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<<July 2016>>
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1. Marie Lu: The Creative Life

Marie Lu is author of the Legends and the Young Elites trilogies.

Her books have "interesting, complex plots that never settle for easy answers," Lin said as she introduced Marie, an extraordinarily successful writer.

SCBWI was one of the first conferences Marie ever heard about as an aspiring writer. LEGENDS is set in a futuristic LA and it's about a boy who's the most wanted criminal and a girl who's the most gifted hunter of criminals.

"I'm a very happy person. My books do not reflect this," she joked.

Marie always liked writing, but didn't know you could do it for a living. She was born in Beijing, and was five years old during the Tiananmen Square massacre. Her family came to the states and settled in New Orleans. The family knew no English. Her mom wanted to go out and see what typical American families do. So they set out—and it was Mardi Gras.

"I have this memory of standing there in this crazy street where people were throwing beads at you for no reason." She didn't know what had just happened—"but I liked it."

She started writing to learn English. In kindergarten, she had to look up five English words every day and put them into sentences. "I eventually realized I liked the practice of putting words into stories."

She became a voracious reader. She loved Brian Jacques's Redwall Series, Harry Potter, and Tolkien. She had a writing desk in her room, and she made the space where the chair went into a library, which she enclosed with a curtain and illuminated with a flashlight.

She also loved to draw and would put a paper up to the screen a trace a frame of a Disney movie. "I eventually figured out how to draw on my own." Her childhood was drawing and reading and playing games. "I loved every second of it."

She wrote her first novel at 14, and she thought it was "amazing." It involved a chosen one on the quest with dwarves and elves "for a shiny thing." She submitted to 100 agents, but didn't get any bites.

She used to set her alarm clock during high school for 2 AM, and she'd write two hours a night. Her second manuscript, written when she was 16 or 17, was "a little bit less bad." It got her an agent, but many more rejections. She would draw and write in her spare time, and before her school work, but her parents worried she wouldn't be able to support herself. So she studied political science in college. She kept submitting books and kept getting rejections, and parted ways with her agent.

She applied for a Disney internship. Her parents: "Our basement is here for you. You go and do what you need to do to make yourself happy." She got the gig and worked there for two years. "It was absolutely a life-changing experience. This was the first time in my life I had been surrounded by fellow creative people."

"Once I started working in video games, I started writing again." She got a new agent, Kristin Nelson, and her fourth novel went out on submissions. She got a lot of rejections. By the time her fifth novel, LEGEND sold, she'd been rejected 500 times. "Rejection eventually becomes a piece of paper. Put it on the pile. We'll build a fort out of it."

Because rejection didn't bother her as much, she could concentrate and write LEGEND.

"Every writer succeeds at their own pace. It took me 12 years and four unpublished manuscripts... There are no guarantees in this business."

She gave us some terrific writing advice: about the importance of hard work, about learning to take criticism, and about the importance of not comparing ourselves to others.

"Be brave and listen," she told us. "None of us know everything. None of us is always right. We can always learn more." She feels she made mistakes with the relationship of a couple in LEGEND. She didn't know at the time, and she learned to see her failure there because she listened. "No one enjoys being called out," she said. But our intentions don't matter if they don't come across on the page.

"We are all in this together. The journey to publication is not always fair. It takes all of us to lift up those voices that struggle to be heard."

Follow Marie on Twitter.
Start reading THE YOUNG ELITES
Marie Lu on Tumblr

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2. Oh my!

Have I been gone that long?

I picked up three more hours at the library for which I work.  I have done a smattering of storytelling engagements. - but enough to keep me busy and distracted.  I have read.  A lot.  Mostly eBooks.  Because actually budging to go to a library once I get home is just too much work.

So...The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.    The writing in this book swept me well into the fray.  There is a village.  Every year, that village leaves the newest baby deep in the forest as a sacrifice? gift? to the evil wicked awful witch.

And there is a forest wherein dwells an old witch, a swamp monster whose importance can only be imagined and a dragon who never seems to grow older.

The witch gathers up each child, - always wondering why the villagers leave the infants there but never wondering for very long, - and carries the infant to the other side of the forest where loving adoptive parents wait.  The witch feeds each child on starlight.

Meanwhile, in the village there is grieving and sadness and someone who feeds on both.

One day,  the witch falls asleep and the infant in her arms feeds on moonlight... and everything is changed.  

This is a novel about oppression and parenthood - which really are NOT the same thing.  The witch finds parenting her moonfed child harder than she could imagine.   The novel is also about questioning the status quo and about powerful people who are parasites.  And the novel is about pain.

The novel is also a bit more complicated than I wanted it to be.  It all fits together nicely in the end. 

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3. Astro-Nomical Launches in Burbank With ‘Mean Margaret’ Feature

A new production company aims to tap into the growing market for mid-range CGI family features.

The post Astro-Nomical Launches in Burbank With ‘Mean Margaret’ Feature appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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4. Jessica Bagley / Neal Porter: The Picture Book Process Through Collaboration

Jessica Bagley and Neal Porter’s breakout session rolled out in perfect sync. Bagley spoke about the process of creating her debut picture “Boats for Papa,” while Porter injected tidbits of his picture book-making philosophies along the way. 

Bagley spoke about her early years as a picture book author-illustrator, feeling utterly alone and isolated. She made a lot of mistakes along the way, she admitted, thinking she could figure this business out on her own. Finally, she joined the SCBWI where her career began to make a change. Since then, she has soared!

One morning while in bed, during the time when she wrote “Boats for Papa,” Bagley experienced an Oprah-like “Ah-ha” moment. She realized that her little picture book was actually the story of her own life—proving that real life shapes great stories.

Bagley went on to discuss her process of making picture books, from thumbnail sketches to final art. Neal Porter injected his thoughts along the way. An important one:

—Have a sense of who you’d like to have publish your books. Do your research. It is important to know Porters list, the kinds of books he publishes. Be sure you're agent knows his list, too, as he often receives manuscripts from agents that aren’t a good fit for his list. 

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5. To Swing On A Rainbow

She wished to swing on a rainbow into a sky painted blue, where the stars slept at night and angels flew. And when the sky turned black from day to night, she would dangle from a star like the string on a kite.

What would it be like if her wish did come true, what would it be like, if only she knew.  

 Ann Clemmons

I'm working on my final draft of a children's manuscript, so I thought I would just write a short post today.

Thank you for stopping by A Nice Place In The Sun and have a spectacular Saturday!

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6. भारी बारिश और सड़क जाम

भारी बारिश और सड़क जाम कार्टून – पोल पट्टी आजकल  भारी बरसात से जिस तरह सडको पर पानी भर रहा है और ट्रैफिक जाम की खबरें सुर्खिया बन रही हैं ऐसे में डर लगना दहशत होना स्वाभाविक है

The post भारी बारिश और सड़क जाम appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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7. A Gathering of Friends

"A Gathering of Friends" (colored pencil on paper) is now available as a 4" x 9" pencil bag with zipper and key chain tab (twill fabric, lined w/canvas) for $12.00:

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8. Dramatica "this scene represents" and creating scenes..but what about Sequels

Question: After months of creating my elements for my novel in Dramatica I'm finally up to creating scenes. I've read countless materials from a variety

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9. Nancy Castaldo: The Terrifying Path to Publication and How it Ends

In her mini keynote, Nancy Castaldo spoke a lot about presenting to children and sharing what inspires her stories: childhood experiences and present passions. 

She also spoke about the process of research for writing “Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and their Noses) Save the World," which also included a lot of talk about, um, dogs sniffing poop! Who’da thought!

When talking about her author journey, she spoke about the rocky rejection path that sometimes lead writers to feeling insecure. But take heart, she also reminded us that celebrated authors like Jane Yolen still receive rejection. “We are not alone, rejection happens to all of us,” she said.

Castaldo shared many inspiring quotes, including this one from Junot Diaz: “A writer is not a writer because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.”

So, how does the path to publication end? Well, you had to be there.

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10. The Worm in the Apple: Part Six of Deedy's TV Interview

Here is part six of the television interview Deedy (that's Dorothea Jensen to you) with Kevin Avard on Gate City Chronicles. Here they are talking about "Taxation Without Representation" and Worms in Apples. (If this video does not show up on your mobile device, go here.)

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11. Emergency Broadcast

The music interrupted,
We all listened for the why.
An announcer gave a warning
That a thunderstorm was nigh.

He was very time-specific
For the counties that he named
And I wonder if the weather
Will be scary as he claimed.

On the back porch I am sitting,
Gazing upwards at the sky
Where I must admit a big black cloud
Is waiting there, on high.

But there's still a bit of sunshine
So it's possible we'll skirt
Such a downpour that deserves 
Such an emergency alert.

Forty minutes are remaining
If the broadcasters are wise
And if nothing comes to pass, it won't be
Much of a surprise.

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12. The LGBTQ and Allies Q&A

Always a highlight of the conference, this gathering of people interested in including LGBTQ characters and themes in our work for children and teens was a warm, safe space that brought up some powerful issues and generated enormous good-will. We sat in an large oval and took the time for each person to introduce themselves and share what they were working on, and, if they had one, ask a question of our 'brain trust.'

Faculty guests included Arthur A. Levine, Bruce Coville, Neal Porter, Emma Dryden, Ellen Hopkins, and Laurent Linn.

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13. J.K. Rowling Talks ‘Cursed Child’ on Red Carpet at Gala Performance

At today’s gala performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling took a moment to discuss with an interviewer the creation of the play and its unexpected, overwhelming success.

When asked about her request to fans to “Keep the Secrets”, she said:

“They’ve done me so proud. They’ve done me so proud. And I think our give back is that we really hope to take this play to as many places as it’s feasible to take it. So I hope a lot of them will get to see this play in due course.”



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14. Carole Boston Weatherford: The Power Of Premise

Carole Boston Weatherford giving her keynote

Carole Boston Weatherford is an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty books, mostly for young people. Her books have won two NAACP Image Awards, two Caldecott Honors, and a Coretta Scott King Award. Her best-known titles include Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom; Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement; Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins; and Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. Her latest release is You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen, a collaboration with her son, debut illustrator Jeffery Weatherford. She is an English professor at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. Visit https://cbweatherford.com.

Lin's introduction includes calling Carole "a national treasure… She's an historian, she's a story-teller."

Carole jumped right in to share that:

"The premise may be the most important 25 words you write."

Whether you call it an elevator pitch, log line, or T.V. guide pitch, the aim is the same - to distill your storyline to one easily understood sentence that conveys what the protagonist has to overcome. The premise is a promise your manuscript will deliver on.

Brief. Provokative. Contains character, conflict, and a hook that you and your readers can be passionate about, and reveals something about the larger world.

She shared premises of different children's books (picture books through YA, fiction and nonfiction) to see if we, the audience, can guess the book - showing us what good premises accomplish.

Carole then told us about the organic way she came up with the premises for some of her books, how those premises shifted and developed and coalesced. Books she spoke about included:

Freedom on the Menu

A Negro League Scrapbook



We heard poems, and stories, and as Carole's whole talk proved,

"There is power in knowing your premise."

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15. Jubilee

"Jubilee" (watercolor, watercolor pencils, alcohol inks on paper). 13.5" x 18.5"

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16. Tina Wexler: Seven Things Your Manuscript Needs to Succeed

Tina Wexler is a literary agent ICM Partners.

Tina shares tips that will help us find success.

You need a strong story idea. An idea that will sustain you through the drafting and writing process. Do you have unfinished manuscripts in a drawer? It might be because it didn't have enough to sustain you.

Your manuscript needs to be researched. Read 3 other recently published books in your same genre and age range. Look up the things you don't know. Not all of your research will make it in, but it will inform your story.

Your manuscript needs to be revised. No one gets it right the first time.

Your manuscript needs a strong voice.

Your manuscript needs a vacation. Set it aside. Work on something else. Take time away so you can come back with fresh eyes. When you return to it, revise it again.

Your manuscript needs to be loved. Finishing is not a reason to send it out on submission. You need to love it. It needs to be ready.

Great reads from the session:

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17. This week on Now and Then

So I thought I would share what I've posted on my new-ish blog, Now and Then. I hope you'll visit and leave a comment or two.

First, on Sunday I shared two posts. The first was looking at Country Pride songs, now and then. The two songs were "Song of the South" by Alabama and "Chicken Fried" by Zac Brown Band.  Preparing for that post, I learned there were FOUR different versions of Song of the South. The song started out its life--in 1980--as a slow, soulful ballad. It haunts, trust me. But by the time Alabama recorded it in 1988, it was a happy-clappy, peppy, rallying song to get a crowd going. I ask you to decide Who Sang It Best?!

 On Monday, I turned to gymnastics. I shared Mary Lou Retton's uneven bar performance from 1984 U.S. Nationals...and also Madison Kocian's Uneven Bars from just a few weeks ago. Uneven Bars is one of the events you can CLEARLY see just how different the sport has become.

On Wednesday, I went for fashion. I shared "teen party" fashion from 1959 and 1988.

On Thursday, I created a playlist for Western Barbie. She came out in 1981, I believe. Perhaps 1980. But around there. The assumption being, that "Western Barbie" was a *real* person listening to and loving music. I also shared Western Barbie's commercial.

On Friday, I shared a GUESS WHO game with Country Music is.... I shared thirty lines from thirty different country songs. Read together, I think, you get a great glimpse of what country music is all about.

And today, I shared a picture of a DOLL you won't really see being marketed today. The "selling feature" of this one from 1964, is I CRY REAL TEARS WHEN YOU SPANK ME. And the doll's bottom, reads the word HERE.

This week's posts, show a bit more variety than last week's posts.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Bienvenidos - Benvenuti - Bienvenus - Welcome

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19. Balancing Writing and Marketing

Yes, it's important to market your book, but you need to leave time to write your next book, too.


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20. Donner Dinner Party

Donner Dinner Party. (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #3). Nathan Hale. 2013. Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye!

Premise/plot: Nathan Hale returns for this third hazardous tale in this graphic novel. The story that will prolong his life and delay his hanging is the story of the DONNER PARTY. His immediate audience, of course, is the hangman and a British officer. It's very convenient that since being eaten by the large American History book he can see the future and use the future to tell super-entertaining stories. Readers first meet the Reed family led by James Reed. Other families will be introduced as they journey west and join (and quit) wagon trains. The dangers are MANY. Some dangers are unpredictable and almost unavoidable. Other dangers they walk straight into confidently, sweeping away warnings. Usually if not always, always, it's the MEN making the decisions and the women and children who can do nothing but except the judgement of husbands and fathers. The story is FASCINATING AND HORRIBLE at the same time.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. It is quite a compelling, absorbing read. You wouldn't think there would be a lot of characterization in a graphic novel, but, surprisingly there is. I had read very little if anything about the Donner Party, and, so I found it really interesting. I knew it was a grim story, but, I had not realized there were survivors too. So it wasn't quite as depressing as I first imagined it to be.

I definitely recommend this series of graphic novels. Even if you don't necessarily love reading graphic novels. The focus on history has me hooked. And I've become quite fond of Nathan Hale and his two would-be executioners.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Summary: Cath is bewildered and intimidated by her first year of college. She's not rooming with her twin sister, as she'd assumed she would. Her classes are harder than she thought, a guy in her writing class seems to be using her ideas for his own project, her terrifying roommate keeps bringing her (possibly?) boyfriend around, who is equally terrifying because he actually seems interested in Cath.

The only touchstone is her ongoing epic fanfic, which she's hurrying to finish before the final book in the series comes out. In the world of Simon Snow, a world that's nurtured her and her sister since their mother left, she's in control. But it's the only place where she is.

First Impressions: Yikes did this cut close to the bone.

Later On: Rainbow Rowell has a reputation for RIP UR HEART OUT!! emotional stories, and since this is the first one I've read, I can see where she gets it. Cath is a raw nerve, and her emotions, not only around Levi but around everything are constantly close to the surface. I said it cut close to the bone because this was basically my college experience (except for the sweet boy who adored me, unfortunately). I think a lot of kids get in over their head and intimidated, and feel more isolated because they think that the nonstop party portrayed in TV and movies is what everyone else is experiencing. By contrast, this felt entirely real.

I have to mention how much I appreciated the respect that fandom got in this book. As a longtime fic writer in various fandoms (including, full disclosure, Harry Potter), I was prepared to see it mocked and belittled as an activity for children, or at least for people who couldn't handle the world. I also loved the way Cath's relationship to her own fic writing changed and grew as she did.

I wish that we'd gotten more acknowledgement from other characters of how profoundly Cath was freaking in, as much as Wren was freaking out. While writing and posting fic was a nurturing and supportive activity for her, she often used it to retreat from the world and escape her own fears as much as Wren was using drinking and partying to do the same.

Something in the back of my mind was the backlash against Rowell for her stereotyped portrayal of Asian characters in her previous novel, Eleanor & Park. This was a pretty white book (two fairly minor characters were Latino), so we didn't get any bad portrayals of POC, but we didn't get any fleshed-out good ones either. Do with that what you will.

More: Book Nut

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22. Graduation day

So on the hottest day of the year, a couple of weeks ago, we rose at 6.30am, caught a taxi and three trains to the pretty town of Ormskirk, finishing off with a bus journey to Edgehill University campus, where Joe's graduation ceremony was taking place. We were already melting by the time we arrived. 

It's a very impressive campus and has a pleasing amount of topiary trees. Around the back of the historic part, the more modern additions are discreetly concealed.


The first item on the agenda was for Joe to get togged out in his graduation robes, before an extraordinary amount of photos and selfies were taken with his colleagues. Me, I stayed in the background and had a crash course in ladies shoe fashion for 2016. A loose count showed that ankle straps are 'in' this year and that 'flesh' (or as I believe it is called, 'nude') is this season's colour. I was in cheap baseball boots. Not being in heels, I was one of the few females on campus able to walk in a straight line.

At last we were able to head off for the ceremony.

After a long wait for everything to be organized, and having the most fidgety child on the planet next to me, it all got rolling with the expected pomp and ceremony; the procession of the University staff in suitably impressive robes and hats, and a fanfare of trumpets. Literally. 

After several long speeches, the graduation ceremony itself began. Joe was about third from last, by which time people were a little restless. Having patiently waited for nearly two hours for his moment of glory - the shaking of the chancellor's hand - I had my camera poised, zoomed and in focus. 

Then just at the very second of the hand shake, a big bloke in a white shirt came bustling down the aisle stairs behind me and barged right in front of my camera as I was pressing the button. I may have sworn loudly. (OK, I did). So all I managed to get was this...

Then the lovely chancellor made the most interesting speech of the day, cracked a joke about the University board being 'the entire staff of Hogwarts' and everyone waggled their caps in the air. Apparently throwing them up willy nilly is not the done thing anymore. 

After a quick go at the buffet, we started our homeward journey. Did I mention it was hot? And so we got a bus, three trains and another taxi back to the cottage. The English countryside quietly sweltered in the sun. The train guard handed out free bottles of water on our last late, overcrowded train, where we stood in the corridor all the way back to Shrewsbury.

We eventually arrived home, flopping and half asleep, at about 8pm and went to bed almost at once. A long day, but one which Joe worked hard for and despite my humorous tone, I was actually very, very proud of him.  He is now a fully qualified counsellor.

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23. The Picture Book Panel Begins!

Moderated by Laurent Linn (standing), the panelists, left to right, are: author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley, illustrator John Parra, editor Susan Rich, author/illustrator Barney Saltzberg, and author/illustrator Don Tate.

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24. Jon Klassen – Finding Yourself in The Work

Canadian Treasure Jon Klassen, author/illustrator of award-winning picture books as well as the illustrator of many great chapter books, is here! He is quick to clarify he's not going to talk about how to find your style:

How you work on something isn't the same thing as your 'style':

"Style is mysterious and shouldn't be opened, at least not by you...

Don't think about it.

Take care of the machine that makes it, so you can get better at making your work..."

Don't Think About Yourself At All

Jon recommends treating the project as something outside yourself.

Some of his favorite artists subscribe to this particular work ethic:

Agnes Martin, who says "The worst thing you can think about when you're working is yourself."

David Bowie, when asked by a reporter how cool it was to be a rockstar with a crazy successful album, said it's not David Bowie who's successful, it's the character Ziggy Stardust! Jon says Bowie needed a character first to get into his work, which let him not have to ask what would "I" do, but what would Ziggy or the Thin White Duke do.

Artist/weaver Anni Albers has this quote Jon loves:

Another great idea from Jon:

Treat your brain the way Pixar treated computer technology, do your best work with the resources you have at that time.

When first starting out, Pixar had hundreds of ideas for stories, but computer animation made everything look stilted and plastic and non-human. Instead of fighting their technology, Pixar embraced the limitations by animating things that were naturally plastic-y and clunky:

Similarly, Sendak's dummy for WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE had tons of horse drawings in it, but Maurice hated drawing horses! So his legendary editor Ursula Nordstrom asked him what he would enjoy drawing and Maurice said he didn't know, but he liked drawing THINGS...

Jon describes how he went from being a grumpy animator who only wanted to draw rocks and chairs, to a picture book author/illustrator who enjoys creating characters outside of himself who can 'write' their own lines. Jon mentions he felt like his voice as a narrator is similar to that of a drunk P.D. Eastman, but when he thinks about the characters acting in a play—spouting their own lines, not his—he's able to take himself out of the equation and make something good.

You are not in control of almost any part of this process, Jon says, except for keeping out what you don't want in a project, chipping all that away. A book is like a child, you can shepherd it along, but it may wander off without you somewhere amazing, and that's a great thing.

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25. Pottermore Twitter Hosts Harry Potter Quiz Today!

At 8PM BST, the Pottermore twitter account will be hosting a Harry Potter quiz for fans to brush up on their Potter knowledge before the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. To participate and to see other fans’ answers, simply tune in to the Pottermore account and use the #PottermoreQuiz hashtag to share your answers.


Good luck!

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