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(Venice, Italy) James Ivory was the inaugural guest at Crossroads of Civilization, Venice's International Literary Festival, which kicked off on March 25, 2015 at the Goldoni Theater. Ivory was a unique choice since he is, of course, a film director, responsible for such stellar films as A Room with a View, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day which he created with his long-time partner, the producer Ismail Merchant and the Booker Prize-winning author, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Just those three Merchant-Ivory films were nominated for 25 Academy Awards, and won six.
Watching a Merchant-Ivory film is like having a weighty work of literature transformed into something more digestible, and Ivory gave the credit for that to Ruth. According to Wikipedia, "Of this collaboration, Merchant once commented: 'It is a strange marriage we have at Merchant Ivory... I am an Indian Muslim, Ruth is a German Jew, and Jim is a Protestant American. Someone once described us as a three-headed god. Maybe they should have called us a three-headed monster!'"
James Ivory has such vibrant energy that I was stunned to discover he will be 87-years-old on June 7th. He is also a screenwriter; he would first write the screenplay and then give it to Ruth, who was a novelist as well as a screenwriter. Ivory said he never read the classics he should have read when he was a teenager, and that he had to read Howards End by E.M. Forster three times because he "didn't get it." Ruth pressured him to make the film, insisting, "Let's climb that mountain."
The evening opened with a half-hour documentary called Venice: Theme and Variations that Ivory wrote, photographed, produced and directed in the winter of 1952-53 for the thesis for his masters degree in cinema at USC with money his father gave him. He had no crew; he was just one person with a camera shooting wherever he could in Venice, and didn't include Titian or Veronese because the paintings were "too big."
He said he always had wanted to make a feature in Venice. He had the idea to set the Aspern Papers by Henry James not in the 1880s but the 1950s, and to use the papers of Ezra Pound. He had already completed his first draft and sent it to Ruth when he fell down the stairs and broke both his legs. Then Ruth became ill. Unfortunately, the film never happened, but that is one movie I would have loved to see!
Incroci di Civiltà 2015 presented 29 authors from 21 different countries, making Venice the literary Crossroads of Civilization from March 25 to 28. Inviting international writers to share their singular perspectives of the world adds zesty ingredients to the rich stew that is Venice.
Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Colombia, Korea, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Jamaica, Great Britain, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, United States, and Taiwan.
American impressionist Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932) was known for three themes: snowy forests, Venetian lagoons, and opulent interiors. To all three of those subjects he brought an evocative feeling for light and color.
An exhibition of Walter Launt Palmer at New York State's Albany Institute of History and Art features all three of those themes. The show just opened and it will be up through August 16.
The museum has one of the largest holdings of his work, and they'll be showing oil and watercolor paintings, pastels, and drawings, as well as letters and photographs.
When he was just 24 years old, Palmer studied landscape painting with Frederic Church. He shared a studio with Church in New York City from 1878-1881.
Walter Launt Palmer made many trips to Europe. He met John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, John Henry Twachtman, Robert Frederick Blum, and probably a lot of other guys with three names.
After seeing the young Sargent's sketchbooks, Palmer wrote home, "He is but 17 and has done a lot of work, very little in oil."
Palmer was the one who recommended that Sargent should study with Carolus Duran. Palmer was so impressed with the younger painter's bold and vigorous style that he tried a similar approach himself for a while.
Palmer's winter scenes were constructed with a combination of outdoor studies, photographs, and memory.
Sometimes Princesses busy their lives with so much that it doesn't seem as if they have enough room or time for their own royal duties. They fill their time slots with the purposes and plans of others. They put off what they are called to do. And sometimes that causes a slip up in their understanding.
Last week I attended a small gathering at the library to celebrate a local author's new children's book. She is also the illustrator of her book. I read the entire flyer for the book signing. All I saw was the word costume. So guess who throws on her tutu and tiara and does same for Princess Stinkerbell and treks across downtown Galax for an awesome afternoon event? Yep, that would be me. When we arrived there were costumes already there. PERIOD COSTUMES. Made especially for the event. Pioneer times, and Indian costumes. Yours truly nonchalantly sits down to a table with her blue and pink tutu and a tiara. Ugh. Lack of time to prepare properly has started wars, I am sure. But in the midst of my sweet little blunder, I am still a princess. Thank God for His covering grace and mercy.
Not many days before that (or maybe it was right after?) I had a dream. It was graphic, and details are not necessary. The basis of it was Princess Jae running around helping all the other pregnant ministries come to birth when I was in the labor (almost HERE) stages myself. Finally the nurse told me it was time and I had to stop helping everyone else because my baby was HERE.
I got the hint, Lord. It is time for me to put a stop to helping everyone else get their lives together. Their ministries- together. It is time for me to settle into my own calling and just give it all the push necessary... because it's time. Seriously time.
God has perfect timing, even if we as His children do not, my lovelies. Never forget that. If you do not remember anything else in your walk, remember this. Pray daily for God's perfect timing. He will direct your paths. And it all shall work out smoothly if you take the time to listen to His direction.
Have a wonderful week my little ones. And be blessed in Jesus' name.
Above Disney Cinderella tiara can be purchased on ebay.
I’m welcoming my first guest blogger on the topic of failure today, writer and teaching artist Donna Trump. Is it easier to let yourself fail than your children?
Twenty-plus years ago, my children had an excellent elementary school teacher who was a proponent of parents allowing their children to fail. I dismissed her, of course: What child doesn’t have ample opportunity to fail?
A closer look at my own parenting at the time revealed I was doing exactly what this teacher preached against: I was trying, very hard, to prevent my kids’ failure. From the arguably innocuous retrieval of lunches and assignments when they were left behind; to the poorly disguised control-freak aspect of perennially volunteering in my kids’ classrooms; to the absolutely cringe-worthy hyper-maternal defense mode I went into when one was called out on perfectionism (ya think?) and the other on punching a kid in the face; to the ethically bankrupt decision (after a particularly trying mix of personalities the year before) to hand-pick their Odyssey of the Mind team, which I was coaching—I had to admit, I was guilty as charged.
I did these things to shield my kids from various types and degrees of failure: bad grades, bad learning environments, bad reputations, bad relationships with friends and peers. I did not want them to fail. No one wants their kids to fail. We want to be our children’s champions. We need to be our children’s champions, their advocates, their biggest fans. It hurts, terribly, to watch them suffer—as they will, certainly, when we stop rescuing them from themselves. But having things turn out less than perfectly teaches them something, too.
Studies show that kids who have a chance to fail (and, notably, to recover) tend to develop personality characteristics like tenacity and grit. Occasional crappy outcomes teach them they’ll survive, even when the world’s not a perfect place.
As my kids got older, mouthier, more confident it occurred to me: What if I didn’t replace that mysteriously crushed iPod? What if I declined decorating the gym for a dance when the child whose dance it was somehow managed to weasel out of the assignment? And what if I even called said child out, publicly, on errors in judgment about both me and that touchy issue of work ethic?
I wasn’t always strong enough to follow through. To understand that I wasn’t competing for popularity. I should have more often doled out a few key phrases: “You’ll live.” “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries.” “Try again.”
I’m sorry about that. I failed my children and myself. Nonetheless I stuck with it. This parenting thing (repeated failure and all) has brought out the tenacious in me. Opportunities for growth have abounded. Failure does that. And now I am more likely than ever to let failure happen.
Unless you want to rescue your children for the rest of time, from a failed job interview, or a failed relationship, or a failed dream, however heartbreaking, I suggest you practice these phrases: You’ll live. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries. Try again. Because if not now, then surely at some point you will no longer be able to rescue your kids in any meaningful way, and they will have only their own resources to draw on.
Disappointing and even devastating things will befall our children, at times as a result of their own doing. I wish this weren’t true, but experience tells me otherwise. One of our most important jobs as parents is to prepare our kids for these practically inevitable failures. Prepare them. Let them practice (while we’re still close by) with bad grades, bad behavior, bad decisions of all kinds. Teach them how to redeem themselves and then let them fail again, while the stakes are still relatively low and while they still come home, in victory and defeat, to us.
And if you happen to be a writer as well as a parent, be heartened: practice with failure—who knew?—appears to cross genres. Take it from me: opportunities for growth, as they say, abound.
Donna Trump writes about failure, success, doubt, faith, Vincent Van Gogh and heart transplants in her fiction and in her blog (www.donnatrump.org). Follow her on Twitter @trumpdonna1.
आज सुबह पार्क मे धूमते हुए कुछ बच्चों को बतियाते सुना. वो गोविंदा, सैफ अली खान और अजय देवगुण के बारे में बाते कर रहे थे. अब मेरे दिमाग मे भी एक कीडा बैठा हुआ है कि कोई भी ऐसी छिपी प्रतिभा जो दुनिया के सामने न आई हो उसे सामने लाना है.. इसलिए सोचा […]
My new contemporary YA, Silence (Shadow Mountain, 2015), is a story about a fifteen year old girl who has an accident that changes her life forever. The only person she can relate to is a boy who has his own tragic past. Out of tragedy comes true love.
I spent years writing Silence, and the experience taught me several important lessons about being an author. It took me draft after draft (and many working titles) to find a way to tell the story. I think my agent has lost count of the number of drafts of Silence she read. I even set the manuscript aside and wrote novels in between. But I kept coming back because the characters stayed with me.
The lesson I learned from this is to tell the story in my heart. So now if a manuscript of mine isn’t working, I try approaching it from another direction, turning it sideways or upside down, telling it in reverse order or through a secondary character’s point of view. But no matter what, I know the key is to trust my inner voice.
Silence is my second published book, but not my second novel. I wrote several novels before my first book was published and several novels before Silence was published.
When each one of those other novels didn’t sell, I was really discouraged. I think anyone who has ever gone through the submission and rejection process can relate.
But I learned to turn the sting of rejection into a spark of inspiration through perspective. In focusing on writing rather than selling a manuscript, I recaptured writing simply for the love of writing.
When I wrote my first published book Jane In Bloom, I didn’t know if anyone would publish a book about a forgotten sister, but I needed to tell her story.
With Silence, I once again found myself writing a book I wasn’t sure anyone would publish. But I wrote it anyway. That focus helped me lose myself in the story and simply write.
Finally, writing Silence taught me to stay true to myself.
I had a vision of what kind of story I wanted to tell—a romance with clean content so my own daughters could read it. The characters would attend church, and they would volunteer to help others in need.
I knew there was a chance no one would want to publish a young adult book like this. But I also knew that I needed to be authentic and true to my vision. So I wrote the book the way I needed to write it. I didn’t hold back details because I thought someone might not like them.
Instead, I poured my whole self into the book. And my story did find a home after all, with Shadow Mountain.
So whatever you want to write, make sure it stays true to you. Don’t worry about editors and reviewers. Don’t hold back from storylines or characters because they might cause your book to be passed on by editors or because the book might be controversial when it is published. Just write the best book you can write because only you can write it.
I know that book will find a home.
Enter to win a signed copy of Silence by Deborah Lytton (Shadow Mountain, 2015). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America. From the promotional copy:
Stella is a vivacious teen with a deep yearning to become an accomplished Broadway musical star. Her dreams are shattered when a freak accident renders her deaf.
Struggling mightily to communicate in a world of total silence, she meets Hayden who has such a pronounced stutter she can easily read his lips because he speaks so slowly.
Communication leads to connection and an unexpected romance as they learn from each other and discover their own ways to overcome setbacks, find renewed purpose and recognize their true voice.
So any author knows how hard it is to incorporate secondary characters into your plot. It's easy to get lost in your main character's personality and development and completely overlook your "side characters' " depth. But secondary characters are way more than pawns used to move a plot forward- in fact, secondary characters can add to your protagonist and the overall feel of your story as well. Here are a few reasons secondary characters are so important:
1. They can Foil your Protag
If you have a really developed secondary character, he or she can help by being a foil to your protagonist. This is a simple way to move plot forward and keep your reader engaged- a foil (aka: opposite personality) to your lead is something that keeps a story well rounded.
2. They Move Plot Forward
Well developed secondary characters can help move plot forward creatively. If you have a good team of side characters fully integrated into your protagonist's story, the plot will move smoothly to a solid finish.
3. They Add Depth
Of course, secondary characters add a lot of depth to the story. If it was only your protag and a few villains it wouldn't be interesting! Not only that, but with a variety of characters comes a variety of themes and deeply felt emotions.
4. They Mix it Up
Secondary characters help to add variety and fun to your story. If you only have two types of characters it would get very boring very fast! In order to keep your reader engaged and interested, you need a wide range of characters and each one needs to be somewhat relatable/easy to empathize with. This will progress your story and keep your audience on its toes!
So those are a few reasons to really get cracking on your secondary character base! Hope they were helpful! If you have any further tips leave them in the comments below!
One of the aspects of doing art festivals that I used to enjoy is the interaction that I had with customers in my booth. People would come in and smile and admire my paintings and try to visualize where they would put one of my works in their home. Unfortunatley, I didn't always get the sale, because one of the barriers to purchase was the customer's issue with where they would hang it.
How to hang art Salon Style
I often suggested hanging salon style like I do in my own home, which creates a kind of artwork in itself with a collection of paintings. Another suggestion that I had was to swap the artwork out, relegating some paintings to a closet or different room for a period of time, thus creating a personal rotating art show.
A percieved lack of space is no reason to stop buying art. We all walk around in the same body all of our lives but we don't stop buying clothes to put on it. (I know, different animal, but you get the point :0)
Welcome to the biggest book promotion event I’ve ever seen, let alone held! To celebrate the release of four new books in the Trifecta catalog on March 31st, we’re putting everything on sale. We’ve also asked several of our friends to join with us, making this an amazing event. Please scroll down through the entire post so you don’t miss anything!! Then, on March 31st, head on back to http://www.trifectabooks.com and check out the four new releases – their purchase links will be live. They are:
Captain Schnozzlebeard and the Singing Clam of Minnie Skewel Island
by Rebecca Blevins
Fire Gate (Shinehah Saga #1) and Crystal Gate (Shinehah Saga #2)
by Pendragon Inman
Nemesis: Knight (the Chess Quest series #2)
by Michael D. Young
Let’s start with some Trifecta books!
ten-year-old Andy moves from California to his new house in Colorado,
the last thing he expects is to meet a ghost named Annie.
has been living in that house for eighty years. Will Annie spook Andy
away? Or will the two find out that sometimes, the best of friends might
not be who you first expected?
Andy & Annie series by author Jenni James and illustrator BC
Sterrett is like Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets Junie B. Jones with a
paranormal twist. Your young reader will love getting to know these
characters and going with them on amazing adventures!
You can purchase A Ghost Story for Kindle here and print here. Special event price: .99!
Andy and Annie are back at it again. This time, they’ve decided to
conquer the bullies who like to tease Andy for wearing green shirts.
Annie uses her magical ghostly powers for good in this funny early
reader story. She decides it’s time the school learns that wearing green isn’t mean—it’s cool! Join Annie and Andy on an adventure that will change even the toughest of hearts, and maybe even make the principal happy, too.
You can purchase Greeny Meany for Kindle here. Special event price: .99!
When nerdy eighth-grader Rich Witz unwittingly becomes a paladin, a white knight in training, he is thrust into a world where flunking a test can change the course of history, and a mysterious bully is playing for keeps with his life.
Rich’s grandmother leaves him one thing before disappearing for
good—a white chess pawn with his initials engraved on it. The pawn marks him as the next in an ancient line of white knights. He must prove himself in a life-or-death contest against his nemesis, a dark knight in training. With the ghost of an ancestor for his guide, he has seven days to complete four tasks of valor before his nemesis does, or join his guide in the realm of the dead.
You can purchase Paladin: Pawn for Kindle here or for Nook here. Special event price: .99!
Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
is Cami’s escape from her dark home life. It’s the only thing that
gives her hope – until she meets Adam Black. A talented dancer in his
own right, he asks Cami to be his partner, and she gains strength and
confidence as he unlocks whole new possibilities for her.
When Cami’s abusive mother overdoses and her already-broken family falls to
pieces around her, dancing with Adam helps Cami pull through. But he has
secrets of his own, and someone wants him found at any price. Cami gets
dragged into a web of danger and deceit. Now she must make a choice
between familiar darkness and uncertain light.
You can purchase Dancing with Black for Kindle here and in print here. Special event price: .99!
Mattie’s smart and she’s in line for a college scholarship, but she’s
not exactly the most popular person in school. When the hot and hunky
guys at the women’s convention bread booth give out free samples to all
the cutest, trendiest girls in the room, they overlook her. It’s just
proof that she’s not worth their attention—she’s not a free bread girl.What she really wants is to date Travis Banks, her high school’s
soccer king. But he just can’t see past her clumsiness and frizzy hair
to the real Mattie underneath, and sometimes, she can’t either. What’s
it going to take for Mattie to find the free bread girl within?
You can purchase Free Bread Girl for Kindle, Nook, and print. Special event price: .99!
Does true love really prevail?All
Lilly Price has ever known is living in the shadow of her widely
successful foster family. But when a twist of fate deals Lilly the hand
of Harrison Crawford, the most popular guy in Bloomfield, NM, everything
flips upside down.Sean Benally is a hard worker, he’s funny,
he’s generous, and he’s kind. He’s also the most amazing guy Lilly has
ever known. And she’s totally fallen in love with him. But he’s her
foster brother…Now she must choose between the unavailable love of her life—or the guy who promises to be available forever.
You can purchase Mansfield Ranch for Kindle here and print here. Special event price: .99!
Young Adult Fantasy
A black dragon hovered outside of Newtimber.
Sianna rubbed her eyes, but the dragon was still there, clutching a
round object that looked like a spotted egg. And then the egg fell,
hitting the ground like an atomic bomb, sending out waves of a
slow-moving fog that distorted everything it touched.The
citizens of Newtimber change. Griffins. Vampires. Zombies.
Creatures from the myths of every culture come to life through the
people. Even Sianna changes, her skin becoming stone hard, and
she gains the ability to travel from the human realm into the dimension
of the fae to battle the evil bent on taking over the world.One person to
heal a family, a town, and save the world. It seems an impossible task,
but with the help of her new friends, it could happen. Right?You can purchase Newtimber: Fractured for Kindle here, Nook here, and print here. Special event price: .99!
lives her nightmares every night. While other teenagers are
dreaming of boys or traveling to exotic places, she must run a staircase
with no beginning or no end, or a terrible debt will never be paid.
Just before her seventeenth birthday, the dreams change. She is no
But her nightmares don’t end when she wakes up. Her stepmother and
stepsisters threaten to ruin everything she holds dear. She must protect
the secret that both she and her father have magic or they will use it
to their advantage.
As Sydney learns to control her magic, what seemed impossible
before—escaping her stepmother and those ever-present stairs—is now at
her fingertips. When she learns the ultimate plan of her evil captor,
Sydney must stop her at all costs, or she will forever be trapped inside
You can purchase Endless for Kindle here and for print here. Special event price: $3.99 – going to .99 on the 31st!
had it with her life. Six siblings in an overstuffed house are enough
to drive anyone crazy, and sometimes she dreams of escaping to some
fantasy world. When she suddenly wakes up to find herself being kissed
by a strange—but very handsome—prince, Jenny knows her life just got a
lot more exciting. Now stuck in a medieval land of castles and royalty,
when Jenny learns that the queen has agreed to marry her off to the
prince, it’s time to take matters into her own hands. She goes on a
quest to find out who dragged her to this time while trying to keep from
falling in love with either of the boys vying for her attention.
Genevieve has only known life under her mother’s rule. She wants to do
more than go to battle or deal with suitors. She wakes to find herself
in a new world filled with gadgets, electricity, and moving carriages.
She finally has the freedom to be who she wants to be with a family who
cares deeply for her and a boy worth any sacrifice. It’s more than
everything she always wanted.
As Jenny and Genevieve settle into their new lives, they face an unknown
evil which threatens everything they care about and makes them face
tough questions—like who they are and what they really want their lives
You can now purchase The Princess and the Prom Queen for Kindle here and print here. Special event price: $2.99 – going to .99 on the 31st!
Realistic Women’s Fiction
only been a year since her divorce, so why would Jane Adamson do
something as stupid as attempt to date again? Wasn’t her marriage
scarring enough? The answer was simple—her kids. They worried about her
and wanted to see her happy again.
She needed to be happy . She needed to learn to trust again and feel pretty again and human again.
As a mom of five, it was too easy to hide herself away and focus just on her kids. Who needs men, anyway?
Jane in part one of a six-part journey of self-discovery, conquering
the past, understanding love, and most importantly … healing, as she
finds the woman she once was.
You can purchase Drowning for Kindle here.Special event price: .99!
Sweet and Clean Romance Collection
Love Notes#1. Elahna Nezario gave up her musical dreams to help run the Queen of
Hearts, her mother’s chocolate shop, after her sister’s sudden death.
After an unfortunate run-in with Elahna’s childhood crush, owner of the
Dolce Theater, not only do her dreams surge back to life, but so does
You can purchase Hearts in Harmony for Kindle here. Special event price: .99!
Love Notes #2. Meredith Aaron lost all hope for love after a car accident put her in a
wheelchair. Who would want her, broken as she is? After her brother
tells her to save a dance for him at his wedding, she decides to somehow
learn how to dance on the only legs she has left—her wheels.
You can purchase Waltzing on Wheels for Kindle here and Nook here. Special event price: .99!
Love Notes#3. Camille Clark spends her time bringing light to the memorable moments of
Dolce—playing her harp at weddings, anniversaries, and even funerals.
She can’t help but wonder if someone will ever play for her. Will the
dark secrets of her past come to Dolce and ruin her future? Or will she
find her soul mate and finally walk down that aisle?
You can purchase Healing a Broken Harp for Kindle here and Nook here. Special event price: .99!
Main Street Merchants #1. Bridal consultant Laurie Fletcher spends all her time helping others
prepare for the most special day of their lives. Logan Reese is easily
the most irritating man on the planet, and for some reason, he’s made
annoying Laurie his mission in life. Will true love ever come Laurie’s
way, or is she doomed to watch others get their happily ever after while
she sits on the sidelines?
You can purchase And Something Blue for Kindle here. Special event price: .99!
Main Street Merchants #2. Cynical Morgan learned at an early age that life is just plain hard.
She’s decided that no one could possibly fall in love with her – all the
good guys want perfect girls, and with her messed-up family, she’s
anything but perfect. But then along comes the guy who falls
head-over-heels in love with her just as she is and helps her find the
bright side of life – and a second chance for perfection.
You can purchase For Love or Money for Kindle here and Nook here. Special event price: .99!
Main Street Merchants #3. Even though Cara has lost her childhood weight and is now composing her
own music, she can’t see her own beauty and she has no confidence in her
talent. A bumpy relationship with her mother certainly hasn’t helped.
Only the right guy can help her see inside herself to the amazing person
who has always been there, and to mend her frayed family ties in the face of her greatest sorrow.
You can purchase Five Golden Rings for Kindle here and Nook here. Special event price: .99!
Main Street Merchants #4. Quinn spends all her time managing D’Angelo’s Bakery – so much time, in
fact, that she rarely does anything else. When things get tough for the
bakery’s owner and she’s needed more than ever, dreams of romance and a
family of her own fly out the window – but then along comes someone who
shows her just how sweet life can be.
You can purchase Just Desserts for Kindle here and Nook here. Special event price: .99!
Main Street Merchants #5. Regan spends her days working in a bookstore and her nights reading. She
goes on grand romantic adventures in her head . . . but not in real
life. That all changes when someone sweeps her off her feet and carries
her up a mountain.
You can purchase Between the Lines for Kindle here and Nook here. Special event price: .99!
And now for some books from our friends! Authors are listed alphabetically by last name.
Big dreams take strength and determination.
dream is on the verge of becoming a reality. Lockhart Sanctuary, a
refuge for abused and confiscated cats, is what Cami has worked for her
entire life. But a dream that big requires a daily commitment. Cami
yearns for someone to share the dream with, and knows everyone in town
thinks Alex is the perfect man for the job. There’s one problem. She
wants fireworks with every kiss, not just friendship with a hint of
something more. Sometimes what you wish for is closer than you think.
Alex Reynolds shares Cami’s passion for the sanctuary, and as the head
ranchhand, spends every day helping her dream come true. He longs to
tell Cami she’s held his heart since childhood, but losing a lifetime of
friendship is a big risk to take. Being by Cami’s side at the sanctuary
is better than letting go, but Alex knows someday he’ll want more.
Risk losing everything or fight for the dreams to come true. The sanctuary is put in jeopardy when ignored threats take a deadly turn.
Cami and Alex must each choose to stand and fight, or lose everything
they dream of. Purchase here. Special promotional price: .99!
A Secret to Save Them All . . . It was whispered years ago that when a pirate cursed a Philippine village with langbuan, or flying undead, a boy received a secret that would protect him from certain death. But even armed with a secret, can anyone survive the undead for long? Seventeen-year-old Antonio Pulido has never known a time when the langbuan didn’t roam the streets every Ghost Moon Night, killing anyone in their path. He works hard to protect his family and the girl he loves from the deadly attacks, but he wants them stopped once and for all. Can Antonio uncover the decades-old secret and will it help him defeat the langbuan? Or will Ghost Moon Night come again and take someone he truly cares about? It falls on Antonio to save his village, but time is running out. The next Ghost Moon Night is nearly here and Antonio knows this is his last chance to destroy the undead and end their reign of terror — or die trying. Purchase here. Special promotional price: .99!
When she was
nine-years-old, Katie knew she wanted Chris to give her her first kiss. It
wasn’t because she was in love with him (no way, he was her best friend!
Besides, she was in love with his fourteen-year-old big brother), it was
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I have long followed and respected the work of author Cynthia DeFelice, who over the past 25 years has put together an expansive and impressive body of work. No bells, no whistles, no fancy pyrotechnics. Just one well-crafted book after another. There’s not an ounce of phony in Cynthia; she’s the genuine article, the real magilla. Last November, I was pleased to run into Cynthia at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. Pressed for time, we chatted easily about this and that, then parted ways. But I wanted more. Thus, this conversation . . . I’m sure you’ll like Cynthia almost as much as her dog does.
Greetings, Cynthia. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this conversation. I feel like we have so much to talk about. We first met sometime in the early 90s, back when Frank Hodge, a bookseller in Albany, was putting on his elaborate, gushing children’s book conferences.
It’s nice to be in touch with you again. I’ll always remember those conferences with Frank Hodge. He made me feel validated as a fledgling writer. He left me a voice mail telling me how much he loved the book Weasel. I played it over and over and over! In 1992, the Hodge-Podge Society gave the first ever Hodge-Podge Award to Weasel. It meant the world to me. Those were great times for authors, teachers, kids, and for literature.
Frank forced me to read your book — and I loved it. So I’ll always be grateful to Frank for that; it’s important to have those people in your world, the sharers, the ones who press books into your hands and say, “You must read this!”
Well, good for Frank! He is definitely one of those people you’re talking about. His enthusiasm is infectious.
We’ve seen many changes over the past 25 years. For example, a year or two ago I participated in a New York State reading conference in Albany for educators. The building was abuzz with programs about “Common Core” strategies & applications & assessments & implementation techniques and ZZZZZzzzzz. (Sorry, dozed off for a minute!) Anyway, educators were under tremendous pressure to roll this thing out — even when many sensed disaster. Meanwhile, almost out of habit, organizers invited authors to attend, but they placed us in a darkened corridor in the back. Not next to the Dumpster, but close. At one point I was with Susan Beth Pfeffer, who writes these incredible books, and nobody was paying attention to her. This great writer was sitting there virtually ignored.
To your point about finding fabulous authors being ignored at conferences, I hear you. It can be a very humbling experience. I find that teachers aren’t nearly as knowledgeable about books and authors as they were 10-25 years ago, and not as interested. They aren’t encouraged in that direction, and they don’t feel they have the time for what is considered to be non-essential to the goal of making sure their kids pass the tests. Thankfully, there are exceptions! You and I both still hear from kids and teachers for whom books are vital, important, and exhilarating.
But, yes, I agree with you completely that literature is being shoved to the side. Teachers tell me they have to sneak in reading aloud when no one is watching or listening.
When I was invited to speak at a dinner, along with Adam Gidwitz and the great Joe Bruchac, I felt compelled to put in a good word for . . . story. You know, remind everybody that books matter. In today’s misguided rush for “informational units of text,” I worry that test-driven education is pushing literature to the side. The powers that be can’t easily measure the value of a book — it’s impossible to reduce to bubble tests — so their solution is to ignore fiction completely. Sorry for the rant, but I’m so frustrated with the direction of education today.
Well, it’s hard not to rant. It’s disconcerting to think how we’ve swung so far from those heady days of “Whole Language” to today’s “Common Core” curriculum — about as far apart as two approaches can be. I think the best approach lies somewhere in the vast middle ground between the two, and teachers need to be trusted to use methods as varied as the kids they work with every day.
On a recent school visit in Connecticut, I met a second-year librarian — excuse me, media specialist — who was instructed by her supervisor to never read aloud to the students. It wasn’t perceived as a worthwhile use of her time.
Well, that is sad and just plain ridiculous. I was a school librarian for 8 ½ years. I felt the most important part of my job was reading aloud to kids
I didn’t realize you were a librarian.
Yes, I began as a school librarian. But, really, my life as a writer began when I was a child listening to my mother read aloud. And every crazy job I had before I became a librarian (and there were a lot) helped to form and inform me as a writer. This is true of us all. I had an actual epiphany one day while I was a librarian. I looked up from a book I was reading aloud and saw the faces of a class of kids who were riveted to every word… I saw their wide eyes, their mouths hanging open, their bodies taut and poised with anticipation – I was seeing full body participation in the story that was unfolding. I thought: I want to be the person who makes kids look and feel like THAT.
And that’s exactly who you became. Which is incredible. This can be a tough and discouraging business; I truly hope you realize how much you’ve accomplished.
Thanks, and back at you on that. I think we have to constantly remind ourselves that what we do is important. I think we’ve all had the experience of being scorned because we write for children. The common perception is that we write about fuzzy bunnies who learn to share and to be happy with who they are.
I loved your recent blog post about the importance of books that disturb us. I’m still amazed when I hear from a teacher or parent –- and occasionally even a young reader –- saying they didn’t like a book or a scene from a book because of something upsetting that happened in it. Conflict is the essence of fiction! No conflict, no story (or, worse, a boring, useless one). I love my characters, and I hate to make them go through some of the experiences they have, but it’s got to be done! Did I want Stewpot to die in Nowhere to Call Home? Did I want Weasel to have cut out Ezra’s tongue and killed his wife and unborn baby? Did I want Erik to have to give up the dog Quill at the end of Wild Life? These things hurt, and yet we see our characters emerge from the dark forests we give them to walk through, coming out stronger and wiser. We all need to hear about such experiences, over and over again, in order to have hope in the face of our own trials.
I admire all aspects of your writing, but in particular your sense of pace; your stories click along briskly. They don’t feel rushed, there’s real depth, but there’s always a strong forward push to the narrative. How important is that to you?
I love beautiful writing, I love imagery and metaphor, and evocative language. But all that must be in service to story, or I am impatient with it. I don’t like show-offy writing.
The ego getting in the way.
Yes. Even the best writers need an editor to keep that ego in check! I seek clarity — what good is writing that obscures and obfuscates? The purpose is to communicate, to say what you mean. That goes for all kinds of writing, not just writing for kids. Kids want to get to the point. So do I.
Can you name any books or authors that were important to your development as a writer? Or is that an impossible question to answer?
Impossible. Because there are too many, and if I made a list I would inevitably leave out a person or book I adore. Safer to say that every book I’ve read -– the good, the bad, and the ugly –- all are in there somewhere, having an effect on my own writing.
You are what you eat. Also, your love of nature — the great outdoors! — infuses everything you write.
Nature and the great outdoors, yes. My love of these things will always be a big part of my writing. I find that after a lifetime of experience and reading and exploring, I know a lot about the natural world, and it’s fun to include that knowledge in my writing. Sometimes I worry that kids are being cut off from the real world. But I do know lots of kids who love animals and trees and flowers and bugs, love to hunt and fish, to mess around in ponds and streams, build forts, paddle canoes, collect fossils — you name it. They give me hope for the future.
Where do you live?
On and sometimes in (during the floods of 1972 and 1993) Seneca Lake in beautiful upstate New York.
Is that where you’re from?
Nope. I grew up in the suburbs of northeast Philly. I came up here to go to college and never left.
Your books often feature boy characters. Why do you think that’s so?
You’re right: more than half of my main characters are boys. I’m not sure why. And I don’t know why I feel so perfectly comfortable writing in the voice of a 10-11-12 year old boy. Maybe because my brothers and I were close and we did a lot together? Maybe because my husband still has a lot of boyish enthusiasm? At any rate, I am crazy about pre-adolescent boys, their goofiness and earnestness and heedlessness. My new book (coming out in May) is called Fort. It features two boys, Wyatt and Augie (age 11) who build a fort together during summer vacation. I had so much fun writing it. (I have to admit, I love when I crack myself up, and these guys just make me laugh.)
While writing, are you conscious about the gender gap in reading? This truism that “boys don’t read.”
I am. Sometimes I am purposely writing for that reluctant reader, who is so often a boy. I love nothing so much as hearing that one of my books was THE ONE that turned a kid around, that made him a reader.
I just read Signal, so that book is on my mind today. I had to smile when Owen gets into the woods and his phone doesn’t work. No wi-fi. It’s funny to me because in my “Scary Tales” series I always have to do the same thing. If we want to instill an element of danger, there has to be a sense of isolation that doesn’t seem possible in today’s hyper-connected world. “What? Zombie hordes coming over the rise? I’ll call Mom to pick us up in her SUV!” So we always need to get the parents out of the way and somehow disable the wi-fi. You didn’t have that problem back when you wrote Weasel.
Thanks for reading Signal. And, yeah, it’s really annoying that in order to be plausible in this day and age, you have to have a reason why your character isn’t on the phone with Mommy every time something goes wrong. (Another good reason to write historical fiction!) In Fort, Augie lives with his grandmother and doesn’t have money for a cell phone, and Wyatt’s with his father for the summer. His parents are divorced, and (unlike Mom) Dad doesn’t believe in kids being constantly connected to an electronic nanny. So — halleluiah! Wyatt and Augie are free to do all the fun, dumb, and glorious things they feel like doing!
My friends and I built a fort in the woods when we were in high school. Good times, great memories, just hanging out unfettered and free. I included a fort in my book, Along Came Spider. For Trey and Spider, the book’s main characters, the fort represented a refuge. It was also a haven for their friendship away from the social pressures and cliques of school. A place in nature where they could be themselves. So, yes, I love that you wrote a book titled Fort. I’ll add it to my list! (You are becoming an expensive friend.)
Well, now that I’ve discovered your books, I can say the same. Money well spent, I’d say.
Where did the idea for Signal originate?
The inspiration for Signal came one morning as I was running on a trail through the woods with Josie, my dog at the time. She proudly brought me a white napkin with red stuff smeared on it. I thought, Whoa, is that blood?No, whew. Ketchup. But what if it had been blood? And what if a kid was running with his dog and she brought him pieces of cloth with blood stains? Eww. That would be creepy! And scary, and exciting, and mysterious — and I started writing Signal.
You’ve always been extremely well-reviewed. Readers love your books. And yet in this day of series and website-supported titles, where everything seems to be high-concept, it feels like the stand-alone middle grade novel is an endangered species.
I have been lucky with reviews. But, sadly, I think traditional review sources are becoming increasingly irrelevant, as blogs and websites and personal media platforms take over. That’s not good news for me because I am simply not interested in self-promotion. Can’t do it. Don’t want to do it. I just want to write the best books I can and let them speak for themselves. I know it’s old-school, but there it is. You said that a stand-alone middle grade novel is becoming an endangered species amid all the series and “high concept” books out there, and I think you’re right. But when that stand-alone book somehow finds its niche audience, when kids and teachers somehow discover it and embrace it as theirs . . . , well, it’s a beautiful damn thing, and it’s enough to keep me writing, for now.
Well, my husband is 9 years older than I am and recently retired, and there are a lot of things we still need to do!
We have a farm property we are improving by digging a pond, and by planting trees and foliage to benefit wildlife. We stocked it with fish, and enjoy watching it attract turtles, frogs, toads, dragonflies, birds and animals of all sorts. So we like to spend a lot of time there, camping out. We love to travel, and are headed next on a self-driving tour of Iceland. We also have four terrific grandchildren we like to spend time with. I could go on and on with the bucket list…
By the way, I agree about the blogs. I think we are seeing a lot more opinion — more reaction — but less deep critical thought. It’s fine and useful for a neighbor to tell you they hated or loved a movie, but it’s not the same as a professional film critic providing an informed, and hopefully insightful, critique. Yet somehow today it’s all conflated.
Well, there is a similar phenomenon with self-published books. I’m not a total snob about it, and there are plenty of good books that didn’t go through the process of being accepted by and edited by a professional at an established publishing house. But I’ll repeat that everyone needs an editor. And I’m often amazed at the brazenness of people spouting off in various social media platforms, often without being fully grounded in the subject they are pontificating about. But, hey, maybe I’m just getting to be an old fart.
Yeah, I don’t Tweet either. We’re being left in the dust! My observation is that the “kidlitosphere” is comprised 90% of women. Of course, many of those bloggers are passionate, smart, generous women who genuinely want to see boys reading. But I always think of a favorite line written by one of my heroes, Charlotte Zolotow, where a boy imagines his father telling his mother, “You never were a boy. You don’t know.”
I don’t think it’s an ideal thing that the blogging world — which has become such an important source of information about books — is overwhelmingly female. Of course, the situation is not at all their fault.
That’s why it’s so great that there are writers out there like you, Bruce Coville, Tedd Arnold, Jon Scieska, Neil Gaiman, Jack Gantos –- who not only write books boys like, but are out there in schools demonstrating that REAL MEN read and write! I don’t know what we can do about the gender gap other than to be aware of it and to write the best books we can, books that both boys and girls will devour.
Tell me about Wild Life. Once again, you are mining the world of adventure — a boy, a dog, and a gun.
I never got as much mail from kids, teachers, grandparents and other caregivers as I did after that book came out. In our hyper-politically correct world, GUNS = EVIL. You can’t talk about them in school. So where does that leave a kid who spends his or her weekend hunting, who studies nature in order to be part of it, who hunts respectfully, with care, who is enmeshed in family history and tradition, who through hunting feels part of the full complexity of life?
I had to keep silencing the censors in my head telling me I couldn’t put a gun in an 11 year old kid’s hands, unless it was a matter of survival in a book set back in “the olden days.”
I was amazed and immensely gratified to learn that a lot of kids found themselves and their interests represented in Erik’s story. I didn’t write it with an agenda in mind. I simply wrote it based on the experiences I’ve had when my husband and I take our bird dog on her yearly Dream Vacation to North Dakota to hunt pheasants.
Ha! I love that your dog has a Dream Vacation.
I get so much joy from watching her do what she was born and bred to do. I cherish our days out on those wide open prairies, and have learned to see the subtle and varied beauty of the landscape. I was just hoping to write a rip-roaring good story that incorporated all that wonderful stuff. Our hunting experiences have nothing whatsoever to do with “gun violence” of the sort you hear about on TV. It’s been interesting to hear from kids who really get that.
Yeah, I enjoy meeting those kids, often out in the western end of New York State. One of my readers from the North Country sent me this photo. Isn’t she great?
Oh, man, I love that! We can’t forget those kids are out there.
What’s next, Cynthia? Any new books on the horizon?
Possibly, just possibly, a sequel to Fort. But that’s all I will say, even if you use enhanced interrogation techniques.
We do not waterboard here at Jamespreller dot com, and I resent the implication! Those are merely bath toys that happen to be . . . nevermind!
According to the rules of the interwebs, I see that we’ve gone way beyond the approved length of standard posts. Likely there’s no one left reading. It’s just us. So I’ll end here with a big thank you, Cynthia, for putting up with me. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. I hope I’ll see you again in Rochester at the 19th Annual Children’s Book Festival.
Yes! I look forward to seeing you there. It’s an incredible event, and gets bigger and better every year.
Last Friday, I wrote 4000 new words on my WIP novel. That’s a great day for me. But it was only possible because Thursday was a planning day.
When I work with students and teachers, I encourage lots of prewriting. My book, Writing for the Common Core, is essentially a book of prewriting activities. Here’s the thing: as professional writers, we know that our best writing comes with revision. That’s what students need to do, also: revise. However, that often devolves into merely copying a piece and cleaning up handwriting, especially in the lower grades. True revision, a re-envisioning of how to word something or the content to include/exclude, is hard to achieve in a 50-minute class.
Instead, I ask teachers to provide multiple prewriting activities. By giving students a rich and varied prewriting experience, they come to the first draft more likely to produce something worthwhile.
That’s what I did last Thursday, lots of prewriting.
Setting. One important thing for me was to locate my story on the slopes of Mt. Rainier. I used Google Earth to track the roads where my characters would be traveling. Using the program’s tools, I measured distances as the crow flies and distances along roads, so I knew how long each drive (and potentially chase scene) would take. I switched to the aerial view to look at the landscape–mostly wooded with some open areas.
Sensory Details. Once I knew where this section of the story would happen, I concentrated on the sensory details. What would they see, hear, touch, taste and feel? What would the day’s weather be like? Rainy, snowy, sunny, windy? Along with that, I thought about the mood of the events. Would the characters be frantic, excited, hopeful, angry, or bored?
Scenes. I also took time to sketch out the structure of a couple scenes. Scenes need a beginning, middle, end; add in conflict and a pivot or turning point; stir with some great emotional development. By planning ahead, I knew the general outline of what would happen.
Flexibility. With all the planning, though, I approached the writing with flexibility and let the moment carry the story forward. I “mostly” knew what I would write, but it always surprises me how much it changes and develops as I write. It’s never exactly what I planned; it’s usually better.
I’m not really an outliner; but I don’t write by the seat of my pants either. Instead, I need this half-way place, where I do rich prewriting activities and halfway plan, and then see where it all takes me. HOW you say something is everything. It’s not just what the story is or how well you plot. For me, the important thing is how you say it. What word choices do you make and why? What sentence structures and why? What pacing and why? The true writing happens when I write. But I love the prewriting because it enables me to get 4000 words done in a single day. Well, really, that was two days work: one to prewrite and one to write. Either way you count it, that was a couple great chapters to put behind me.
Most of us lucky ones live many lives on our sojourn on earth. We assay many roles, we experience varying circumstances. We Live. And we make amazing memories while we do that.
My dad was a very senior doctor in the Indian Railways, and we traveled a lot - always in British Raj style. Of all the memories I have of that life, the holidays are the sharpest, and the most beautiful. A snapshot of explaining murals on a lovely temple in Orissa to him, eyes scrunched against the sun, is probably clearer today in my mind than it was then.
Travel is a wonderful way to expand the mind. It teaches you about the place you visit, opens your mind to other cultures and people, tells you you can move, change and adapt. It is an entirely positive experience in most cases. Everyone likes to travel, some in any way, to anywhere, some with more specifications. For me, I would travel less, but travel well... really well. Four stars minimum. The fact that I cannot bring myself to shell out for more than economy-class plane tickets is bad enough. But elitist compulsions aside, I believe travelling is a must for personal growth. A person who grows and dies in the place he is born in misses out on a lot. A lot of pain, maybe, but a lot of fun too.
But I digress. I was talking of the memories that travel engenders. A holiday is a separate space in our lives. It is a time when we take out time for the 'unnecessary', when the routine, generic parts of living are given secondary place to the special, personal part. Precious taking precedence over the pressing. That itself makes it sacrosanct.
When we create memories with people we love in a different place, we make a personal landmark in time-space. A special time is created, a bubble in itself, indestructible.
A trip to Orlando for the opening of Harry Potter Park is an indelible memory, easily revisited. The smiles, the frowns, the heat, the conversation. The silly guitar photo. Nothing that happens or will happen can change that. A big party at home becomes one of many, but the trip will remain unchanged through Time. The first time I swam with Manta rays is as fresh today as it was then. I can feel the cold salt water, the rough scaly fin as it brushed me, the slowing of time, the meaninglessness of the world outside the water. Another bubble I can retreat to anytime.
That bubble is a reminder of who we are, of what we do, of what matters. It confirms that life has to be more than our earthly existence. We get little pieces of heaven in our experiences as we travel, and those are what we tuck away in our hearts and minds. Because every time we experience something new, see something beautiful, taste something fabulous, we know it cannot be meaningless. We know there is more. And we know that a lifetime is simply not enough - certainly not in this miserably limited existence.
So when we are all standing in front of our Creator on the Day of Judgement, and he opens the gates to Heaven, (after all, does anyone think they might actually go to hell??) I am going to ask instead for the 6-star resorts on the beaches and mountains of all the worlds to travel around with the people I love. And yes, with the full dessert buffet. And if he has to do a bit of recreating... well, that will be one hell of a memory!
Publication Date:February 18, 2015| Age Level:6-12
The rings of Saturn go round and round, Disappeared one day and could not be found. To put them back, just take a chance, And join me in the Saturn Dance! Meet Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo- 9-year-old girl Super Surgeon on the Go.
Born with supernatural powers from electrical energy, she jets around the Universe fixing problems with her gifted hands. Dr. Dee Dee’s, and cousin Lukas’s, visit to the Island of Positivity Planetarium is interrupted when Gordon the Gullible Globe sounds the alarm that Saturn’s rings have disappeared. Dr. Dee Dee is skeptical but mobilizes her team of assistants and instruments for a mission to Saturn. Oh boy! Is she SURPRISED when she arrives at Saturn!
About the Author
Dr. Oneeka Williams grew up in the Caribbean with her mother, a science teacher, and her father, a journalist. Her love for the sciences and for writing developed at an early age, as did her desire to become a doctor. When she first entered the operating room while attending Harvard Medical School, it was love at first sight. Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo embodies all of these elements and encourages kids to live a life without limits. This is Dr. Williams third book. Dr. Dee Dee Dynamos Mission to Pluto and Dr. Dee Dee Dynamos Meteorite Mission were the first two. She is a practicing surgeon and lives in Massachusetts with husband, Charles and son, Mark.
Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo's Saturn Surprise is a delightful story filled with great information about the planet Saturn.
Dr. Dee Dee has supernatural powers which allows her to fly around in space and help the planets. In this story she helps Saturn fix it's rings because they have gone crazy. While reading the story children will learn about what a ring plane crossing is, as well about the Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft, Saturn's moons, and the names of Saturn's rings. There is a lot of alliteration in the story which will help readers remember the characters names. Readers will enjoy the nonfictional information included in the story. It is very informative and will help readers for reports and such.
A few quibbles. At times the illustrations are confusing. When looking at the illustrations for ring plane crossings, the boxed pictures help the reader understand what is going. The other illustration is confusing to the reader since all the Saturn's virtually look the same. Dr. Dee Dee has supernatural powers but Kyle ad Lukas don't so technically they shouldn't leave Freeda, which is why she comes along on the ride, and yet those characters, at times, are outside in space. Kyle is also very negative and weighs down the story. Dr. Dee Dee sends positive messages to kids like don't give up, use your voice, be confident and assertive, yet here's a character who is whiny and negative. The last illustration on page 32 shows Dr. Dee Dee applauding, yet the story says that Saturn and the rings applauded. Given the fact that neither Saturn or it's rings have any hands in the illustration makes this part impossible, though they could shout with glee. These are small things but are none the less noticeable. Otherwise, the story is well developed with a great message for kids. Amazon says that this book is for 5-6 year olds but it is really meant for older children. Some of the vocabulary is for older children, younger won't get it. Though the author did add in a vocab section in the back of the book as well as a glossary of info talked about, questions and a resource guide.
Overall, this series is informative, well written with great educational story lines, and has great messages for kids who are 6-12 years of age.
Today at Strange Horizons, I review Zen Cho's Crawford-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad. This is something of a milestone for me--the first review I've had published in Strange Horizons since stepping down as a reviews editor. It's also a welcome return to writing full-length book reviews, and for both of those occasions I couldn't have chosen a better subject with which to mark
I’ve written before about generic words that don’t add much in the way of specific emotions. Now I’m on to generic descriptions that don’t add anything to scene. For example:
The teenagers congregated at the store, listening to music on their devices. They wore various outfits, featuring the most popular brands.
I’d imagine this is the type of sentence that would appear in a textbook for an alien about humans. They’d have a lot of knowledge about us, but because they’re outsiders, they’d speak more in generalities than specifics…getting close to an accurate depiction, but without any of the detail that makes the knowledge realistic or engrossing.
The issue with this type of generic description is that the reader will already have a vague imagine their minds. As soon as you say “shopping mall,” the reader paints a place-holder picture that’s very much like my example sentences.
Your job as a writer, then, is to take that vague image and embellish it with detail that’s specific to your world, your characters, and your story. The purpose of description is to take the generic and sharpen the image. So a reasonable replacement for the example would be:
They headed to the shoe store so Nikki could get another hot pink pair of kicks to match her screaming neon yellow yoga pants. Josh cranked his Shuffle. Whatever song came next would be better than the Taylor Swift blaring from the speakers.
Now, I’ve written about specific references in a manuscript (like the Taylor Swift line), but I decided to do that here just because I’m targeting vagueness. I hope that you can see how painting a more specific scene, with some emotional overtones, clarifies the scene more than simply inserting arbitrary-seeming narration.
On our first date, my husband-to-be asked what I did for a living. I told him I was a school librarian. "Well there's a profession that will be obsolete in twenty years," he chuckled. I did not chuckle. I did marry him and twenty five years later I am still waiting for his prediction to come true.
OK, I admit that twenty five years ago I never dreamed that I would have a phone that could help me find my way around the zillion streets of Atlanta named "Peachtree." Or a device that could download hundreds of books, cutting down considerably on overweight luggage fees. My 1989 school library had computers, but they were little more than fancy typewriters. Who knew that entering the right search words on my jazzy little laptop could find pictures of the battleships my father-in-law served on in WWII? Or the history of the long demolished amusement park of my childhood, the genesis of The Roller Coaster Kid? Yes, Craig was right...I could access all that information without setting foot in a library.
But yet there are still libraries. In my neck of the woods, it appears that most people are there for free computer time and to check out videos. If I am there, it is to do research. Guess what? Not everything is available on the Internet. At least not for free. When I wrote Jimmy's Stars and Yankee Girl I spent months reading newspapers from WWII and the 1960's....on microfilm machines. While there are a good number of old periodicals available online these days, they never seem to be the ones I need or there is a hefty fee to join a database. All the branch libraries in my immediate area were built in the last 15 years and don't have microfilm machines. But if I need one, all I have to do is go downtown to the main library.
The library is a source of professional literature such as Library Journal or Publisher's Weekly. Usually they are kept in the librarians' work area, but they have always let me read them on the premises if I ask. There are also databases and reference materials that I can't find anywhere else...at least not for free.
I have had the good fortune to have worked in a university library which gave me access to all kinds of information not found in a public library. My library allowed the public to use the collection for a nominal yearly fee. As an employee I had free reign, but even if I hadn't, I would have paid the fee. It's something to investigate.
I could go on forever about the information that you will find only in a library....but why tell you? Check it out yourself. By the way, my husband has had to finally admit that libraries and librarians are not obsolete or likely to become so any time soon.
Absolutely Almostby Lisa Graff (for ages 8 to 12, Philomel, June 2014) Source: my local library Synopsis (from Indiebound): Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself. Why I recommend it: Kudos to Lisa Graff for being brave enough to create a character who is ordinary. This is a quiet, thought-provoking novel (if you're looking for fast-paced action, you'll need to look elsewhere). But if you like the idea of reading about an "almost" kid, who's not the best at anything (in other words, maybe you or someone you know), this book will warm your heart. Because even though Albie isn't good at anything like math or reading or art, he's kind and compassionate. And that's good enough, right? I've lived in New York City and the city setting is perfect for this book. I also loved Albie's math club teacher, Mr. Clifton, who starts each class with a really bad math joke. Bonus: Short chapters and smooth writing make this a winner for reluctant readers. My favorite quote: "Then won't you be glad you found something you love?" (This comes after Calista tells Albie to find something he wants to keep doing, and maybe if he practices enough, one day he'll discover he doesn't stink at it. Albie responds that he might still stink at it.) Lisa Graff's website Follow Lisa on Twitter
SANTIAGO, PANAMA -- Nena has seen horrors. The wife of a member of a Santiago Rotary Club has seen it all. When we enter a Santiago hospital and I ask her if she works here, she laughs.
“No,” she tells me. “I volunteer here. I volunteer everywhere. My husband. The man with the cane? He works here.”
Nena is from Mexico originally. She knows Spanish, English, Italian and Japanese. She is a Rotarian from birth, she says. Her father was a Rotarian. Her husband is a Rotarian. She is not an official part of the Santiago Rotary Club, which is about 26 members strong. Only one of those members is a woman. She is still a Rotarian.
“There used to be five women.” She shrugs like this change in the membership dynamics is not much of a big deal.
She spends the day showing us the projects that the Santiago Rotarian men have accomplished, but also the projects that are propelled by the wives of the club, women who spend their times unofficially helping people.
One of those places she brings us is a home for children who are malnourished. Another is a home for children whose mothers are having difficulties. Some of them are orphans. Some of them are not officially orphans. There are sisters whose father is their grandfather. There is Kimberly, 11, whose mother tried to kill her last year. Kimberly is sweet, perching on a coach, a desk, while the younger children frolic around her. She picks a multi-colored Beanie Baby bear and cradles it in her hands. She watches the Rotarians crowd in to meet her and the other children and hear how Rotary has helped them. She smiles shyly but quickly. I am instantly in love with her as she laughs as a Rotarian with spotty Spanish tries to figure out her age.
“Her mother is in prison forever,” Nena says with anger. She tells us the story of another girl, eight, who she met in a hospital. “I saw her, saw the line on her belly and said, ‘This girl is pregnant.’”
But Nena persisted. “They said, ‘She hasn’t even had her first period yet.’ But I said, ‘She is.’”
They tested her and she was more than halfway through her pregnancy. Her mother couldn’t understand. It turned out that her grandfather watched her while her mother worked. Her grandfather had been raping her. He also sold her to his friends. He is in jail now.
“As far as I am concerned they should have cut off his balls,” Nena says.
Nena enters a home for children with troubles, children like Kimberly, those sisters, a little boy named Jesus, and she scoops up a baby, cradling him in her arms, cooing. She is justice and kindness. She is anger and action. She is love and grace and a million things all wrapped up in a small package of a woman that wears multiple pieces of jewelry at once.
The Bar Harbor and Ellsworth Maine Rotary Clubs and Nena visit schools and water towers that the Santiago Rotary Club has sponsored. We meet Jesus who folds his Ellsworth Blueberry Pancake Breakfast t-shirt into a precise rectangle, smiling at his colored pencils and coloring book. We meet school children who will have physical education class again simply because we have brought a few soccer balls. We meet Kimberly who smiles with love despite what her mother tried to do.
Ellsworth President David Wells hands out toys and t-shirts. Ellsworth High School student Josh Callnan who pumps up soccer balls with a pump that Dave Wheaton and Annette Higgins thought to bring. Sallie Boggs is greeted by an eight-kindergartener simultaneous hug. Shaun Farrar is surrounded by children at each school he visits. The students gaze up and up at his 6 foot 5 inch frame with wonder, giggling as he asks their names.
“They think he is a giant,” one Santiago Rotarian laughs. “He is, actually.”
In a place where malnourishment is often an issue, growing so tall is rare. The Santiago Rotarians have made combatting malnourishment a priority creating fiver or six sites at schools where they hatch and raise chickens for six weeks, three times a year. The students then eat the chickens for lunch. Their parents take turns cooking, rotating throughout the year. The chickens that are not eaten are sold to buy more at an earlier stage in their life cycle.
Nourishment helps children have stronger minds and bodies. Rotarians including former Santiago Club President Edwin Munoz dispersed 10,000 dictionaries throughout Panama to give students access to words that will give them broader, stronger futures. `
Clean water is also important. Working with a Rotarian from Texas, the club has provided multiple water tanks to both residential areas and schools. The Rotarian’s wife had died. When they were visiting Panama she had been saddened by the lack of running water in schools. School would have to be closed in the middle of the day so children could wash and get water off site.
“It was disruptive,” says their principal. “This is so much better.”
The Santiago Rotarians have even provided sewing machines to the local hospital so that workers could make hospital gowns and surgery garments for doctors and patients. Hospital Director Doctor Rafael Andrade addressed the Rotarians and speaking both about the sewing machines and the wheelchairs that the Ellsworth and Bar Harbor Rotarians brought over said, “There is no word for this because it is something that comes from you’re heart. I hope that this visit is not your last time here.”
As the Rotarians visited the bowels of the hospital to see the industrial sewing machines, Nena said, “They have needs. The hospital – everyone – they have many needs. They want wheelchairs, too.”
Rotary and Nena and the women like her keep picking away at those needs. When the home for malnourished children needed a physical therapy room, Rotarians from Panama and the United States stepped up.
“They needed a wall for the room. We built a wall. They needed another wall for a room. They built another wall. Piece by piece is how these things happen,” Nena says.
And she’s right. It is piece by piece, volunteer by volunteer, wheelchair by wheelchair, water tower by water tower that change happens, that lives become a little bit better, that hope because reality. Change and hope, service and volunteerism are powerful things. It doesn’t matter if it’s little steps. All that matters is that it’s steps in the right direction. That direction is forward. That direction is to a better life. That direction is towards hope. #rotary#rotaryinternational
The Powers That Be have pronounced Realistic YA (a la John Green or Rainbow Rowell) to be the Next Big Thing in teen lit. This past weekend, @aboredauthor started a hashtag topic on Twitter, which turned into a sensation.
What if we all wrote Very Realistic YA?
The rest is history. I was totally smitten (spent precious copy-editing minutes snickering at the computer.) If you’re on Twitter, check out #VeryRealisticYA . Here are my attempts:
·Orphan farm boy hatches dragon's egg; dragon eats farm boy and sets fire to farm. #VeryRealisticYA
·Girl discovers parents have hidden their past lives in a secretive organization. Turns out they were scientologists. #VeryRealisticYA
·Small town boy stays in small town, marries small town girl. Gets job at the plant. #VeryRealisticYA
·High school boy stops heart medication, becomes incredibly strong and muscular. Med was interfering with his steroids. #VeryRealisticYA
·Girl tries to hide strange markings on her skin. Mother spots them and grounds her for getting tattoos. #VeryRealisticYA
·Two teens with cancer meet, and decide they spend MORE than enough time thinking about cancer. They avoid each other. #VeryRealisticYA
·Two misfits meet and find out that they have absolutely nothing in common. They never speak again. #VeryRealisticYA
·Teens are trapped in giant maze and cannot find their way out. They give up and play video games. #VeryRealisticYA
·Girl finds mysterious jeweled dagger in a lockbox under the bed. Sells it on eBay and takes friends to Belize. #VeryRealisticYA
Tomorrow evening I'll be down at Penn, at Kelly Writers House, participating in a 7-Up program that promises to be provocative. The theme is mental health and literature. The evening, a Junior Fellows Program, was knit together (so ably) by Hannah White. You can find more about the evening below, and of course you are welcome to come.
In trying to develop a presentation that fits within the given seven minute boundaries, I'm aware of all that I won't have time to say about the medical research and stories that have been released in the months after I finished writing One Thing Stolen, a novel that has a rare neurodegenerative condition—frontotemporal dementia, primary progressive aphasia—at its heart.
(Generally speaking, FTD is a category of conditions brought on by the "progressive degeneration of the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain." Some patients afflicted with the "language subtypes" of FTD erupt with new artistic capabilities—a sign, it is thought, of a brain attempting to compensate for those parts of the brain that are no longer working as they once were.)
I would like, then, to summarize four key stories here—stories that validate the hope that readers will find in the final pages of Nadia's story.
In writing One Thing Stolen, I grounded my hope in the work of (and email conversations with) Bruce Miller, MD, who directs the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and whose work on FTD "emphasizes both the behavioral and emotional deficits that characterize these patients, while simultaneously noting the visual creativity that can emerge in the setting of FTD."
But in my novel, Penn doctors are at work as well, and just days ago, on March 20, Penn Medicine researchers announced, and here I'm quoting from the press release, the discovery that " hypermethylation - the epigenetic ability to turn down or turn off a bad gene implicated in 10 to 30 percent of patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) - serves as a protective barrier inhibiting the development of these diseases. Their work, published this month in Neurology, may suggest a neuroprotective target for drug discovery efforts."
Later on in the release, this quote from Corey McMillan, PhD, research assistant professor of Neurology in the Frontotemporal Degeneration Center in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania: "We believe that this work provides additional data supporting the notion that C9orf72 methylation is neuroprotective and therefore opens up the exciting possibility of a new avenue for precision medicine treatments and targets for drug development in neurodegenerative disease,” says McMillan.
So all of that is number 1. Hope, again.
For number 2, I encourage you to read this deeply moving essay by Daniel Zalewski in the March 30 issue of The New Yorker. Titled "Life Lines," it traces the journey of a former New Yorker illustrator whose brain, attacked by a virus, now lives in the ever-present now, most of her hippocampus destroyed. Researchers are studying her ability to learn and form memories within this new neuronal environment. There is hope there. There is also the prospect of new science.
Finally, for numbers 3 and 4, I encourage you to return to two blog entries posted earlier in this year. The first reports on Judith Scott, a woman born profoundly deaf and with Down syndrome, whose artistic capabilities were unleashed late in life—that brain wanting art again. The second reports on the lawyer Patrick Fagerberg, who was struck in the head at a music concert and diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. Here again the brain compensates and, in compensating, chooses art.
This—the compensating brain, the deep neuronal desire to make beauty out of chaos—is the theme of One Thing Stolen, a book that takes place both in Florence, Italy, and on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania (and features some Penn students as key characters.) Some of what I'll briefly touch on during our 7-Up tomorrow night.
Hope to see you there.
WRITING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
Junior Fellows Program
6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe
As this years recipient of the Kelly Writers House Junior Fellows Prize, Hannah White has undertaken a project to make the Writers House a space where we can talk about issues of mental health and illness from a writers perspective. In traditional "7-Up" style, seven different people (students, professors, community members) will each select and then write/speak about an important novel, short story, or poem dealing with issues of mental (in)stability. "Important" can mean anything here: personally important, culturally important, historically important, obscure but interesting, challenging to the traditional ideas of illness and wellness, etc. We hope that a wide range of perspectives and literary works will bring together seemingly disparate subsets of the wider community—and will also reveal plenty of interesting ideas about health, culture, relationships, and what is "normal."
April is a fun month, the beginning of Mud Season here in central MA.
I've got a few appearances and lots of theater happening this month, all of which I hope you enjoy if you get the chance to pop by.
My first book, DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! was published 12 years ago on April 1st thanks to the efforts of my agent, Marcia Wernick, editor, Alessandra