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1. Starting my Residency: First Day!

Things have been very exciting but very, very busy lately. As well finishing off my Sketching People book and setting up the exhibition in Doncaster, I have also just started my residency with Manchester University's Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives. My very first day was on October 1st.

I took the train to Manchester, armed with my new concertina book and my sketching kit. I had a long meeting with Professor Sue Heath to start off the day. She is Co-Director of the Morgan Centre and was the one who started it all off. We talked about all the different researchers I would be shadowing and the projects they were working on, as well as sorting out boring things like getting a 
security pass and a key to the office I can share. 

Then we both went out and did some sketching together to get the ball rolling!

Though a big part of my remit is to draw the research, I am also there to record a 'year in the life' of the centre - everything about the professors, the students, the university campus and what they all get up to.

It was such a glorious day, Sue and I were able to sit very comfortably outside, so I could start my sketchbook with a drawing of the Arthur Lewis building where the Morgan Centre is based. Then, after a lovely 'welcome' lunch, Sue left me to it and I went back and sat on the grass to get a couple more sketches of students:

Pottering around, looking for things to record, I was struck by lots of huge leaves that littered the grass outside the entrance to the Arthur Lewis building. I asked people what the tree was and nobody knew, but other people had noticed how unusual they were as well. 

I figured they were part of the life of the Morgan Centre too, and just had time to paint one before dashing for my train home:

The following day, I was based in Hebden Bridge instead of Manchester, working on the 'Living the Weather' project with Professor Jennifer Mason. She is interested in the myriad ways in which the weather impacts on our daily lives. I did loads of work, so I'll show you those sketches in a few days.

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2. Adventures in china

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3. Digital Writing Portfolios

If you have not started using writing portfolios with your students yet, give it a try. Start a collection of their work and build in a system of reflection.

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4. Hamelin Newsletter 9 ottobre 2015

NEWSLETTER del 09/10/2015

Hamelin è presente alla ricchissima decima edizione del festival Tuttestorie.
Venerdì 9 ottobre e sabato 10 ottobre 2015 presso la tenda Bubù Hamelin accompagna i bambini ad incontrare Chris Riddell, acclamato illustratore inglese, alla scoperta del suo ultimo romanzo Agata Dei Gotici e il topo fantasma.
Agli adulti invece è diretto l'appuntamento di domenica 11 ottobre alle 18.30 Cara Mara, caro Andrea. Dialogo fra uno scrittore e un'illustratrice, che vede Mara Cerri e Andrea Bajani raccontare l'esperienza della creazione a quattro mani del progetto La pantera sotto il letto.

In occasione della seconda edizione di Libriamoci: giornate di lettura nelle scuole (26/31 ottobre 2015), il Centro per il Libro e la Lettura offre alle scuole la possibilità di ospitare gratuitamente dei lettori d'eccezione per gli incontri con le classi.
Tra i lettori d'eccezione, famosi scrittori, musicisti e giornalisti (come Alessandro D'Avenia, Licia Troisi, Mauro Corona e Giulio Giorello).
Per tutte le informazioni sulle modalità di partecipazione, visitate la sezione dedicata sul sito di Libriamoci a scuola.
Quest'anno il Centro per il Libro e la Lettura promuove 20 corsi di formazione gratuiti per insegnanti ed educatori in 17 regioni.
Tutti i corsi sono a cura del Coordinamento associazioni per la promozione ed educazione alla lettura, di cui anche Hamelin fa parte.
Inizieremo i nostri venerdì 9 ottobre presso la Biblioteca Autentica di San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore (PE), per poi proseguire il 26 ottobre a Roma e il 30 a Palermo. Poi sarà la volta di Catania e Vibo Valentia.

È cominciata come un modo per sottolineare, ancora una volta, che le storie (soprattutto quelle lette in adolescenza) possono cambiare la vita, e per chiedervi di aiutarci ad arrivare alla fase finale del bando CheFare.
Ora Bookface è diventato un gioco che si allarga sempre più, e anche scrittori, illustratori, fumettisti si stanno fotografando con il libro della loro adolescenza. Partecipa anche tu!
International Board on Books for Young People è una rete internazionale di persone, che provengono da 77 paesi e promuove la cooperazione internazionale attraverso i libri per bambini, creando ovunque per l'infanzia l'opportunità di avere accesso a libri di alto livello letterario e artistico e incoraggiando la pubblicazione e la distribuzione di libri di qualità per bambini specialmente nei Paesi in via di sviluppo.

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5. 101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up, by Suzette Valle | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed copy of 101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up: Be your own movie critic—the must-see movie list for kids (Walter Foster Jr, 2015), written by Suzette Valle. Giveaway begins October 9, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends November 8, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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6. 'Those dirty old things'...

Jean and Brian, my wonderful neighbours, are having big clear outs this year. Having introduced them to the notion of 'vintage', they always let me know when they're getting rid of stuff and I am usually approached with 

'Is this of any use to you? It's been in the shed/loft for years and it's got to go'.


One of the many things which 'had to go' - having been languishing in one of Brian's many sheds for decades, was this fabulous wall mount. 'You don't have to have it, if you don't like it'.

I may have squealed with delight when he handed me this. Joe is rather keen to have hanging baskets at the cottage and this is the most perfect hanger imaginable.

Brian's sheds throw up many interesting things, some of which I find intriguing, if baffling. This is a 'something or other' which he gave me to put on to eBay; however, I find I am curiously attached to it, having a weakness for old painted things. Even if I don't know what they're for. He did explain it to me, but it it went in one ear and out of the other. This is a keeper though, whatever it is.

'You're not putting that dirty old thing on my clean table cloth' Jean protested, when Brian brought this sweet little lamp inside 'in case you're interested'. 'It's just an old thing I've had for years' he said as he handed it to me, Jean grimacing slightly.

To her dismay, I cradled it lovingly in my hands, crooning with pleasure. It just needs a bit of a clean and a candle.

Less disreputable, old Kilner jars which belonged to Jean's mother. Which of course 'are of use'.

Sometimes I'm given things which flummox even me, and I give them a punt on eBay. After all, pieces of toast and the legendary 'old rope' have been sold there. Then I have a bit of creative fun with the descriptions.

'This quirky and kitsch little swan pretty much sums up a lot about the 1960s. It looks as if it was designed to hold one of those highly perfumed bath salt blocks that my mother was so fond of and used to be given at Christmas. If only she'd had one of these! Made in England and designed by Jean Sorell Ltd, it measures approximately 8 x 8cm.

The box states that it will float when not holding bath salts, but I cannot guarantee this.'

Or how about another swan - 

 'Where to start with this one? Well, it is basically a nice hand blown glass swan, which is all fine and well. This one is a little unusual in that it is apparently a 'magic swan'. How so, you ask? Well, it comes with the original dyed papers which turn it various colours. Such fun!

The instructions read as follows -
'To colour, fill the body with water and insert dye paper for one minute. Place thumb over aperture and and turn swan over. By a series of small movements the air bubble will gradually leave the head. Turn the swan up again without allowing the air back into the head'

There is no mention, however, about what you do with the plastic rose. In a further gesture towards beauty, I imagine it is stuck elegantly in the hole at the back, once you've managed to fill the swan with coloured water (and not getting it everywhere in the process).

This is why we invented the internet. Having said all that, it is a very pretty piece, never used, 'hand made by craftsmen from the finest British glass' and in its original box with packing. What's not to like?

Oh yes, and it measures 13 x 13 cm.

However, if I can sell things such as this rather crazy old flocked lion, which found a loving home several months ago, then I remain hopeful. Beauty in everything. Even Jean is almost convinced.

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7. leave 'em hanging

"finally arrived at Grandmother's door."

and that's the end of
part 1. tonight, while you're waiting
to fall asleep, you

may find Little Red
lifting the latch of your dreams.
all the better to

be continued

HM 2015 (c)

The Diamond Miners are in the midst of comparing points of view in different versions of well-known folktales--you can guess which one this week.  We read slowly, we stop and start, stop and restart, check for comprehension ("BING!"), break the story into Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  I'm finding that at the accomplished age of seven children are susceptible to relying on what they already know and are prone to "unhearing" new information.  That's why Lon Po Po has been so gripping--familiar but different, and what's a gingko nut?

From an Education Week article on how we pose our questions to support deep interpretation: "teachers often read through a chapter or text selection completely before starting a discussion....As part of the training course, they are learning to plan stopping points where the text is ambiguous and launch questions that get students thinking about what is going on. "We want to teach kids to not just start at the beginning and read all the way through," Matsumura said. "A good reader is thinking about what they are reading as they are going through."" Well, duh.

But my goal is "never a duh moment."  I can't assume that even the high flyers in my class are coordinating all the moving parts that deep comprehension depends upon. We teachers and writers do it easily, but precisely BECAUSE we are skilled and effective literacy practitioners, it can be hard for us to slow down enough to elucidate this "behind the scenes" thinking we are doing as we read.

So, again, there is no way I can get through 6-8 titles in a week, and the ones we do spend precious time with better be really good.  So thanks, Trina Schart Hyman, for Little Red Riding Hood, and thanks, Ed Young for Lon Po Po, and thanks  Wilhelmina Harper for The Gunniwolf....you make us want to work hard to be deeper readers.

The roundup today is with Laura at her spiffy new-look blog at Writing the World for Kids--go lift the latch on her door and see what hiding inside!

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8. Perfect Picture Book Friday - Leah's Pony

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

There's nothing like Friday, is there?  Especially before a long weekend :)

And Perfect Picture Books just make Fridays even better - tons of great new reading material for your weekend, be it regular or long :)

This was one of those odd weeks when my pile of picture books failed to wow me.  I read book after book thinking, "meh" - not what you want in a perfect picture book!  I'm always a little depressed when this happens.  I wonder if I'm missing something, since clearly a whole team of people thought these books were great enough to publish.  But whatever the reason, there was no perfect picture book in this week's collection, so instead of one of the newer titles from my pile of meh, I went with an older title from my bookshelf (signed to my daughter by Michael Garland :)) a book I have loved for years.  I hope you'll enjoy it!

Title: Leah's Pony
Written By: Elizabeth Friedrich
Illustrated By: Michael Garland
Boyds Mills Press, February 1996, Fiction (historical)

Suitable For Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: historical fiction (1930s Dust Bowl), family, love, sacrifice

Opening:  "The year the corn grew tall and straight, Leah's papa bought her a pony.  The pony was strong and swift and sturdy, with just a snip of white at the end of his soft black nose.  Papa taught Leah to place her new saddle right in the middle of his back and tighten the girth around his belly, just so."

Brief Synopsis: Leah's pony was swift and strong.  She loved him dearly, and together they raced across the fields under summer skies.  But then came a year when the corn didn't grow, locusts blackened the sky, and the earth turned to dust, the beginning of the great drought (the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.)  Leah's family is faced with losing their farm and their livelihood.  It takes Leah's strength and courage to save them.

Links To Resources: Facts about the Dust Bowl with links to further resources; Lesson Plan for the Dust Bowl (aimed at 5th grade but can be altered); Dust Bowl info and lesson plans for grades 2-5; Photo Gallery - The Dust Bowl; Dust Bowl Facts & Summary

Why I Like This Book:  This is historical fiction at its best, bringing a slice of history to life in a way that is not only accessible but irresistible for young readers.  The story is simply told with all the right details, and so emotionally compelling I dare anyone not to get choked up at the end!  Michael Garland's art is absolutely stunning and a perfect fit for the story.  With slightly longer text as well as the historical context, this is a wonderful choice for older picture book readers.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a wonderful long weekend, everyone, and Happy Columbus Day!  I'm hoping to post the guidelines for the Halloweensie Contest...soon-ish...so stay tuned!!!

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9. The music next door

It was midnight and I had just slumped into bed, exhausted after one of my first days on-call as a new intern, and still adjusting to life in a new apartment. As my nagging reflections on the day were just beginning to subside, insistent knocking at my door jolted me back to alertness. Dragging myself out of bed to open the door, I was surprised to see a diminutive elderly lady who appeared quite perturbed.

The post The music next door appeared first on OUPblog.

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This book is both a quiet coming-of-age novel, and a suspenseful mystery, making it somewhat difficult to review without providing spoilers. In some ways, it was a fairly typical YA novel about a high school girl - yet, there was a lot else going... Read the rest of this post

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11. Inside One Stop For Writers: Our Descriptive Thesaurus Collections

It’s One Stop For Writers launch week, and we are celebrating up a storm! Have you entered for one of seven 1-Year Subscriptions to One Stop For Writers, or the Pay-it-forward Education Gift for a workshop seat in writing coach Jami Gold’s terrific online class? If not, follow this link for all the details, and good luck!

FleuronAs some of you know, the heart of One Stop For Writers is our signature Descriptive Thesaurus Collection. Visitors to this blog (and The Bookshelf Muse before it) have watched Becca and I create highly-sensory, real-life description lists for many different areas (Character Emotions, Settings, Symbolism and Weather, just to name a few.) Delving deep to understand these aspects of description allows us to write rich, compelling stories. So, when writers asked us to, we started turning a few into books.

Now we’re writers, and we love books! But the list format we use isn’t always an easy read in digital format, and often requires a lot of scrolling to see an entire entry. We knew there had to be a better way.

Lucky for us Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows, is a genius. He could see how the right medium would turn our thesaurus collections into a top notch resource for writers that would be super easy to use.

setting thesaurus(click to enlarge)

At One Stop, each thesaurus is neatly organized and entries are easy to view. A Helpful Tip guides writers into thinking about how an area of description can be woven into the story to do more, and show more. There’s a tutorial for each thesaurus as well, helping writers understand the power of specific detail and how it can be used in the story for maximum effect.

Police Car Entry

(click to enlarge–a partial screenshot)

Setting is a big area of description. So much more than a backdrop for a scene, it is loaded with opportunities to convey mood, foreshadow, and act as a tuning fork for symbolism and theme. And that’s just to start! Using sensory details when describing your character in a specific location is important for pulling readers into the story.

You might be wondering how authentic the description is for each of our Setting entries. Well, whenever possible, Becca and I would visit the location ourselves so we could observe the sights, smells, sounds, textures and tastes first hand. The entire Setting Collection (once it is finished) will be around 250 entries. That’s a lot of research.

arrestedIt wasn’t easy to visit some locations, but we were determined. As you can see in this photo…well, sometimes we had to go to great lengths to get exact detail.

(In case you were wondering, it is rather terrifying being arrested, even when it involves being set up by relatives with connections so you can get the “full experience” of being handcuffed and put into the back of police car!)

So, let’s just say the details in this particular entry are very accurate. If you like, swing by One Stop and check it out for yourself!


Before you head off with the rest of your day, there’s one more cool thing happening:

March to a Bestseller IIIMarch To A Bestseller’s One-Day sale. This is where you can get a kindle copy of many great writing craft books (INCLUDING The Emotion Thesaurus) for .99 cents each. Yep, a buck! There are many great authors participating such as K.M. Weiland, Mary Buckham, Bryan Cohen, Jessica Bell and more, so if you’re looking to beef up on your writing skills, now’s the time.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000046_00058]I don’t anticipate The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
will be priced at .99 cents again, so if you have a writing partner or critique group who doesn’t yet have our resource, feel free to let them know.

Click to tweet: Love The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression? Today it’s only .99 cents: http://ctt.ec/U2KoC+ #amwriting


Becca is over at Kristen Lamb’s (she is a national treasure–I hope you are all following this blog!) discussing Making Story MAGIC—How To Bring the Elements All Together. Feel free to check it out!

And I am over at Romance University discussing How Characters Often Resist Attraction in Romance, and How To Show Their Body Language Struggle (plus I’m sharing some great body language cheat sheets for HIM and HER!)

Happy writing,


The post Inside One Stop For Writers: Our Descriptive Thesaurus Collections appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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12. Harvest

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13. Poetry Friday -- Rereading Frost

Rereading Frost 
by Linda Pastan

Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?

At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

as you get to the top of a hill
in Colorado, say, in high summer
and just look down at all that brimming color.

(read the rest of the poem here)

That first stanza...so true, right? But the best part of writing is working through the "Why bother?", keeping my eyes open and my pencil ready, and receiving amazing gifts from the universe and my imagination. Ah, writing!

Laura has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Writing the World for Kids, and -- make a note of this -- on October 30, the roundup will be at Jone's place, Check It Out, instead of here at A Year of Reading.

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14. (American) National Translation Award shortlists

       The American Literary Translators Association has announced the shortlists for the 2015 National Translation Awards in Poetry and Prose.
       Two of the shortlisted prose translations are under review at the complete review -- Running Through Beijing and Why I Killed My Best Friend -- and I've read two of the others (Erpenbck, Jansson). (And I've also read the Tolstoy -- but not in the nominated translation.)

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15. Poetry Friday with a review of Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems

Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems
Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Marylin Hafner
Poetry Picture book
For ages 4 to 6
Little Brown, 2001, 978-0316362511
Families come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as small as “One and another,” and they can be big enough to include dear friends who are so close that they too are family. Humans are not the only ones who have families either. “A pair like a kanga and roo is a family,” as are “A calf and a cow that go moo.”
   In this heartwarming picture poetry book Mary Ann Hoberman celebrates families, bringing readers a collection of poems that explore relationships and connections. She begins with a little boy who tells us about his baby brother. We can hear the love in this child’s voice as he tells us that his brother is “beautiful” and how “when he laughs, his dimple shows.” Another child tells us about the walks that he takes with his father. Often his father talks about “how it was when he was small” when he used to take walks with his dad, and how his dad took walks with his dad. Four generations of children in this family have gone down to the beach to watch the ships go by.
   In another poem a little boy introduces us to all his grandparents. We hear how one grandma bakes him birthday cakes and “rubs my tummy when it aches.” His other grandma knits clothes for him, and when he got the chicken pox “She let me have her button box.” One of his grandfathers, the stout one, is teaching him how to yodel; and his tall and thin grandfather is good at basketball.
   In a wonderful poem called Relatives we get to meet one little boy’s colorful family when they are all gathered together in his home. Each one has a comment to make about the boy, and they all talk “as if I couldn’t hear.” He hears about how he has got “Uncle Perry’s nose,” “He looks a tiny bit too thin,” and “has his mother’s knobbly knees.” By the end of the discussion the poor little boy wonders “who I really am.”
  As the pages are turned we hear about special moments in children’s lives that are touched by the actions of their relatives. There is the little girl whose mother cares for her lovingly when the little girl is sick, and then there is the child whose father now lives in a different house and has “another family.” Every time the child and the father get together they have a visit full of happiness, but when the father drives away the child always feels the loss.

   Throughout this book wonderful verse is paired with artwork to give us a taste of moments in children’s lives that are sometimes sweet and sometimes funny. 

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16. NASA discovers water on Mars again: take it with a pinch of salt

The discovery of water on Mars has been claimed so often that I’d forgive anyone for being skeptical about the latest announcement. Frozen water, ice, has been proven on Mars in many places, there are lots of ancient canyons hundreds of kilometres long that must have been carved by rivers, and much smaller gullies that are evidently much younger.

The post NASA discovers water on Mars again: take it with a pinch of salt appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. Review: Curious Cat! Learn About the Seasons, by Maria Denjongpa and Phurba Namgay

Curious Cat! Learn About the Seasons, written by Maria Denjongpa, illustrated by Phurba Namgay (Scholastic Early Science series, Scholastic India, 2014)

Curious Cat! Learn About the Seasons
written by Maria Denjongpa, illustrated by Phurba Namgay
(Scholastic Early Science series, Scholastic … Continue reading ...

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18. Busy Baby: TRUCKS and FRIENDS by Sara Gillingham

Sara Gillingham is an award-winning art director, designer and author of a shelf of great board books. I've reviewed many of her books and I love her style and palette as well as the sweet simplicity of her storytelling. Gillingham's newest books, TRUCKS and FRIENDS are both part of the new Chronicle Books, purveyors of visually stunning art and cook books, superb children's books and

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19. Friday Linky List - October 9, 2015

From BuzzFeed (via PW): 49 Halloween Costumes All Book Lovers Will Appreciate

At PW: Make Way for Vikings: New Books Inspired by Norse Myths - featuring Thor Speaks! by my friend Vicky Alvear Shecter!!

At HuffPost: Minimalist Children's Book Covers Test Your Knowledge of Kid Lit

From The Guardian: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Illustrated Edition - in pictures

From DigitalArts: Illustrator calls out department store for trying to exploit her - Should You Work For Free?

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20. French prize not-so-longlists

       Several more French literary prizes have cut back their longlists in their second rounds this week: the prix Renaudot (see here) and the prix Médicis (see here).
       The big news here is that Boualem Sansal's 2084 didn't survive to this stage in either one's French-novel category.

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21. Catching up with Courtney McCarroll, Assistant Editor in Psychology

Every so often, we catch up with someone in our offices to learn more about life in publishing, from how editors cultivate a list to how each office's coffee brews compare. This week, we're concerned with matters of the mind and a member of our editorial team. Courtney McCarroll is an Assistant Editor in Psychology, and recently celebrated her one-year anniversary of working at Oxford University Press.

The post Catching up with Courtney McCarroll, Assistant Editor in Psychology appeared first on OUPblog.

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22. I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

I Will Always Write Back: how one letter changed two lives by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch Little Brown. 2015 ISBN: 9780316241311 Grades 6-12 I borrowed this book from my local public library. When her English teacher announced a pen pal program, seventh grader Caitlin thought the crazy-sounding place of Zimbabwe sounded intriguing. I’d never heard of Zimbabwe.

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23. Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel laureate 2015

       Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich was named this year's Nobel laureate (she'll only officially be awarded the prize at the 10 December Nobel award ceremony); my coverage from yesterday provides many of the basic informational links about her, her work, and early reactions to it.

       Was this a surprise ?
       Apparently not -- at least to the extent that a Nobel announcement can be unsurprising. She was -- and long had been -- the odds-on betting favorite (3/1 at Ladbrokes coming into the final day) and, for example, when Aftonbladet asked their critics to name their guesses and their favorites Alexievich was a popular choice.

       Does she deserve the prize ?
       As I suggested in my final Nobel preview -- and as indeed I suggested back in 2013 in assessing her chances back then -- she covers a lot of what one might expect on any Nobel checklist. The Nobel committee continues to show a particular appetite for recent-European-horrors-probing writing, whether about Nazi Europe (Modiano, Kertész), Communist totalitarianism (Herta Müller), or bourgeois society (Jelinek), and Alexievich's bona fides -- a product of the Soviet system (she won Soviet literary prizes back in the 1980s), a citizen of Europe's most totalitarian state, her subject matters -- are unimpeachable. The many other prizes she has won -- quite a variety, too -- suggest there's considerable quality there too.
       English-speaking readers are of course at a disadvantage, because even though she hasn't published very many books, her Voices from Chernobyl is the only one that has been readily available for quite a while, and the only other title that reached much of an audience was Zinky Boys (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). (She has appeared two other times in English, but neither made much of an impression (and it's unlikely you'd come across copies easily): War's Unwomanly Face was published by Soviet publisher Progress Publishers -- and, widely forgotten, a UK edition, in a different translation, of Voices from Chernobyl came out back in 1999 (the book did not take off until Dalkey Archive Press got US rights and commissioned a new translation which was only published in 2005; see also Chad Post's account at Three Percent, Svetlana Alexievich for the Nobel !).)
       The second translation of Voices from Chernobyl won the National Book Critics Circle award for non-fiction, and her more recent works have been widely hailed and very well reviewed in Europe (where they have appeared in many languages -- the US/UK really lags here).
       So overall it's hard to find fault with the Swedish Academy's decision.

       What do I think ?
       Oh, dear. Longtime readers know that I am a fan of fiction, and not so much of non. I don't like memoirs, and I have an aversion to testimony-writing; the modern journalistic fashion for anecdotal and personal stories drvies me nuts (I want my news impersonal and factual (to whatever extent that's possible)). So I'm not the ideal audience for a 'creative' documentary-style writer like Alexievich; indeed, I'd rather not be an audience for it at all.
       That said, I can't really argue with the prize. I think she's worthy and deserving -- even that she's a good choice. But it's not writing that particularly interests me -- and I already dread the imitators that will follow Alexievich's writing path, emboldened by this validation of it. ('No, no ! Turn back !' I want to yell ....)

       One of the fun things about the Nobel is that it's often small publishers that get a bit of glory here. In the Irish Times Eileen Battersby writes about Nobel Prize for Literature: Courage defines Alexievich's work -- and here John O'Brien also talks about how Dalkey came to publish her.
       Meanwhile, small UK publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions did well in nabbing the rights to rights to Время секонд хэнд ('Second-hand time'; see also the literary agency publicity page), a book that suddenly has a much higher profile. (Translator Bela Shayevich has already written a piece for The Guardian explaining how Svetlana Alexievich builds individual voices into a mighty chorus.)

       Last year at a weblog at The New Yorker Philip Gourevitch had already tried to make the case that Nonfiction Deserves a Nobel, and now he gets to crow Nonfiction Wins a Nobel. Similarly, at Slate Katy Waldman cheers that Svetlana Alexievich's Nobel Prize Is a Huge Win for Nonfiction Writing.
       (Again: I can't really disagree -- indeed, I can see at least considering many more non-fiction writers (and note that, while none has gotten one in ages, the Swedish Academy used to consider far more authors who did not write fiction, poetry, or drama (which was also a result of many more such writers getting nominated -- remember, as always: only nominated writers are considered for the prize, and most nominators and nominating bodies nowadays are surely much more likely to suggest a writer of fiction (or poetry) rather than non-fiction)). The thing is: I prefer pure fiction.)

       All sorts of other articles and commentary have appeared, too, almost all of it very supportive -- from BelTA (Svetlana Alexievich: It is not my victory alone, but also a victory of our culture and the country Culture) to Jonathon Sturgeon arguing at Flavorwire Why Svetlana Alexievich's Nobel Prize Is Good for Literature.
       And there's also Peter Boxall at The Conversation arguing Svetlana Alexievich exposes the deep contradictions of the literature Nobel. Boxall suggests/claims:

Alexievich's work is difficult to categorise, and hence difficult to sell, and so nearly invisible
       This is both strange logic and false: Alexievich's first book reportedly sold millions in the Soviet Union, and she has done very well these past few years in much of Europe; it's only in the US/UK that she's been low-visibility -- in no small part because no publisher has been willing to take on more of her work and actually try publishing it.

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24. Spotlight and Giveaway: Thunder on the Plains by Rosanne Bittner

Enter for your chance to win Thunder on the Plains by Rosanne Bittner!

Thunder on the Plains Excerpt

Sunny held her chin higher and faced him. “I’ll race you,” she told him.


She gave him a daring look, a new boldness in her eyes. “I said I’ll race you. If you catch me and manage to pull me off my horse, you’ve won!” She charged away, and Colt sat there a minute, wondering what she was up to. What was this sudden change in conversation? She was like a crazy woman today, and she had turned his feelings a thousand different ways.

Colt watched her, the way her bottom fit her saddle, the way her hair blew in the wind. Her daring look stirred his pride, and the race was on. He kicked Dancer into a hard run, manly desires stirring in him at the challenge of catching her. He held the reins with one hand and smashed out his cigarette against his saddle horn with the other, tossing the stub aside and leaning into the ride. “Get up there, Dancer,” he shouted to the horse.

Dancer’s mane flew up into Colt’s face as he galloped up and down more sandhills. He noticed Sunny veer to the west rather than north, and he turned Dancer, taking a cut between two more sandhills and emerging near Sunny as she came around the end of one hill. She screamed and laughed when she saw him, and now he knew he could catch her.

He came closer, the determination to reach her now a burning need. It went against all reason, was totally foreign to all sense of maturity. They were like children for the moment, and yet not children at all. The emotions it stirred in him to think of catching her were dangerous, yet he could not stop himself. He came ever closer, and now he was on her!

Sunny screamed when she felt his strong arm come around her. Suddenly, she was free of her horse and sitting sideways on Dancer, a powerful arm holding her. She covered her face and laughed as Colt slowed his horse. “Now you are my captive,” he teased.

She threw her head back and faced him, and both of them sobered. For a moment they sat there breathing heavily from the ride, watching each other.

“We had better go catch your horse,” he finally told her.

“We’ll find it later,” she answered. She moved her hands to touch his powerful arms, ran her fingers over his bare shoulders. “Tell me, Colt. What does an Indian do with his captive?”

For a moment everything went silent for him. Nothing existed but the utterly beautiful woman in his arms, her tempting mouth, her open blouse, her blue eyes, her golden hair. He moved a hand to rest against the flat of her belly. “He takes her to his tipi and makes her his slave,” he answered, his voice gruff with passion.

She touched his face. “That’s what I want you to do with me, Colt. Make me your slave—today, tonight, tomorrow.”

He shook his head. “Sunny—”

She touched his lips. “Don’t say it, Colt.” Her eyes glistened with tears. “I don’t know what’s right and wrong anymore, and today I don’t care. I just want you. I’ve always wanted you.” A tear slipped down her cheek. “It can’t be anybody else, Colt, not the first time. I—”

His kiss cut off her words, a deep, hot kiss that removed any remaining inhibitions. She could barely get her breath for the thrill of it, the ecstasy of his hand moving to her breast, the ache of womanly desires that surged in her when his tongue moved between her lips. Dancer moved slightly, and she clung to Colt. He left her lips for a moment, keeping one arm around her as he slid off the horse and pulled her after him.

Book Information

Title: Thunder on the Plains

Author: Rosanne Bittner

ISBN: 978-1492631200

Release Date: October 6, 2015

Imprint: Sourcebooks Casablanca


With more than 7 million books in print, RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award–winning and USA Today Bestselling author Rosanne Bittner pens a historical Western romance filled with dangerous cowboys, capable heroines, and an epic love story that sweeps across the Old West.


Sunny Landers wants a big life—as big and free as the untamed land that stretches before her. Land she will help her father conquer to achieve his dream of a transcontinental railroad. She won’t let a cold, creaky wagon, murderous bandits or stampeding buffalo stand in her way. She wants it all—including Colt Travis.


Like the land of his birth, half–Cherokee Colt Travis is wild, hard, and dangerous. He is a drifter, a wilderness scout with no land and no prospects hired by the Landers family to guide their wagon train. He knows Sunny is out of his league and her father would never approve, but beneath the endless starlit sky, anything seems possible…

Buy Links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Vdn1cv

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1LAyKkz

iBooks: http://apple.co/1h0y3nP

Author Bio

USA Today bestseller and award-winning novelist Rosanne Bittner is known as the “Queen of Western Historical Romance” for her thrilling love stories and historical authenticity. Her epic romances span the West—and are often based on Rosanne’s personal visits to each setting. She lives in Coloma, Michigan, with her husband and two sons.

Social Media

Website: http://www.rosannebittner.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RosanneBittnerAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rosannebittner

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/67759.Rosanne_Bittner

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25. NEW SEASON - seasalt

For our Friday eye candy post today we have some brand new packaging designs from Cornish Company Seasalt. The label best known for fashion are gradually expanding with more and more homewares each season and launching very soon will be a new collection of home fragrances in pretty packaging. The prints are all designed in house by Sophie Chadwick and feature beautiful painterly flowers,

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