he and other organizers took their campaign public with petitions that garnered thousands of signatures and contentious news conferences in which they called the chain ‘Barnes & Ignoble.’” (via Bustle)
J.K. Rowling has penned a new essay about the antagonist Dolores Umbridge.
It’s scheduled to be posted on Pottermore this forthcoming Halloween Day. According to the press release, “the new exclusive J.K. Rowling content provides a rich, 1,700-word back story about Umbridge’s life filled with many new details, as well as Rowling’s revealing first-person thoughts and reflections about the character.”
I read a forum post this morning quizzing agented authors on where they found their agents. The authors were very nicely answering, but most of the answers were the same: "I did my research and then sent a query letter."
Why was this the most likely way they answered? Because it's the most likely way to get an agent. It just IS. I know the myth is that you have to "know somebody" but that really isn't true. Which got me to thinking about how my clients found ME (or, vice-versa). And I decided to bust out the chart-making tools again because I know you like that.
So let's break it down: 56%of my clients came to me because of straight up query letters, from the slush. They didn't know anybody, they didn't drop names, they weren't published before, they didn't go to conferences, they didn't meet me first - some of them I still haven't met in person, because they live thousands of miles away!
24% of my clients were people that I'd met somewhere before they queried me. These are people I met at conferences, in a couple of cases, or published authors that I met in my capacity as a bookseller. (There's also a former co-worker in the mix, an SCBWI RA, and one of my neighbors. What can I say, she's a great writer!). The thing is: All these people STILL HAD TO QUERY. It's not like I said, oh, I know you, so sure... they still had to show me something I thought I could sell.
16%of my clients were referrals. This means that somebody I really trust - like an editor who knows my taste, or an existing client - thought this would be a good fit for me, and e-introduced us. But, you guessed it: These people STILL HAD TO QUERY, and show me something I thought I could sell.
4% of my clients were inherited from other agents at my agency. They actually are the only people who were kinda "grandfathered in," and did not have to show me something new to be taken on. However, I also trusted that they could write, that they had great stories in them, and that we'd gel well - and we spoke before I took them on. Still, this does not always work out, so I feel very lucky that these have!
We’re getting ready for Halloween this month by reading the classic horror stories that set the stage for the creepy movies and books we love today. Every Friday this October we’ve unveiled a part of Fitz-James O’Brien’s tale of an unusual entity in What Was It?, a story from the spine-tingling collection of works in Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson, edited by Darryl Jones. Last we left off the narrator, Harry, tried to fight off a mysterious creature fighting him in his bed. His friend Hammond had just come to his rescue.
Hammond stood holding the ends of the cord that bound the Invisible, twisted round his hand, while before him, self-supporting as it were, he beheld a rope laced and interlaced, and stretching tightly around a vacant space. I never saw a man look so thoroughly stricken with awe. Nevertheless his face expressed all the courage and determination which I knew him to possess. His lips, although white, were set firmly, and one could perceive at a glance that, although stricken with fear, he was not daunted.
The confusion that ensued among the guests of the house who were witnesses of this extraordinary scene between Hammond and myself, — who beheld the pantomime of binding this struggling Something, — who beheld me almost sinking from physical exhaustion when my task of jailer was over, — the confusion and terror that took possession of the bystanders, when they saw all this, was beyond description. The weaker ones fled from the apartment. The few who remained clustered near the door and could not be induced to approach Hammond and his Charge. Still incredulity broke out through their terror. They had not the courage to satisfy themselves, and yet they doubted. It was in vain that I begged of some of the men to come near and convince themselves by touch of the existence in that room of a living being which was invisible. They were incredulous, but did not dare to undeceive themselves. How could a solid, living, breathing body be invisible, they asked. My reply was this. I gave a sign to Hammond, and both of us — conquering our fearful repugnance to touch the invisible creature — lifted it from the ground, manacled as it was, and took it to my bed. Its weight was about that of a boy of fourteen.
‘Now, my friends,’ I said, as Hammond and myself held the creature suspended over the bed, ‘I can give you self-evident proof that here is a solid, ponderable body, which, nevertheless, you cannot see. Be good enough to watch the surface of the bed attentively.’
I was astonished at my own courage in treating this strange event so calmly; but I had recovered from my first terror, and felt a sort of scientific pride in the affair, which dominated every other feeling.
The eyes of the bystanders were immediately fixed on my bed. At a given signal Hammond and I let the creature fall. There was the dull sound of a heavy body alighting on a soft mass. The timbers of the bed creaked. A deep impression marked itself distinctly on the pillow, and on the bed itself. The crowd who witnessed this gave a low cry, and rushed from the room. Hammond and I were left alone with our Mystery.
We remained silent for some time, listening to the low, irregular breathing of the creature on the bed, and watching the rustle of the bed-clothes as it impotently struggled to free itself from confinement. Then Hammond spoke.
‘Harry, this is awful.’
‘But not unaccountable.’
‘Not unaccountable! What do you mean? Such a thing has never occurred since the birth of the world. I know not what to think, Hammond. God grant that I am not mad, and that this is not an insane fantasy!’
‘Let us reason a little, Harry. Here is a solid body which we touch, but which we cannot see. The fact is so unusual that it strikes us with terror. Is there no parallel, though, for such a phenomenon? Take a piece of pure glass. It is tangible and transparent. A certain chemical coarseness is all that prevents its being so entirely transparent as to be totally invisible. It is not theoretically impossible, mind you, to make a glass which shall not reflect a single ray of light, — a glass so pure and homogeneous in its atoms that the rays from the sun will pass through it as they do through the air, refracted but not reflected. We do not see the air, and yet we feel it.’
‘That’s all very well, Hammond, but these are inanimate substances. Glass does not breathe, air does not breathe. This thing has a heart that palpitates, — a will that moves it, — lungs that play, and inspire and respire.’
‘You forget the phenomena of which we have so often heard of late,’ answered the Doctor, gravely. ‘At the meetings called “spirit circles,” invisible hands have been thrust into the hands of those persons round the table, — warm, fleshly hands that seemed to pulsate with mortal life.’
‘What? Do you think, then, that this thing is — ’
‘I don’t know what it is,’ was the solemn reply; ‘but please the gods I will, with your assistance, thoroughly investigate it.’
Check back next Friday, 31st of October for the final installment. Missed a part of the story? Catch up with part 1, 2, and 3.
Air New Zealand has unleashed “The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made” on their YouTube channel. The video embedded above features the airline’s new Hobbit-themed safety video with appearances from actor Elijah Wood and filmmaker Peter Jackson.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “the video is, in itself, a sequel to the airline’s 2012 safety video, An Unexpected Briefing, which brought actors and characters from the Tolkien story onboard one of Air New Zealand’s 777-300ER planes.” Follow this link to watch An Unexpected Briefing.
Today is United Nations Day, celebrating the day that the UN Charter came into force in 1945. We thought it would be an excellent time to share thoughts from one of their former Commissioners to highlight the work this organization undertakes. The following is an edited extract by Navanethem Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from International Human Rights Law, Second Edition.
I was born a non-white in apartheid South Africa. My ancestors were sugarcane cutters. My father was a bus driver. We were poor.
At age 16 I wrote an essay which dealt with the role of South African women in educating children on human rights and which, as it turned out, was indeed fateful. After the essay was published, my community raised funds in order to send this promising, but impecunious, young woman to university.
Despite their efforts and goodwill, I almost did not make it as a lawyer, because when I entered university during the apartheid regime everything and everyone was segregated. However, I persevered. After my graduation I sought an internship, which was mandatory under the law; it was a black lawyer who agreed to take me on board, but he first made me promise that I would not become pregnant. And when I started a law practice on my own, it was not out of choice but because no one would employ a black woman lawyer.
Yet, in the course of my life, I had the privilege to see and experience a complete transformation in my country. Against this background it is no surprise that when I read or recite Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I intimately and profoundly feel its truth. The article stated that: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’.
The power of rights made it possible for an ever-expanding number of people, people like myself, to claim freedom, equality, justice, and well-being.
Human rights underpin the aspiration to a world in which every man, woman, and child lives free from hunger and protected from oppression, violence, and discrimination, with the benefits of housing, healthcare, education, and opportunity.
Yet for too many people in the world, human rights remain an unfulfilled promise. We live in a world where crimes against humanity are ongoing, and where the most basic economic rights critical to survival are not realized and often not even accorded the high priority they warrant.
The years to come are crucial for sowing the seeds of an improved international partnership that, by drawing on individual and collective resourcefulness and strengths, can meet the global challenges of poverty, discrimination, conflict, scarcity of natural resources, recession, and climate change.
In 2005, the world leaders at their summit created the UN Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental body which replaced the much-criticized UN Human Rights Council, with the mandate of promoting ‘universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all’. The Council began its operations in June 2006. Since then, it has equipped itself with its own institutional architecture and has been engaged in an innovative process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR is the Council’s assessment at regular intervals of the human rights record of all UN member states.
In addition, at each session of the Council several country-situations are brought to the fore in addresses and documents delivered by member states, independent experts, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Today, the Office of the High Commissioner is in a unique position to assist governments and civil society in their efforts to protect and promote human rights. The expansion of its field offices and its presence in more than 50 countries, as well as its increasing and deepening interaction with UN agencies and other crucial partners in government, international organizations, anad civil society are important steps in this direction. With these steps we can more readily strive for practical cooperation leading to the creation of national systems which promote human rights and provide protection and recourse for victims of human rights violations.
In the final instance, however, it is the duty of states, regardless of their political, economic, and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Our collective responsibility is to assist states to fulfil their obligations and to hold them to account when they do not.
Jodi Picoult’s new fiction book, Leaving Time, has joined Apple’s Top Paid iBooks in the U.S. this week at No. 2.
Apple has released its top selling books list for paid books from iBooks in the U.S. for week ending October 20, 2014. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks are occupying the first and third spots on the list this week.
We’ve included Apple’s entire list after the jump. (more…)
This cover is really awesome.Summary: Protagonists whose past is hidden--even, sometimes, from themselves. It's something author Stephanie Kuehn does well, if you've read her first book, Charm & Strange. Complicit is another suspenseful read, in... Read the rest of this post
My Neighbor Totoro (rated G): An Extremely Awesome Movie
A movie I would definitely recommend is My Neighbor Totoro by Studio Ghibli. I have dressed up as Totoro for Halloween, and introduced the movie to anyone who would watch it. In this animated film directed by Hiyao Miyazaki, two sisters adjusting to their move from the city meet a forest spirit called Totoro. He helps the girls and they become friends. The movie is super-cute, and the expansive forest backdrops are stunning. My Neighbor Totoro is definitely my all-time favorite movie and is great for everyone.
November is nearly upon us. That means fall leaves, wooly sweaters, gluttonous behavior on the fourth Thursday of the month, and, of course, National Novel Writing Month.
Inaugurated in 1999 by the intrepid Chris Baty and a group of friends, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has become an international movement to inspire average joes like you and me to get off our duffs and write that novel we’ve always dreamed of penning. One month. One novel. It’s as simple as that.
According to NaNoWriMo, 310,000 adults participated in the writing frenzy in 2013, and 89,500 youth participated in NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program. Personally, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past two years, and the experience has been so deeply fulfilling I decided that I, as a children’s librarian, needed to get on this Young Writers thing.
What’s really grand about NaNoWriMo is that this non-profit organization provides you everything you need to make hosting a Young Writers program easy as pie. Just take a gander at these lesson plans and activities. If you’re a teacher, everything aligns to the Common Core. If you’re a public librarian, you can pick and choose a variety of activities to do with your young peeps.
I have some ridiculously talented people on board, too. I’m working with poet Hannah Jane Chambers, YA author Bethany Hagen, and YA writer Jennifer Mendez to make the magic happen.
At our library, Hannah Jane, Bethany, and I had an idea of creating a series of Come Write In events for the entire family which we hope we’ll be able to implement next year. Parents and kids could come to the library on Saturdays throughout the month of October to start planning their NaNoWriMo projects. On November 1, we could celebrate our hard work with a party / write-in where participants can get cracking on their novels. Jennifer Mendez will be hosting Intergenerational Come Write In events at her branch throughout the month of November replete with paper, pens, and plenty of outlets for the BYO-Laptop types.
What better way to get kids and teens engaged in literature than to have them write it themselves? And, hey, why not model that behavior? November is just a few days away. It’s not too late to sign up and write a novel of your very own.
. Howdy, Campers! Happy Poetry Friday! Poem and link to Poetry Friday are below ~
Our topic this round is Do you try to appeal to reluctant readers, or any particular type of reader, when you write?
Carmela's post addresses the topic of writing to reading levels thoroughly. She writes:"If you want your writing to appeal to boys and other reluctant readers, don't try to target this particular audience. That's right, DON'T target them. Instead, write what moves, excites, or interests YOU."
Mary Ann's post, agrees: "I write what I am passionate about. I write for my inner eleven-year-old. It's the best that I can do. It's all any of us can do."
As for me?
I titled this 3 Leading Ways to Target Your Writing for Children--NOT!because I agree with Carmela and Mary Ann's conclusions. Essentially, write with passion and you'll hit a bullseye.
Here are three thoughts hopefully slightly related to this topic:
1) I am a reluctant reader. Always have been. Once I dive into a book, I'm swimming, but getting to the edge of the pool, dipping my toe in? Terrifying. Every book. Every time.
2) Many years ago, former bookseller, and book reviewer Janet Zarem was hired by my son's elementary school to talk to parents about reading. She began by passing out a paragraph in and asking us what it said. Okay, so let's try it. I'd like you to read this paragraph and tell me what it says. You have two minutes:
*see bottom of this post for attribution*
When we saw the paragraph, we were scared'r than a long-tail cat in a room full of rockin' chairs.**
Isn't that a powerful way to show someone the world from a new or challenged or reluctant reader's point of view?
3) That's how scared many of us feel about learning anything new.
For example, UCLA Extension's Writers' Program is in the process of changing how its instructors post course materials for our students. We are moving from a platform called Blackboard to one called Canvas.
When I saw the first email about this, I rolled into a little ball. I felt as outdated and useless as a screen door on a submarine.***
We invite you to explore the biography of New Zealand painter Rita Angus, as it is presented in Grove Art Online.
New Zealand painter. Angus studied at the Canterbury School of Art, Christchurch (1927–33). In 1930 she married the artist Alfred Cook (1907–70) and used the signature Rita Cook until 1946; they had separated in 1934. Her painting Cass (1936; Christchurch, NZ, A.G.) is representative of the regionalist school that emerged in Canterbury during the late 1920s, with the small railway station visualizing both the isolation and the sense of human progress in rural New Zealand. The impact of North American Regionalism is evident in Angus’s work of the 1930s and 1940s. However, Angus was a highly personal painter, not easily affiliated to specific movements or styles. Her style involved a simplified but fastidious rendering of form, with firm contours and seamless tonal gradations (e.g. Central Otago). Her paintings were invested with symbolic overtones, often enigmatic and individual in nature. The portrait of Betty Curnow (1942; Auckland, A.G.) has generated a range of interpretations relating both to the sitter, wife of the poet Allen Curnow, and its social context.
In her self-portraits, Angus pictured a complex array of often contradictory identities. In Self-portrait (1936–7; Dunedin, NZ, Pub. A.G.) she played the part of the urban, sophisticated and assertive ‘New Woman’. Amongst her most candid works are a series of nude self-portrait pencil drawings, while her watercolours also constitute an important body of work, ranging from portraits and landscapes to painstaking but striking botanical studies such as Passionflower (1943; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa). The watercolourTree (1943; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa) carries a sense of mystery, with its surreal stillness and emptiness. Angus’s ‘Goddess’ paintings are equally mysterious. A Goddess of Mercy (1945–7; Christchurch, NZ, A.G.) is an image of peace and harmony. Angus was a pacifist and a conscientious objector during World War II. In Rutu (1951; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa), she modelled the goddess on her own features, but created a composite figure, half Maori, half European, which suggests an ideal condition of bicultural harmony. The lotus flower held by Rutu reflects Angus’s interest in Buddhism. She thought the Goddess paintings were her most important, and it is on the basis of these works that Angus was hailed as a feminist by subsequent artists and writers.
Angus aimed to evoke transcendental states of being, or a vision beyond mundane reality. In this respect her work connects to European modernism, more so than on the basis of any stylistic affinities. Nonetheless, Angus absorbed some of modernism’s formal innovations, notably degrees of simplification and flattening of form. Towards the end of her career, while she retained motifs based on observation, these were schematic and assembled into composite images, such as Flight(1968–9; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa). Her Fog, Hawke’s Bay (1966–8; Auckland, A.G.) manifests elements of the faceting and multiple viewpoints of Cubism. Angus’s hard-edged style influenced a younger generation of New Zealand painters, including Don Binney (b 1940) and Robin White.
Docking: Two Hundred Years of New Zealand Painting(Wellington, 1970), p. 146
Rita Angus (exh. cat. by J. Paul and others, Wellington, NZ, N.A.G., 1982)
Rita Angus (exh. cat., ed. L. Bieringa; Wellington, N.A.G., 1983)
Rita Angus: Live to Paint, Paint to Live (exh. cat. by V. Cochran and J. Trevvelyan; Auckland, C.A.G., 2001)
V. Cochran and J. Trevelyan: Rita Angus: Live to Paint, Paint to Live(Auckland, 2001)
M. Dunn: New Zealand Painting: A Concise History(Auckland, 2003), pp. 85–8
P. Simpson: ‘Here’s Looking At You: The Cambridge Terrace Years of of Leo Bensemann and Rita Angus’,Journal of New Zealand Art History, xxv (2004), pp. 23–32
J. Trevelyan: Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life(Wellington, 2008)
Rita Angus: Life and Vision (exh. cat., ed. W. McAloon and J. Trevelyan; Wellington, Mus. NZ, Te Papa Tongarewa, 2008)
The reemergence of the Ebola epidemic provokes the kind of primal fear that has always gripped humans in the face of contagious disease, even though we now know more about how viruses work than ever before. Viruses, like all living organisms, are constantly evolving. This ensures that new viruses and their diseases will always be with us.
For thousands of years, people knew little about the “plagues” that afflicted them and, despite the impossibility to define causality, there were many attempts to explain how they happened.
Thucydides wrote in the History of the Peloponnesian War during the plague of Athens in 431 BCE that
“no pestilence of such extent nor any scourge so destructive of human lives is on record anywhere. For neither were physicians able to cope with the disease, since they at first had to treat it without knowing its nature, the mortality among them being greatest because they were most exposed to it, … And the supplications made at sanctuaries, or appeals to oracles and the like, were futile, and at last men desisted from them, overcome by the calamity.”
Even two thousand years later, scientists were at a loss to explain the workings of contagion. William Harvey, who described the circulation of blood in humans and is quoted in The Works of William Harvey by Tr. Robert Wills, wrote in 1653,
“So do I hold it scarcely less difficult to conceive how pestilence or leprosy should be communicated to a distance by contagion, by (an)…element contained in woolen or linen things, household furniture, even the walls of a house … How, I ask, can contagion, long lurking in such things … after a long lapse of time, produce its like nature in another body? Nor in one or two only, but in many, without respect of strength, sex, age, temperament, or mode of life, and with such violence that the evil can by no art be stayed or mitigated.”
In the absence of information, humankind resorted to any number of explanations for the origins of disease. Physicians, natural philosophers, and religious figures hypothesized causes of contagious diseases based on their view of the way the world worked. Disease theories became part of the discourse about the causes of events such as earthquakes, lightning and the movement of the planets.
Viruses are a fascinating group of entities that infect humans, other animals, plants, and bacteria. Their presence was anticipated when on 1 April 1717 Lady Mary Montagu, the wife of the British Ambassador to Turkey, wrote to a friend in England about smallpox. She was delighted to report that the disease did so little mischief. Why? Because an old woman would come with a “nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox,” (fluid derived from poxes) and immunize the children. The children would suffer some slight fever but soon recover, possibly never to contract the disease. What remained unknown was the contents of the fluid used by the old women to inoculate the children.
Near the close of the 19th century, scientists had come to understand that many plant diseases were caused by fungi, while a number of human diseases, such as tuberculosis, were caused by bacteria. But viruses remained a mystery.
That changed from the late 1880s to 1917, as the result of the discovery of contagious diseases whose causes could not be isolated or observed with ordinary microscopes. These included a contagion of tobacco plants, called mosaic disease, a disease of cattle (foot-and-mouth disease), yellow fever in humans, and another disease that attacked bacteria. It turned out they were all caused by viruses.
But the study of viruses posed unique challenges. Viruses are not cells like pathogenic bacteria or fungi which can multiply independently in their hosts or on artificial media. The agent that caused flu could not be grown in culture, and there was no experimental animal that could be infected. It was also impossible for researchers to visualize the agent of disease. After the great flu epidemic of 1918, scientists made numerous attempts to isolate the agent, but it was not until 1933 that three British investigators discovered that ferrets could be infected by nasal washings from patients with the disease. Thus they proved that an entity contained in nasal material could transmit the disease.
The mysteries of viruses were largely revealed by investigators working with those that infect bacteria. These viruses attracted the attention of researchers who speculated that they might lead to discoveries in the field of genetics. They worked with a virus that infects E. coli — which lives in the intestinal tracts of humans — and, while taking over the machinery of the bacterial cell, causes these bacteria to blow open, releasing hundreds of viral particles. Chemical analysis revealed their composition to be DNA and proteins. These studies contributed significantly to the conclusion that DNA is the genetic material of cellular life.
We now know that viruses that infect humans have their origin in animal populations that are in close contact with humans. Many of the flu viruses originate in Southeast Asia where bird and swine populations live in close proximity to humans. The viruses undergo mutations so that humans must be immunized each year against new strains. The rapid production of astronomical numbers of Ebola virus ensures that new strains will be constantly produced.
We also know that all viruses are composed of DNA or RNA and proteins. Ebola, influenza, polio, and AIDS are caused by RNA viruses. The virus that infects tobacco plants also is an RNA virus. Because we know how they work, we have had some success in interfering with the disease process with various drugs.
All of these modern procedures contribute to understanding the cause of disease. Humankind has long believed that understanding would lead to cures. As Hippocrates stated 2,500 years ago, “To know the cause of a disease and to understand the use of the various methods by which disease may be prevented amounts to the same thing in effect as being able to cure.”
And yet, as we have seen with Ebola, understanding the cause is not always the same as curing. We have arrived at a point in the 21st century where we can mitigate some contagious diseases and prevent other catastrophic diseases such as smallpox. But others will be with us now and in the future, for contagion is a general biological phenomenon, a natural phenomenon. Contagious agents evolve like all living organisms and constantly challenge us to understand their origin, spread and pathology.
Headline Image: Ebola virus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
In 1958, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., the US ambassador to the United Nations, summarized the role of the world organization: “The primary, the fundamental, the essential purpose of the United Nations is to keep peace. Everything which does not further that goal, either directly or indirectly, is at best superfluous.” Some 30 years later another ambassador expressed a different view. “In the developing countries the United Nations… means environmental sanitation, agricultural production, telecommunications, the fight against illiteracy, the great struggle against poverty, ignorance and disease,” remarked Miguel Albornoz of Ecuador in 1985.
These two citations sum up the basic dilemma of the United Nations. It has always been burdened by high expectations: to keep peace, fix economic injustices, improve educational standards and combat various epidemics and pandemics. But inflated hopes have been tempered by harsh realities. There may not have been a World War III but neither has there been a day’s worth of peace on this quarrelsome globe since 1945. Despite all the efforts of the various UN Agencies (such as the United Nations Development Programme) and related organizations (like the World Bank), there exists a ‘bottom billion’ that survives on less than one dollar a day. The average lifespan in some countries barely exceeds thirty. According to UNESCO 774 million adults around the world lacked basic literacy skills in 2011.
Given such a seemingly dismal record, it is worth asking whether the UN has outlived its usefulness. After all, the organization turns 69 today (October 24th, 2014), a time when many citizens in the industrialized world exchange the stress of daily jobs for leisurely early retirement. Has the UN not had enough of a chance to keep peace and fix the world’s problems? Isn’t the obvious conclusion that the organization is a failure and the earlier it is scrapped the better?
The answer is no. The UN may not have made the world a perfect place but it has improved it immensely. The UN provides no definite guarantees of peace but it has been – and remains – instrumental for pacifying conflicts and enabling mediation between adversaries. Its humanitarian work is indispensable and saves lives every day. In simple terms: if the UN – or the various subsidiary organization that make up the UN – suddenly disappeared, lives would be lost and livelihoods would be endangered.
In fact, the real question is not whether the UN has outlived its usefulness, but how can the UN perform better in addressing the many tasks it has been charged with?
The answer is twofold. First, the UN needs to be empowered to do what it does best. Today, for example, one of the most pressing global challenges is the potential spread of the Ebola virus. Driven by irrational fear, politicians in a number of countries suggest closing borders in order to safeguard their populations. But the only realistic way of addressing a virus that does not know national borders is surely international collaboration. In practical terms this means additional support for the World Health Organization (WHO), the only truly global organization equipped to deal with infectious diseases. But the WHO, much like the UN itself, is essentially a shoestring operation with a global mandate. Its budget in 2013 was just under 4 billion dollars. The US military spent that amount of money in two days.
Second, the UN must become better at ‘selling’ itself. Too much of what the UN and its specialized agencies do around the world is simply covered in fog. What about child survival and development (UNESCO)? Environmental protection (UNEP) and alleviation of poverty (UNDP)? Peaceful uses of atomic energy (IAEA)? Why do we hear so little about the UN’s (or the International Labour Organization’s) role in improving workers’ rights? Does anyone know that the UNHCR has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twice (out of a total of 11 Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to the UN, its specialized agencies, related agencies, and staff)? It’s not a bad CV!
We tend to hear, ad nauseam, that the 21st century is a globalized one, filled with global problems but apparently lacking in global solutions. What we tend to forget is the simple fact that there exists an organization that has been addressing such global challenges – with limited resources and without fanfare – for almost seven decades.
Indeed, it seems that in today’s world the UN is more relevant than ever before. At 69 it is certainly not ripe for retirement.
Featured image credit: United Nations Flags, by Tom Page. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
One of the highlights of our recent US tour was our visit to Washington, D.C. and our Open Book Foundation day, working with three second grade classes at Savoy Elementary.
The foundation’s mission is to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area by giving books to students and providing access to authors and illustrators – and what a unanimously positive experience it is for all involved!
Frané and Mark at Savoy Elementary (image courtesy of An Open Book Foundation)
We conducted a ‘Meet the Author and Illustrator’ presentation followed by an art activity. At the conclusion of each presentation, the Open Book Foundation gave each student a copy of our book, Drummer Boy of John John, to take home, signed and personalized by the people who actually wrote and illustrated it.
Frané Lessac demonstrating the illustration process (image courtesy of An Open Book Foundation)
Here are a few of the student reactions we received:
“You mean we get to keep the book? We don’t have to bring it back?”
“I can keep this book for my entire life. Even when I grow up?”
Wow! While the students might still be talking about the experience, so are we! The Open Book program is as uplifting and rewarding for authors and illustrators as it is for students. We will never forget the look of joy on the faces of the students, who couldn’t wait to take their new books home and share the experience with their families.
Creating art during the visit (image courtesy of An Open Book Foundation)
The fabulous Open Book experience breathes life into writing and art and the process of bookmaking, and opens up the world of reading to students. The Savoy Elementary students were so excited to leave each of our sessions clutching their very own book.
We cannot express our gratitude enough to the Open Book Foundation for the joy and excitement they bring to disadvantaged children. The Foundation’s program of bringing authors and illustrators to their schools, and providing books for their students, classrooms and libraries, is a wonderfully positive step to introduce a lifelong love of books and reading.
Frané and Mark with some happy readers (image courtesy of An Open Book Foundation)
To learn more about An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation, visit their website.
Frané Lessac has illustrated more than thirty-five books for young readers, several of which she has also written. Her husband, Mark Greenwood, is the author of numerous children’s books published in both the United States and his native Australia. They live in Fremantle, West Australia.
Today we have our very own First Five Pages Workshop Coordinator, Erin Cashman! Erin's novel, THE EXCEPTIONALS, is a YA fantasy that was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.
WORLD BUILDING TIPS by Erin Cashman
Recently, someone commented to me that writing fantasy must be easy, since I can just make up what I need to fit my plot. I wish! As Lloyd Alexander said, “Once committed to his imaginary kingdom, the writer is not a monarch but a subject”. I think world building is both the hardest and the most wonderful part of writing a fantasy novel. Here are some of the techniques that help me:
1. Give your imagination free reign! Do not edit your thoughts or ideas. During brainstorming sessions let your imagination soar. Take chances and risks while you write – try outlandish ideas. Editing comes later. Fantasy, is by its nature, a leap of faith, suspended belief, so – dream big. Write big.
2. Description and Parameters of the World What is the nature of the magic? Who has it and who doesn’t? What are the rules? What are the consequences of breaking the rules? What does it cost? What does the world look like? Beware the dreaded info-dump, however. No one walks down the street and thinks about the color of the buildings, the thickness of the sidewalk – nor should your character think about the blue floating bridge that connects two purple fluffy clouds. The details of the world need to be woven in artfully and naturally – in revision after revision after revision.
3. Important Objects/Mechanics For example, in Lord of the Rings, there is the one ring and the lesser rings, the Wizard’s staffs, etc. Harry Potter has many as well: the sorcerer’s stone, the sorting hat, the Sword of Gryffindor, etc. If you have these objects, try to have them serve another purpose besides a plot device. Rae Carson does an excellent job of this in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. The Godstone is crucial to the plot, it connects history to the present and informs the reader about the people. These objects should not be a crutch, but should add richness to the novel.
4. Power/Abuse of Power Who has power? Who wants power? In a fantasy world a central conflict often arises from the control, or the use and abuse of the magic. Why should magic be protected? Why would someone want to exploit it? Try to weave in good, evil and murky gray reasons and purposes for using/controlling/monopolizing the magic, and strong motivation.
5. Government Who is in charge of the fantasy world? What is their goal? Can those in power be believed and trusted?
6. History of The World The history of my world often takes shape as my draft takes shape (I wish I was a plotter, but alas, I am a pantser). It comes to life through revision . . . after revision . . . after revision . . . you get the idea. I always draw (draw is a very grandiose word for what I do – it is more like scribble) a map. For The Exceptionals, a contemporary fantasy, I drew the school grounds, the tunnels, the tournament field, and the caves. My editor even asked me to send her a copy! If I’ve created a world, I make a map of the geography, and take notes on how it would have influenced the people and the government.
7. Travel How do people get around in your world? Are there space ships like in Star Wars? Do they teleport? Is there a portal – like the wardrobe in Narnia? Do they use magical creatures? Back to #1 – let your imagination go wild!
8. Recreation/Culture/Rituals Think of the magic/powers/creatures that you have in your world. What would be a game or a competition that would arise from it? What about rituals? Expressions? Always be on the lookout for ways to include more world building, such as in currency, recreation, clothes, food . . . this adds layers to your world, and makes it more real to the reader.
9. Edit Revise, revise, revise. Make sure the rules that you have created are followed, or have a consequence if not followed. With each new draft, look for ways to take what you have created and use it for more than one purpose. For example, if you have a magical creature, perhaps it can be used in a competition, or as a plot twist or for barter.
10. Find a Critique Partner and/or Writing Group I really can’t emphasize this enough. Your CP should be someone that you trust who is not afraid of hurting your feelings. Consider what he or she says – the places in your manuscript that are muddled or confusing, the world building that worked, and more importantly, the world building that needs work. And then – you guessed it – revise, revise, revise!
About The Author
Erin's debut YA fantasy novel, THE EXCEPTIONALS, was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book. She primarily writes YA and middle grade fantasy while eating chocolate and drinking tea. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children. You can find her here, as our First Five Pages Workshop Coordinator. She loves hearing from readers and writers, and you can contact her at erin (at) erincashman.com, or through her Website or on Twitter.
About The Book
Born into a famous family of exceptionally talented people, 15-year-old Claire Walker has deliberately chosen to live an average life. But everything changes the night of the Spring Fling, when her parents decide it's high time she transferred to Cambial Academy--the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities. Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads