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1. Why I'm a Happy Hybrid, by Jenny Alexander

Today we have very welcome guest post from Jenny Alexander, who continues the discussion started by Nicola Morgan and Diana Kimpton on self-publishing.

In recent posts, Nicola Morgan wrote: ‘Why I don’t want to self-publish again’ and Diana Kimpton: ‘Why I’ve switched to self-publishing’ -  and both of them made points I completely agree with. I’m like the characters in the supermarket ad - ‘I like this one... but I also like this one!’ I’m just delighted that now we have a choice.

I’ve got two books in the publication process at the moment, one with a traditional publisher and one that I’m publishing myself.

The Binding will be published by A and C Black, in February 2015.

 I like this one because:
  • I’ve got a brilliant editor who loves the book – which is very affirming!
  • I haven’t had to do anything except some light edits and help in choosing the cover.
  • A team of top experts have taken care of all the design so I know it will be a top quality product.
  • I’ve been paid an advance and will receive royalties.
  • In an increasingly competitive market, there’s still kudos in being traditionally published.
  • I won’t be completely on my own with promoting and marketing.
  • My agent will be taking it to Frankfurt, seeking foreign deals.
    Writing in the House of Dreams will be published by Five Lanes Press (ie me) on October 15th 2014.

    I like this one because:
    • I’ve had complete creative control.
    • I’ve set my own publication date and chosen my own sales channels.
    • I know it will stay in print for as long as I want it to'
    • I’ll earn a far higher royalty on units sold'
    • It’s felt completely empowering to be able to give it a chance.
    Before the self-publishing option was available, this child-of-my-heart book would have sat on my shelf, gathering dust. I know it’s of publishable quality because my agent was happy to represent it and the feedback we’ve had from publishers has been entirely positive, including such comments as ‘I found it gripping’ and ‘I read it in a single sitting,’ which is pretty good for a non-fiction book. The reason most of them gave for rejecting it was that the subject is ‘too niche for the market.’

    Because it’s hard to get traditional publishers to take on books which don’t have mass-market appeal these days, experienced authors are increasingly turning to self-publishing for their hard-to-place and out-of-print books and therefore the self-publishing route is becoming more respectable.
    Self-published authors can join professional societies such as the Society of Authors on the strength of their sales figures, and submit their books for literary prizes. Self-publishing is no longer always the second choice, and I won’t be looking for a traditional publisher for my second book about writing, When a Writer Isn’t Writing. Here’s a sneak preview of the cover.

    I definitely hope to go on being traditionally published as well, but it feels a lot less difficult and soul-destroying trying to sustain a writing career in such a sales-driven market now that I know everything I write which is of publishable quality will be published, because I can do it myself.

    Jenny's website is: http://writinginthehouseofdreams.com

    0 Comments on Why I'm a Happy Hybrid, by Jenny Alexander as of 9/15/2014 11:22:00 PM
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    2. On our way to the THRIFT SHOP…

    Today, Lew and I had an hour to kill, before we needed to pick Mose up from school. I decided to run some errands, and stopped home to pick up a big bag of clothes for the thrift shop, as well as a laundry basket full of books…

    ew did NOT like my idea of donating the basket of books.

    But then we drove by a Little Free Library, situated right at Lew’s old preschool, and he said he thought it might be okay to donate a few books to the Ormewood School.   So we did that.

    Then we drove a little further down Woodland, and found…. THIS!

    Wow, Lew was really impressed with the metalworking!  He rewarded the library with a few books.

    We continued to head to the thrift shop, but guess what we ran into, right on that same street?

    After that we dropped off the big bag of clothes, and it was time to head back to the school to get Mose.  But on our way we got a little sidetracked…

    And then, at the elementary school itself, we simply couldn’t resist…

    By now we only had about half the books left!  And when Mose heard what we’d be doing, he wanted in on the fun.  So we drive the 2 miles home verrrry slowly home, and we found…




    All on our drive home from school!

    Now we were down to four books (which someone insisted we could NOT give away). So we decided to go home for a snack.

    But not without doubling back to one of our previous stops first.  Because, as Lew explained, “Mose, you have GOT to see the faucet.”

    Faucet? What faucet?


    Man, I love my neighborhood.

    4 Comments on On our way to the THRIFT SHOP…, last added: 9/15/2014
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    3. Lyrics

    I have a problem.  I long for days with no to-dos in them - just puttering.  I like puttering.  BUT - but, I have so many things I want to do.

    One of the things I want to do is write more song lyric-y poetry.  I even want to write more songs.
    So I signed on to a FB group that challenges the members to write one song a month using a prompt suggested by members of the group.  And by write, the group doesn't expect a handwritten score that can be played by a quartet.  No, all the group wants is a YouTube, or an mp3, or an iTunes of the song.  Your phone can record the song, even.

    Except my phone can't.  And after the first three or four months, I stopped trying.

    Here are the prompts I missed:
    one perfect day
    an antique photo in a shop
    something to love about everyone

    I decided to cheat!  I decided to roll all those themes into one song.  Here are the lyrics I wrote:

     On a perfect day, one spent with you,
    I chanced upon a scene
    Of an old farm house in a dusty frame
    So gray it was almost green.

    And you smiled as if you had a thought
    You had to keep from me
    You bought me that dusty frame
    Since that old house spoke to me.

    There is something to love about everyone
    You whispered that night in our bed.
    That old farm looked like a promised land
    to that farmer when he wed.

    There is something to love about everyone
    Was your mantra from then on.
    That farmer’s work,  or my strange love
    for a place that was long gone.

    That frame is safely packed away
    with the other things you left
    When you knew that your time on earth was done
    and I found myself bereft.

    And your mantra I’ve etched into my skin
    A glimmering tattoo
    There is something to love about everyone
    Because I once loved you.

    0 Comments on Lyrics as of 9/15/2014 6:44:00 PM
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    4. Recently Received

    100 Years of Swiss Design on grainedit.com


    The mailman has been good to us this week and we’ve received an impressive list of titles. Included are new books from Lars Muller, Princeton Architectural Press, Laurence King, Chronicle Books, Rizzoli, Thames & Hudson and Nobrow. See all the goodies after the jump.




    100 Years of Swiss Design on grainedit.com

    100 Years of Swiss Design on grainedit.

    100 Years of Swiss Design on grainedit.com

    100 Years of Swiss Design on grainedit.com

    100 Years of Swiss Design on grainedit.com

    100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design
    Edited by Christian Brändle, Karin Gimmi, Barbara Junod, Christina Reble, Bettina Richter, and Museum of Design Zurich
    384 Pages / 8.7″x 12.9″

    100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design takes a fresh look at Swiss typography and photo-graphics, posters, corporate image design, book design, journalism and typefaces over the past hundred years. With illuminating essays by prominent experts in the field and captivating illustrations, this book, designed by the Zürich studio NORM, presents the diversity of contemporary visual design while also tracing the fine lines of tradition that connect the work of different periods. The changes in generations and paradigms as manifested in their different visual languages and convictions are organized along a timeline as well as by theme.

    Available at Amazon, Lars Muller, and your local book shop.



    Grafica Strada by Louise Fili

    Grafica Strada by Louise Fili

    Grafica Strada by Louise Fili

    Grafica Strada by Louise Fili

    Grafica Della Strada: The Signs of Italy
    By Louise Fili / Published by Princeton Architectural Press
    264 Pages / 9″ x 6.5″

    For more than three decades, renowned graphic designer and self described Italophile Louise Fili has traveled the cities and countryside of Italy cataloging the work of sign craftsmen in whose hands type takes on new life with a tantalizing menu of styles. Classical, eclectic, or Futurist; in gold leaf, marble, brass, wood, wrought iron, enamel, ceramic, or neon; painted, carved, inlaid, etched, tiled, or stenciled, the creative possibilities are endless. Grafica della Strada is Fili’s photographic diary of hundreds of Italy s most inventive restaurant, shop, hotel, street, and advertising signs.

    Available at Amazon, PA Press and your local book shop.

    Fifty Years of Illustration on grainedit.com

    Fifty Years of Illustration on grainedit.com

    Fifty Years of Illustration on grainedit.com

    Fifty Years of Illustration
    By Lawrence Zeegan / Published by Laurence KIng
    384 Pages / 9⅞ x 7¾ ins

    This book charts contemporary illustration’s rich history: the rampant idealism of the 1960s, the bleak realism of the 1970s, the over-blown consumerism of the 1980s, the digital explosion of the 1990s, followed by the increasing diversification of illustration in the early twenty-first century.

    The book explores the contexts in which the discipline has operated and looks historically, sociologically, politically and culturally at the key factors at play across each decade, whilst artworks by key illustrators bring the decade to life.

    Pre-order at Amazon, Laurence King or your local book shop.


    Marimekko in Patterns

    Marimekko in Patterns

    Marimekko in Patterns

    Marimekko: In Patterns
    By Marimekko / Published by Chronicle Books
    248 Pages / 8 11/16 x 11 in

    Internationally beloved Finnish design brand Marimekko’s iconic patterns grace home décor, apparel, and accessories, and have informed and influenced tastemakers worldwide for over half a century. Richly illustrated with photographs and prints both classic and new, this vibrant volume offers a behind-the-scenes tour of the brand’s creative process. A colorful legacy is revealed, along with the innovative creators—from 1950s pioneers to twenty-first-century masters—who have shaped the company’s heritage and continue to make visual magic today.

    Pre-order at Amazon, Chronicle Books and your local book shop.


    Julia Rothman Book

    Julia Rothman Book

    Julia Rothman Book

    The Who, the What, and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History
    By Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, and Matt Lamothe / Published by Chronicle Books
    168 Pages/ 8″x10″

    In the bestselling tradition of The Where, the Why, and the How, this offbeat illustrated history reveals 65 people you’ve probably never heard of, but who helped shape the word as we know it. Muses and neighbors, friends and relatives, accomplices and benefactors—such as Michael and Joy Brown, who gifted Harper Lee a year’s worth of wages to help her write To Kill a Mockingbird. Or John Ordway, the colleague who walked with Lewis and Clark every step of the way. Each eye-opening story of these unsung heroes is written by a notable historian and illustrated by a top indie artist, making The Who, the What, and the When a treasure trove of word and image for history buffs, art lovers, and anyone who rejoices in unexpected discovery.

    Pre-order at Amazon, Chronicle books and your local book shop.


    Collectors Edition by Stuart Tolley

    Collectors Edition by Stuart Tolley

    Collectors Edition by Stuart Tolley

    Collectors Edition: Innovative Packaging and Graphics
    By Stuart Tolley / Published by Thames & Hudson
    288 Pages / 8″x 10.1″

    This global survey brings together over 170 examples of innovative and inspired packaging from the worlds of music, book publishing and magazines that have been released as a collector’s, limited or deluxe edition.

    Organized into four sections – Boxed; Multiples; Hand; and Extras – each example is accompanied by a project description and vital reference information about the format, materials and finishes used in the design, and the client, record label, publisher and designer behind the work. A broad spectrum of formats and genres is included, ranging from editions of albums by international recording artists to ultra-rare and expensive publications.

    Available at Amazon, Thames & Hudson and your local book shop.

    Maira Kalman book

    Maira Kalman book

    Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag: 31 Objects from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
    Written by Maira Kalman
    48 Pages / 5.9″x8.3″

    Maira Kalman’s exuberant illustrations and humorous commentary bring design history to life in this inspired ABC book that celebrates thirty-one objects from the Cooper Hewitt, in time for its long-awaited reopening. “A. Ah-ha! There you Are.” begins Maira Kalman’s joyfully illustrated romp through the treasures of Cooper Hewitt’s design collection. With her signature wit and warm humor, Kalman’s ABC book introduces children and adults to the myriad ways design touches our lives. Posing the question “If you were starting a museum, what would you put in your collection?”, Kalman encourages the reader to put pen to paper and send in personal letters—an intimate, interactive gesture to top off her unique tour of the world of design.

    Pre-order at Amazon, Rizzoli and your local book shop.

    In a Sense by Roman Muradov

    (In a Sense) Lost and Found
    By Roman Muradov / Published by Nobrow
    56 Pages / 5.9″x8.3″

    (In a Sense) Lost and Found explores the theme of innocence by treating it as a tangible object – something that can be used, lost, mistreated. Muradov’s crisp, delicate style conjures a world of strange bookstores, absurd conspiracies and wordplay. A surreal tale told in the mould of the best American comics.

    Available at Amazon, Nobrow and your local book shop



    Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.


    Also worth viewing…
    2013 Book Gift Guide
    Recently Received Books: April
    Recently Received Books: May

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    5. The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond

    Have you ever imagined what the world would be like if the Axis powers, Germany, Japan and Italy, had won World War II.  Well,  author Caroline Tung Richmond has done just that in her debut novel The Only Thing to Fear.  

    It's been 80 years since the Allied Forces lost the war and surrendered after being defeated by Hitler's genetically-engineered super soldiers.  The United States has been divided into three territories, the Western American Territory ruled by Japan, the Italian Dakotas, and the Eastern American Territories ruled by the Nazis.

    For Zara St. James, 16, living in the Shenandoah Valley in the Eastern American Territory, life has been hard.   She has lived with her Kleinbauer (peasant) Uncle Red since her mother was killed by the Nazis in a Resistance mission when Zara was 8.  Since then, Uncle Red has wanted nothing more to do with Resistance matters, but Zara can't wait to join Revolutionary Alliance, and with good reason.
    English on her mother's side, Japanese on her father's, Zara is considered a Mischling by the Germans and there has never been a place for mixed-race children in Nazi society. But Zara is also hiding a secret, one that would mean instant death - she is an Anomaly, able control the air around her.  Anomalies are the result of genetic testing by the Nazis in their concentration camps in the 1930s and, as super soldiers, they helped them win the war.  But only full-blooded Aryans can be Anomalies, everyone else is put to death instantly.

    Into all this comes Bastian Eckhartt, son of the formidable Colonel Eckhart, commanding officer of Fort Goering.  Bastian attends the elite military academy where Zara is assigned cleaning duties and lately she has noticed he has been looking her way more and more frequently.  But what could the son of a powerful Nazi leader possibly want with a Kleinbauer who garners no respect whatsoever?  The answer may just surprise you.

    I was really looking forward to reading The Only Thing to Fear when I first heard of it.  There aren't many alternative histories for teen readers about the allied Forces losing the war to the Axis powers and what that would have meant for the future.  Unfortunately, this doesn't come across as an alternative history so much as it really just another dystopian novel.   What seems to be missing is a strong sense of ideology - on both the Nazi and the peasant side.  The Resistance was there to overthrow the cruel Nazis, but there is not sense of how or why they will make the world better if or when they succeed.

    Richmond's world building was pretty spot on, though not terribly in-depth.  I really like the idea of generically engineered Anomalies, which added an interesting touch.

    Zara is quite headstrong and can be a bit whinny and annoyingly brave in that she takes chances without thinking through the consequences.  Zara has a lot to learn, and a lot of growing up to do, even by the end of the novel (or maybe it is going to be a series and she can mature at a later date).

    One of the things that always amazes me in books about people fighting for their lives is that there is always time for romance.  Yes, Bastian is originally interested in Zara for reasons that have nothing to do with romance, yet even as things take a dangerous turn, they both find they are attracted to each other.

    The Only Thing to Fear is definitely a flawed novel, but still it is one worth reading.  As I said, it is Richmond's debut novel, and though you might find it a bit predictable, it is still a satisfying read.

    The Only Thing to Fear will be available in bookstores on September 30, 2014.

    This book is recommended for readers age 12+
    This book was an E-ARC obtained from NetGalley

    Sophisticated readers might also want to take a look at Philip K. Dick's 1962 Hugo Award winning alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle.

    0 Comments on The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond as of 9/15/2014 7:06:00 PM
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    6. World of Payne on its way from Tom Sniegoski and Frank Cho

    As revealed at Comic Con, then reported in Comic Book Resources, Tom Sniegoski is writing World of Payne, which he co-created with Frank Cho. The story centers around a psychic private investigator named Lockwood Payne, who is actually a modern day sorcerer from an ancient society of witches and wizards and his strange misadventures in the world of the occult and unrealities. Along the way, he's helped by his ever-loyal and unflappable friend, Doctor Hurt, an urgent care doctor in the strip mall next door to Payne's office, and the beautiful Michelle, a witch-in-training.

    The series will be told in a hybrid format, mixing traditional comic book storytelling with prose elements. Look for the first volume, World of Payne: Book 0 - Ghost Dog, in Spring 2015. Check out these preview pictures! Click thumbnails below for full-sized images.

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    7. Clucky and the Magic Kettle

    Clucky and the Magic Kettle
    Author: Mar Pavón
    Illustrator: Mónica Carretero
    Publisher: Cuento de Luz
    Genre: Children
    ISBN: 9788415619444
    Pages: 30
    Price: $15.95

    Buy it at Amazon

    Clucky, the mother hen, takes her three chicks to school every day. But, while learning to read and write, the chicks hear ugly things about themselves and others. As they bring these words home to repeat to Clucky, she reminds them to get that nonsense out of their heads.

    After a while, Clucky uses a bit of her magic to create a bubbling brew full of the mean and nasty things others have said. Then she recycles it, turning it into love, support and gratitude instead.

    Kids face harsh criticism and gossip every day at school, and it’s important for them to realize they don’t have to believe everything they hear or participate in those conversations. Clucky and the Magic Kettle shows kids that they can transform the ugly into the beautiful, making life more enjoyable for everyone.

    Reviewer: Alice Berger

    0 Comments on Clucky and the Magic Kettle as of 9/15/2014 4:08:00 PM
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    8. The Bookbook

    Yeah it’s an add for Ikea but what an ad!

    What cracked me up most? “Notice something? No lag. Each crystal clear page loads instantaneously no matter how fast you scroll.” The bookmark feature is fantastic as is the color coded system for multiple users. And the share feature! But best of all, the voice activated password protection feature. Amazing!

    On a side note, does anyone know what that red fuzzy fruit in the bowl is?

    Please forgive the post today. Monday beat me. Actually, Monday was just fine. The public transit system beat me. I promise tomorrow I will have a review of How Should a Person Be. I’m going to go start working on it now.

    Filed under: Humor

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    9. #661 – Pig and Small by Alex Latimer

    Pig and Small

    Written & Illustrated by Alex Latimer
    Peachtree Publishers                9/01/2104
    Age 4 to 8            32 pages

    “Pig and Bug just want to be friends, but their size differences are proving to be a BIG problem. Pig wants to play games—but Bug is too small to keep up. Bug wants to make things for his friend—but Pig is too big to appreciate the craftsmanship! Just as they’ve given up all hope for a friendship, Pig has an idea. Will it work? (Yes, it will.)”


    “Before this morning, Pig’s nose had never squeaked—not even once.”


    Poor Pig. His nose squeaked so much he even looked it up in a medical book. Squeaky Nose Syndrome is right after Squeaky Mouth Syndrome and before Squeaky Pants Syndrome. Wait, it isn’t there. There is no Squeaky Nose Syndrome. Pig examines his nose himself and finds the problem, which is not a problem at all, but a tiny bug. Bug is waving his arms—all four of them—trying to get Pig’s attention. Bug wants to be friends.

    “Hello,” said Pig.
    “Squeak, squeak,” replied Bug.

    Pig and Bug start doing things together, but their friendship has problems from the start. What Pig likes to do—play board games, ride bikes, catch—was difficult and sometimes a wee bit dangerous for Bug, and what Bug likes to do—make things for Pig, Hide-N-Seek—was too small or too hard for Pig. They decide to part ways.


    I really like the illustrations by Alex Latimer. He also wrote and illustrated Lion vs. Rabbit (reviewed here), The Boy Who Cried Ninja (reviewed here), and Penguin’s Hidden Talent (sadly, not reviewed here). I love the simple lines and colorful characters that always shine with emotions. He also adds small details that I love and often find amusing. Latimer’s picture books use humor and situations to teach young children without seeming to send a message. In Pig and Small, size makes a difference for BIG Pig and small Bug, so they decide not to be friends. However, this is not the end of Pig and Small.

    Pig turns to leave, after he and Bug decided to go their own ways, and the wind, blowing mighty hard, whips a newspaper at Pig, sticking it to his face. Open to the movie section—The Pirate, the Ninja, and the Invisible Dog—Pig realizes there are many things he and Bug can both enjoy. They go see the movie and have a great time. Bug . . . nah, I’ll leave the details between the pages. Do not miss the BIG finale.


    BIG Pig and small Bug decide size does not matter. There are many things the two interesting friends can do together that both enjoy. They enjoyed the movie and talk about it on the way home. There are museums, zoos, plays, and aquariums awaiting them. Size does not matter in friendships. Differences melt away between friends and they find ways to enjoy their time together.

    Once again, Latimer’s soft, easy tones guide us to a new understanding of what friendship is about, or rather what it is not about—size. With kids back in school and the holidays approaching (much too fast), children have the opportunity to make many new friends. After reading Pig and Small, they will understand that size does not matter in friendship, or do friends need to have identical likes to get along and be friends. Friendship, as in life, is a compromise and differences should not matter . . . at least not to friends like Pig and Bug.



    PIG AND SMALL. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Alex Latimer. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.
    Pick up Pig and Small at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPeachtree Publishersyour favorite local bookstore.
    Learn more about Pig and Small HERE

    WIN PIG AND SMALL from Peachtree Publishers HERE

    Meet the author and illustrator, Alex Latimer, at his website:   http://www.alexlatimer.co.za/

    Check out what he has to say at his blog:   http://alexlatimer.blogspot.com/

    Tweet him at his Twitter:   https://twitter.com/almaxla

    Find excellent picture books at the Peachtree Publisher’s website:   http://peachtree-online.com/

    Peachtree has a blog with occasional giveaways here:   http://peachtreepub.blogspot.com/

    Also by Alex Latimer

    The Boy Who Cried Ninja

    The Boy Who Cried Ninja

    Penguin's Hidden Talent

    Penguin’s Hidden Talent

     Lion vs Rabbit

    Lion vs Rabbit

    Just So Stories

    Just So Stories

    The Space Race

    The Space Race

     The South-African Alphabet  

    The South-African Alphabet









    pig and small

    Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

    Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Picture Book Tagged: acceptance, Alex Latimer, children's book reviews, differences in people, friendships, Peachtree Publishers, picture books, Pig and Small, respect, size doesn't matter

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    10. ‘Rick and Morty’ Co-Creator Justin Roiland: “Fuck The Union”

    The overworked and underpaid artists on Adult Swim’s "Rick and Morty" ratified a new labor agreement last week, and 'Rick and Morty''s co-creator doesn't like how it happened.

    0 Comments on ‘Rick and Morty’ Co-Creator Justin Roiland: “Fuck The Union” as of 9/15/2014 10:24:00 PM
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    11. All Change

    It seems like only yesterday that I was announcing on this blog my new position as Strange Horizons reviews editor.  That day, however, was nearly four years ago, and in that time I've worked with incredible people and helped bring fantastic, thought-provoking, necessary criticism into the conversation about genre.  It's been a privilege, and an enormously rewarding experience (not least in the

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    12. First Lines Make Lasting Impressions

    by Sally Matheny

    “My name is Sally.” Remember that famous first line? No?

         “My name is Ishmael.” How about that one? Even if you’ve never read Moby Dick, you probably are familiar with that first sentence. 


           Over the next two months, a class of teens will have my full attention as we indulge in the delicacies of creative writing. Today, the teens discussed the importance of grabbing readers’ attention in the first line or shortly thereafter.

            I read the first lines from several books to them. First, they told me the book they thought the line came from and second, they told me if it intrigued them enough to keep reading.

            See if you recognize what books hold these first lines:

    1.   “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.”

    2.   “When I was in elementary school, I packed my suitcase and told my mother I was going to run away from home.”

    3.   “The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold wet day.”

    4.   “Grandchildren, you asked me about this medal of mine. There is much to be said about it.”

    5.   “That Sam-I-am! That Sam-I-am! I do not like that Sam-I-am!

            Did you guess correctly? 1. Holes  2. My Side of the Mountain3. The Cat in the Hat 4. Code Talker 5. Green Eggs and Ham

    Words quote by twowritingteachers
             This is a fun activity to do with children of any age. Just choose books of which they are familiar. I guarantee most teens will fondly remember those Dr. Seuss books even if it has been ten years since they last heard them read aloud.

            My son recently got into watching trivia game shows. He’s nine and almost all of the questions are out of his realm of comprehension. However, he loves the challenge aspect. Noticing this I now have greater results when I quiz him on school subjects if I do two things. I use my best game show announcer voice and use the words “challenge,” “advance to the next level,” and “you won!” If I cut out pictures of cars, dishwashers, and luggage to present as “prizes,” I wonder will he find that fun or cornball. It’s a fine line, you know.

         The first lines of a book can have a lasting impression. So too, adults have the potential to influence a young life, just by what they say to them:

    first thing in the morning,

    first thing after school,

    first thing after not being successful.

         Make your first lines positive and they’ll definitely have a lasting effect.

    Photo by JanusCastrane

    (*And by the way, when I was a child, one of my favorite books is Try Again, Sally. I wonder why.)


    0 Comments on First Lines Make Lasting Impressions as of 9/15/2014 5:58:00 PM
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    13. Photo

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    14. Flings: Stories by Justin Taylor

    From Goodreads:
    In a new suite of powerful and incisive stories, Justin Taylor captures the lives of men and women unmoored from their pasts and uncertain of their futures.

    A man writes his girlfriend a Dear John letter, gets in his car, and just drives. A widowed insomniac is roused from malaise when an alligator appears in her backyard. A group of college friends try to stay close after graduation, but are drawn away from-and back toward-each other by the choices they make. A boy's friendship with a pair of identical twins undergoes a strange and tragic evolution over the course of adolescence. A promising academic and her fiancée attempt to finish their dissertations, but struggle with writer's block, a nasty secret, and their own expert knowledge of Freud.

    From an East Village rooftop to a cabin in Tennessee, from the Florida suburbs to Hong Kong, Taylor covers a vast emotional and geographic landscape while ushering us into an abiding intimacy with his characters. Flings is a commanding work of fiction that captures the contemporary search for identity, connection, and a place to call home.
    I loved Taylor's style in these stories.  They're so well done.  Of course I had favorites ("Sungold" being my favorite), but the collection as a whole is just lovely.  Several of the stories connect in small ways, and those connectors gave the whole work a sense of unity.  The length of each story varies, but I feel like Taylor did a great job of ending each story at an appropriate moment.  Nothing feels too long or too short for its own unique effect.

    Entertainment Value
    I'm such a fan of short stories and I knew this collection would be great based on the review I had seen before reading it.  I wasn't at all disappointed.  It has all of my favorite elements of short stories - just enough character building that you are invested in the story and, of course, the little twist at the end that makes it mean something.  I'm not always a fan of connected short stories, but I feel like it worked really well in this case.  If you aren't a fan of short stories, you might not find this to be a particularly enthralling read, however.  It's definitely on the literary side and much more think-y than plot-y.

    If you like short stories, you must give this one a try.  It's full of snapshots of everyday modern life and the uncertainties we all face.  I'll definitely be going back through my copies of Best American Short Stories to find his other works, which I'm almost positive have been included at least once.

    Thank you to TLC for letting me be on the tour (and my apologies for posting this late!).  Click here to see the other stops on the tour.

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    15. "George Orwell worried about information control, whereas Aldous Huxley thought it was more likely..."

    “George Orwell worried about information control, whereas Aldous Huxley thought it was more... Read the rest of this post

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    16. More herbs, good news, and some knitting

    I was tempted by some more herbs - Bay Leaves and Oregano. So I did drawings of both. I am really enjoying doing these. I like the size (5" x 7"), and the soothing quality of the subject matter. And they smell nice!

    Fresh Bay Leaves

    Fresh Oregano

    I used Polychromo colored pencils on Fabriano Artistico paper for the whole series. I thought it was important to have them all look and feel the same.
    Prints, and some of the originals, are available in my shop.

    I'll be doing notecards too, but have hit a minor snag. The nice card stock I ordered won't go through my Epson printer - boo. I can't figure out why, since I have other card stock that's, to my eye and hand, the exact same weight, which goes through fine. It must be something in the finish. Whatever it is, the printer either refuses to take the paper and flashes lights and has a fit, or just spits it through un-printed, then prints the image on the sheet of cheap bond that's queued up behind it. Baah! So I will now have to make lemonade somehow out of this batch of lemons (250 sheets of it!), which I think may end up being hand made knitted cards or something. I'm sure I'll figure something out. Meanwhile, I have to find more of the paper I already have that the printer does like, which will go with the envelopes . . . oh, the trials and tribulations of being a 'do-it-yourself' art maker and etsy shop owner!

    In happier news, I just found out that two of my pieces have been accepted into the UArt Open 2014 art show! Berry Tart, and Molasses Cookie will be going in to be framed tomorrow, so I can meet the final 'deliver the art' deadline. I'm pretty happy. This is a nice regional art show sponsored by University Art. The art will all be on display in their Redwood City store. Both of these pieces were done with colored pencils on paper.

    Berry Tart

    Molasses Cookie

    And then, you know (or do you?) that I also do a bit of knitting, and have a little shop on etsy here
    I was excited to learn that someone who bought several pieces last week will be using them in a production of "Annie" in New York! (no, not on Broadway, but still)

    These are some of the pieces that will be in the show:

    There was a little bit of drama with the post office not getting them there when they were supposed to - I paid extra to get them there overnight, but they didn't, and whoever was in charge of the package didn't think it was important to scan in any tracking info for a whole day, so we were dying a little, wondering where everything went! But then they got there the next day, in time for the show, so phew.

    I'm doing some more knitting, trying to get a few more things in the shop for the holidays. Now its actually starting to be real knitting weather (well, actually it was 103 here again this past weekend, but its September at least, and the cool crisp weather will be starting soon - I hope!) 

    I also have a 'Fall' illustration piece on the board that started out being done with watercolors, which may now be started over with colored pencils. Its funny - I've been doing so much colored pencil work that going back to painting feels awkward to me. I will of course share when its finished, whatever medium it ends up being done with.

    0 Comments on More herbs, good news, and some knitting as of 9/15/2014 11:24:00 PM
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    17. Highland PEANUTS

    Two weekends ago, I went down to the Los Angeles area for my grandmother's memorial service. But through sad times like this can come beautiful memories and family re-connections, and I think that would make Grandma Asher happy.

    Every couple of years during trips to the L.A. area, I like to take time and revisit important locations from my childhood in Arcadia, which is where my family lived until I was almost 13 years old. A good chunk of those memories came from my elementary school, Highland Oaks.

    Walking across the fields and past the classrooms twists my heart and warms my soul in so many fun, painful, and interesting ways. To compare how I viewed life then and now, and how I viewed myself then and now, is probably a healthy exercise for a writer. Or maybe not! Either way, I do it.

    And even if I don't look the same as back then, the oak tree in the middle of the "older kid" playground does!

    I drove by my old home, as well, which also looks much the same. In that bay window, I spent many sunny and rainy days reading in a comfy chair, facing the San Gabriel Mountains, and the round porthole-like window was at one end of my bedroom. My mom recently told me that when we lived there, a previous owner stopped by to walk through the place to have his own nostalgia trip. I'm trying to gain the guts to do that myself.

    Last weekend, I went the other direction in California to Santa Rosa for my sister-in-law's engagement party. I knew I would also be making my second visit to the Charles M. Schulz Museum. If you've seen me speak about my journey as a writer, or have known me for some time, you know Mr. Schulz was a huge influence on me creatively. One of my most shared blog posts begins with a Peanuts strip, and if I ever get a tattoo there will be a recognizable Peanuts element to it (something else I need to gain the guts to do).

    On this second visit to the museum, I was even more excited than the first time (and I could feel my inner Highland Oaksian absolutely freaking out!). This time, I was going to meet Jean Schulz, the widow of Charles Schulz. How did that awesomeness come about? This summer, I ran into Mo Willems at the American Library Association conference. During our conversation with a few other authors, I apparently let it be known what a huge Blockhead (major Peanuts fan) I am. It turns out that he's a friend of Ms. Schulz, and said the next time I went to the museum, he'll see if he can arrange a meeting. Shortly after, I learned a trip to Santa Rosa was going to happen. So I contacted him through our mutual publisher, Penguin, and...

    ...here I am with Ms. Schulz (or Jeannie, as I now call her!!!).

    She was way above the sweetness I'd hoped for, and was so generous with her time. She shared personal thoughts about some of the strips currently on display, and showed me design elements of the museum that were her ideas. She even signed a copy of Happiness is a Warm Puppy, the first Peanuts book, to my son and me.

    I also spent a few hours on my own in the museum. They have documentaries and cartoons you can watch, a recreation of the artist's studio (using the actual items and furniture he worked on and near), and memorabilia from his life.  The pull for many fans is seeing the actual strips he drew, which are much larger than what appear in newspapers. These strips rotate several times a year, so repeat visits are necessary. And it is a real treat to see his ink lines up close.

    Just like Charlie Brown's dad in the strip, Mr. Schulz's dad owned a barbershop, which I've been fortunate enough to visit (actually, it's a bar now, but the bar recognizes its historical significance!). Apparently, just like me, Mr. Schulz liked to revisit places from his childhood. On a trip back to Minnesota in the 90s, he saw that his father's barber pole was still posted outside the building even though there was no longer a barbershop there. So he brought it back to California.

    So maybe one day I'll move the oak tree from Highland Oaks and replant it in my backyard!

    But I'm sure there's a slightly better chance I'll get a tattoo before that ever happens.

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    18. Tim Tingle's NO NAME

    In Removing the Word "Reluctant" from Reluctant Reader, Stringer and Mollineaux write that there are many reasons why teen readers choose not to read (p. 71):

    For some youth, reading difficulties may be intertwined with factors such as cultural background, language barriers, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, family disruptions, teenage pregnancy, fear of failure, and peer pressure. These problems may occur with other stressors such as school transitions, low self-esteem, poor time management, and depression.
    In their work on the experience of Native youth in school, Tippeconnic and Fairchild write that over time, Native youth disengage from school. Among the reasons, Tippeconnic and Fairchild put forth is that Native youth don't see themselves in the materials they're asked to read.

    Enter Tim Tingle's No Name. It is one of the new titles in the PathFinders series published by 7th Generation. Pitched for kids aged 12-16, it is about Bobby, a present-day Choctaw teen. His dad drinks. When drunk, he becomes abusive to his wife and Bobby. She leaves, and Bobby decides to run away. He doesn't go far, though, choosing to dig a hideout in his backyard.

    People who are aware of the dysfunction of his home life help him and his dad find their way. One strength of No Name is that the way is real. Things don't get better overnight. That is a truth that children in similar homes know.

    There are aspects of Choctaw life in the book, too. Tingle's story draws from a Choctaw story about No Name, a boy who also has a difficult relationship with his father. I especially like the parts of the story where Danny and his friend, Johnny, talk about the Choctaw Nation and water rights.

    Danny and Johnny (who is Cherokee) play basketball. I think No Name has appeal to a wide range of readers. Those we might call reluctant, and those who are Native, especially Choctaw or Cherokee, and those who live in homes disrupted by alcoholism will be drawn to No Name.   

    Earlier today I posted a bit of a rant over recent works of fantasy in which non-Native writers use Native culture as inspiration for a story that has little if anything to do with the lives of Native people today. Today's society knows so little about who we are! Works of fantasy just feed that lack of knowledge. Society embraces an abstract, disembodied notion of who we are, rather than us as people with a desire to be known and appreciated for who we are.

    Gritty, real stories, of our daily lives in 2014 are too few and far between. We need more books like Tingle's No Name. Get a copy for your library. Choose your framework for sharing it: it is a basketball story; it is a realistic story of alcoholism; it is a story about the Choctaw people.   

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    19. CBTV: ‘Final Serving’ by Florian Maubach

    Surrounded by nothingness, a knight lives with his wife in a small house. Every day he must defend their home against attacks of other knights. What he gets as reward is love and a satisfying meal.

    0 Comments on CBTV: ‘Final Serving’ by Florian Maubach as of 9/15/2014 4:46:00 PM
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    20. Hot Chicks!

    Hot chicks new2 450So, I think I can safely say that today, I was one hot chick!

    Anything over 75 degrees is too hot for me. So let’s just say today’s weather topping off at 109 really ruffled my feathers!

    I don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched, but IS IT FALL YET?!!

    2 Comments on Hot Chicks!, last added: 9/16/2014
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    21. Josh Ashberry Overcomes eBook Poetry Issues

    johnashberyEver since eBooks have come out, authors have been concerned about how their work is is represented in the digital format. This is an especially pertinent issue for poets, whose use of the line on the page is part of the work itself.

    But as digital continues to evolve, eBook developers are better preserving line breaks and stanza spacing. Just ask John Ashbery. Just a few years back the poet demanded that four eBook collections of his poetry be pulled after the format mutilated the work. But the 87 year-old has not given up on the digital format and in conjunction with digital publishing house Open Road, has published 17 digital collections of his work. This time, the technology is much better than his first time out.  (more…)

    New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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    22. Share a slice of your life.

    Last call for Slice of Life t-shirts. Remember, all of the proceeds from the sale of the shirts will benefit the Pajama Program.

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    23. Reading reading reading

    I cannot deny that I’ve been doing a lot more reading than writing these past few weeks. I feel kind of guilty when that happens, and I have to remind myself how much my excessive reading is necessary to my writing. It’s how I got into writing in the first place, which I think is true for almost everyone. These days I can count it as research—bonus points if it actually is a nonfiction, informational book about the time period my historical fiction novel is taking place in (I did read one of those last week! Ten points for Gryffindor!). I struggle with research. I feel guilty unless I’m writing. I take comfort in the fact that the author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak,felt similarly and his historical fiction novel is light-years beyond I could dream of mine being. I try to give myself permission to just read. I would be nowhere without the countless examples of other authors. They constantly inspire me to keep going.
    On that note, you’ve possibly seen going around Facebook a chain-letter type post where you list the top books that have influenced your life and then tag other people to do the same. My aunt tagged me in one of them recently, and I eventually decided to play along. When I think along the lines of what books have “influenced my life,” I automatically think of what books have most influenced my writing. It’s really hard to pick, so I changed it to favorite authors as well as books (I’m a cheater). It brought back great childhood memories of when I first start scribbling down my own stories, shamelessly plagiarizing every tactic I saw my favorite authors using (You’ll have to forgive my taste back then. I was about 8 or 9 probably). So, I thought I would share that list with you and invite you to make your own if you haven’t.
    Disclaimer: This is potentially one of the most gut-wrenching, awful decisions ever. It’s like picking favorite children. To quote Ever After (best movie): “I could no sooner pick a favorite star in the heavens.” So, here they are, in no particular order whatsoever, and I’ve definitely left some great ones out:

    • 1.       Jane Austen- all 7 of em
    • 2.       J.K. Rowling- Harry Potter
    • 3.       Virginia Woolf- “A Room of Her Own,” Mrs. Dalloway
    • 4.       Marilynne Robinson- The Gilead, Home
    • 5.       Barbara Kingsolver- Poisonwood Bible
    • 6.       L.M. Montgomery- actually more for the Emily of New Moon books than Anne of Green Gables. Sorry everyone.
    • 7.       Tamora Pierce- the Lioness Quartet, the two Trickster books, etc.
    • 8.       Ann M Martin- Babysitter’s Club. I have to put it. She got me writing when I was a little kid.
    • 9.       Deb Caletti- Honey, Baby, Sweetheart got me through my teenage years!
    • 10.   Louisa May Alcott- Little Women, and also the biography about her and her dad that’s not at all written by her, but it’s awesome!

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    24. My Zombies, Run! episode is live!!

    I love all things zombie.  28 Days Later. 28 Weeks Later. That great book, The Girl with All the Gifts (you must read it!). And of course, The Walking Dead, which I've been watching since the first episode aired.  And then there's Zombies, Run!

    Zombies, Run! iScreen Shot 2014-09-15 at 8.14.06 PMs a phone app that lets you run for your life from a horde of zombies.You can use it walking or on a treadmill, but I use it to run (until my recent ouchy knee, anyway.  Now I walk). You listen to a storyline (you're Runner 5 and you are sent out on various missions) that is interspersed with your own music. My favorite part is that you can turn on zombie chases that last for a minute. If you don't go 20% faster than you were before the chase started, then the zombies close in. Interval training, anyone?

    But now I love Zombies, Run even more because I wrote Episode 43 in Season Three!

    It all stared when I was listening to an episode about nine months ago. In the episode, the survivors (who are all English because the game is set and taped in England) had made contact with survivors in Toronto.  And the person they made contact with said that in the pre-zombie-apocolypse days, she had been a poet and novelist. Then she said her name was Margaret Atwood. I laughed out loud in the middle of my dead-quiet early morning neighborhood. I just figured Atwood was famous enough they could "borrow" her.  But the more the character playing Atwood talked, the more I realized it might actually be Atwood. When I got home, I googled and it was her!

    Zombies Run TwitterSo I tweeted about it, and Naomi Alderman, who created the app and is a novelist in her own right (which is how she knows Atwood), responded and asked if I wanted to write an episode. You can see how long I took to respond.

    But how do you write what is basically a radio play? It was tough! Nothing but dialog and maybe a few sound effects (mostly zombie moans).  If you want listeners to "see" things in their imagination, then one of speakers has to describe it. "Do you see that pine tree up ahead?" or "It's behind the zombie with the missing arm."

    The other thing that made it had was that I was basically writing a mission that was about 50 missions ahead of where I was. There were references that needed to be woven in to events and people I didn't have any knowledge of. That's where Naomi came in.I did a couple of drafts, but she took the last draft and wove in the continuity.

    The second half of Season 3 was released a few weeks ago, so of course I had to listen to my mission even if it was way out of order. You can't imagine what a thrill it was to hear my words being said by voices (Phil Nightingale as Sam Yao and Eleanor Rushton as Janine) that I would recognize anywhere.

    If you would like to hear a teeny-tiny snippet, check out my website: http://www.aprilhenrymysteries.com (scroll down the page a bit)

    Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 7.45.16 PM

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    25. nerosunero at Galerie Lauth #comingSoon

    nerosunero (Mario Sughi)
    Short Stories @ Galerie Lauth
    10 October - 1 November 2014

    0 Comments on nerosunero at Galerie Lauth #comingSoon as of 9/15/2014 5:36:00 PM
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