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<<May 2015>>
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1. My Thoughts: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

5 wonderful, warm chocolate chip cookies dunked in milk.

Cover Love:
Yes!  The cover is what drew my eyes to the book and that is without even seeing it in person.  I have seen pictures online of the actual book and the cover and I believe it is more gorgeous in person!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The cover caught my attention, the title piqued my interest and the synopsis put me over the edge.  Here is it from GoodReads:

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Romance?: Yes, yes, yes!!

My Thoughts:
First of all, this was so gorgeously written, so descriptive, so transportative (I am sure that is not a word).  You absolutely felt like you were in the palace. You could smell the smells, taste the food, see the beautiful clothes and FEEL THE HEAT between Shahrzad and Khalid.  It is intense.

I did have a little hard time at the start keeping people and their plot lines straight, but by the end it had all snapped into focus.  By halfway into the book I was not able to put it down and have two late nights of reading to attest to that fact.

I loved Shahrzad, she didn't let her hatred totally cloud who she was.  Yes, she went there with a purpose and for most of the book really wanted to follow through with that, but she did let herself discover and question things.

I am SO glad the author wrote chapters from Khalid's point of view.  He was so aloof and uncaring (as he really needed to be) it was hard to get a grasp on who he was until later in the book.  The chapters from his point of view were awesome but also how as we learned more about him, so did Shahrzad so that eventually each of their chapters were very similar. 

The reasons behind why Khalid needs to kill his brides and what he does to try and relieve a tiny little bit of his guilt are both heartbreaking reveals. 

One other thing I liked was how trusting of each other Shahrzad and Khalid (and Jalal) became.  Every action was not looked at with suspicion.  There was a lot of love there and the author did a wonderful job showing them falling in love, fighting it, and then being in love.  I was so glad there was none of the old misunderstanding leads to hurt and break ups, leads to etc... that YA novels tend to do.  This was a more mature relationship once they got into being in a relationship.

UGH!! If I knew there was going to be a book 2 I might not have started this one because I want to read it NOW!!

To Sum Up:  I don't think you will be disappointed in this book, it's just gorgeous and intriguing and romantic.

eGalley requested and received from Penguin via Edleweiss.

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2. Productivity tip for writers: see how long you can stay offline

Know the difference between actually being productive and the illusion of productivity, especially when you're online.

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3. Women in Animation Announces Annecy Animation Events

The organization has planned multiple panels and presentations related to the role of women in the animation industry.

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4. #BookADay: SHADOW CHASERS by Elly McKay (Running Press)

‪#‎BookADay‬: SHADOW CHASERS by Elly McKay ( Theater Clouds on FB), published by Running Press. I love Elly's absolutely gorgeous paper-theater lightbox illustrations.

Synopsis: "Once evening paints the summer sky, shadows will come out to play. You must move fast, because as quickly as the wind blows, the shadows will be on their way. Chasing after our hopes and dreams may take many tries before we finally catch them. This magical nighttime story shows that the journey is just as remarkable as the destination."

Elly's new BUTTERFLY PARK just came out from Running Press!

You can find Elly on Etsy, on Twitter , on her website.

More about SHADOW CHASERS on the Running Press website.

More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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5. Katy O’Donnell Moves to Nation Books

Nation Books LogoKaty O’Donnell has been brought on to the Nation Books team.

O’Donnell will serve as an associate editor. She will work with editorial director Alessandra Bastagli.

Throughout her career, O’Donnell has held editorial positions at Overlook Press and Basic Books. Some of the books she has edited include Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, John Merriman’s Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune, and Eugene Rogan’s The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East.

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6. Guaranteed Rejection

Here are some way to almost guarantee that an agent or editor will reject your manuscript.


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7. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Even more covers of dueling I want to hold your hand

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8. Coding Concepts for Preschoolers

In my library, we’re a little obsessed with coding.  We’ve been working on a project to introduce computational thinking and free coding resources to kids called Coder Time. For over a year, we’ve been searching for ways to teach our audience some complex ideas by experimenting with apps, activities, and lesson plans to create library programs (you can learn more about it here). While these programs were always for our older kids and tweens, we’ve been amazed at our youngest participants’ enthusiasm to jump right in. As we work with this age group, we keep finding overlap between coder concepts and early literacy skills.  For example, play teaches symbolic thinking, a skill important for both reading and coding.  Narrative skills help children understand story structure, but also strengthen computational thinking.  I’ve recently started incorporating coding concepts into my preschool storytimes.  After some trial and error and a mobbed flannel board, here’s what I have in the works:

Coder Values: Collaboration, perseverance, imagination, it’s all about attitude!  My favorite book for this is Today I Will Fly! by Mo Willems.  Partner with your parachute and kids can work as a team to make Gerald, or your elephant puppet, soar.

Algorithms: An algorithm is the set of instructions you follow to complete a task.  Understanding this is the first step in writing a program.  I’m using Lois Ehlert’s Growing Vegetable Soup to introduce the seed planting activity found in Course One of Code Studio. I also adapted their “Happy Maps” activity for use with a magnetic whiteboard. In a very simple maze of boxes, we help Bingo find his bone.  Apps like Kodable and Lightbot Jr. are too advanced for my preschool audience, so this lets me control the level of difficulty, and give the kids a more tactile experience.

Conditionals: Conditionals are pieces of code that only run when certain conditions are met.  They are the If/Then parts of coding.  A good introduction is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.  In looking for other ways to teach this, I found Linda Liukas’s Hello Ruby’s paper dolls. This inspired me adapt our “Teddy Wears a Red Shirt” flannel board. Teddy’s wardrobe has grown to include pajamas, yellow boots and a bathing suit.  If it’s raining, Teddy wears his rain boots all day long.

coding concepts preschoolers

Photo taken by the author of this blog post.

Throughout this process, our approach has always been to give families a taste of the possibilities that are out there, and help them discover that coding can be fun and accessible regardless of your background. As a result, a lot of these are variations on program staples.  If you have ideas for other ways of integrating coding into programming for preschoolers, please share!

Brooke Sheets is Children’s Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. 

The post Coding Concepts for Preschoolers appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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9. Tilda Swinton To Be "The Ancient One" In Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’??

Hahahahahahahahahaha--oh.  You're being serious?

Talk about sticking it to the fans. Great actress but just WTF????????????????

According to Variety: http://variety.com/2015/film/news/tilda-swinton-doctor-strange-cast-benedict-cumberbatch-1201506594/
Tilda Swinton Doctor Strange
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Tilda Swinton is in talks to co-star with Benedict Cumberbatch in Marvel’s “Doctor Strange"
Scott Derrickson is directing the comicbook movie.

Cumberbatch will play Stephen Vincent Strange, a former neurosurgeon who becomes the next Sorcerer Supreme and primary protector of Earth against magical and mystical threats. Marvel Comics vets Stan Lee and Steve Ditko co-created the character in 1963. Strange’s mentor is a Tibetan mystic known as the Ancient One, who is training pupils to be the next Sorcerer Supreme. In the comics, the character has been a male, and Marvel Studios was initially searching for a male actor. Given Swinton’s interest in the film, however, the studio has now rethought the role.

“Doctor Strange” will debut on Nov. 4, 2016.

The news was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.
Above: Dr Stephen Strange and The Ancient One when he still had a willy.  A todger. A John Thomas. A...get it right?

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10. Don Quixote Project Featured On Kickstarter

The Restless Books team hopes to raise $20,000 to publish a 400th anniversary edition of Miguel de Cervantes’ beloved novel, Don Quixote. This book, slated for release in October 2015, will be the first title from the “Restless Classics” program. We’ve embedded a video about the project above.

Here’s more from the Kickstarter page: “Our mission is to bring great books from overlooked corners of the world to American readers who are not content to limit their imaginations to our borders. We’ll be publishing English-language editions of fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, travel writing, science fiction and more from everywhere from Cuba to China, Pakistan to Chile, Mexico to Uzbekistan. With Restless Classics, we want to bring older books that still speak to our time and place—and especially to our ‘restlessness’—back into the conversation.”

Welcome to our Kickstarter Publishing Project of the Week, a feature exploring how authors and publishers are using the fundraising site to raise money for book projects. If you want to start your own project, check out How To Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Publishing Project.

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11. Hashtag is Word of the Year Among Youth

Hastag is the word of the year among children writers, according to a new study from Oxford University Press (OUP).

OUP examined 120,421 short stories by children between the ages of five and 13 that were submitted to the BBC’s 500 Words competition to see which words were most popular. The research found that words like Instagram, Snapchat and emoji are on the rise as words like email, mobile and Facebook are in decline.

The research also revealed that girls are often writing about princesses and royalty and using words such as “princess,” “charming,” “unicorn” and “majesty.” Boys on the other hand are more often writing about dinosaurs and super heroes using words such as “raptor,” “Jurassic” and “Batcave.”

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12. MELT by Sean Chris Strydom


Submitted by Sean Chris Strydom for the Illustration Friday topic MELT.

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13. Giveaway!

To celebrate the start of the Sketchbook Skool kourse called "Storytelling" next week (Starts June 5th!) Sketchbook Skool is doing a Krazy Giveaway!

The brilliant artists in Sketchbook Skool's Fakulty have donated an amazing collection of their original art and signed copies of their books to the Skool, and you can win a gift basket stuffed with it! How? Simply by helping to spread the word about Sketchbook Skool in this raffle, hosted by Rafflekopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is an explanation on how to enter:
For each action you take in the raffle you’ll receive an entry to win a gift basket. You can do one action, or all six. The more you do, the greater your chance to win! Here’s how:

    • 1 Entry: Follow Sketchbook Skool on Instagram.
    • 1 Entry: Pin our image on Pinterest.
    • 1 Entry: Follow us on Google+
    • 2 Entries: Tweet about this giveaway.
    • 2 Entries: Follow Sketchbook Skool on Pinterest.
    • 5 Entries: Share on your blog, website or on Facebook
To view the Raffle widget and participate, join the raffle in the widget above!

You can sign up for Storytelling right now (and bring a friend, it'll be fun!) by clicking here

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14. A New Sport

Baseball season has begun. And it's a new sport to us!

B10 is really the only natural athlete in our family. All our kids have played soccer at some point and were pretty competitive, but B10 seems to be good at whatever he tries. And last summer he tried baseball, informally, at a picnic with a group of dads, who all urged me to get him into baseball.

So this year, we signed up. He couldn't make the tryouts for Little League because he was busy being a Monkey in Jungle Book, but the Boys and Girls Club has a league, and it's less competitive. Which is a good thing, since he has so little knowledge of the game.

A couple practices were rained out and we had a conflict for another one, so he only made one practice before the first game of the season. Our normally supremely confident son admitted he didn't know what he was doing yet and didn't feel ready for a game, but the coach assured me that he had a broad range of abilities on the team and B10 would be fine.

His inept parents could not find the field where the first game was played, so he arrived last--and they had run out of hats and jerseys. Mom didn't find out that pants weren't included with the uniform until a few hours before the game, but B10 assured her that sweatpants would be fine. So here he is at his first game--in sweatpants and somebody's jersey from last year (over the green t-shirt he arrived in).

I have to laugh. He's just so obviously not our firstborn.

Since we were late to the game, he only got up to bat one time. First he swung at one that hit the dirt. Then he watched another one do the same. And on the third pitch, he hit a line drive to the first baseman and was thrown out--but got an RBI when his teammate on third crossed the plate!

He didn't see much action out in right field, but he looked alert the whole time and snapped up a couple grounders that got through the infield.

I'm guessing baseball is not going to be his favorite sport, because there is so much sitting and standing around--but he'll be glad to know how to play it.

Now I need to go searching for those white baseball pants that somebody handed down to us! I just know they're in a Rubbermaid bin somewhere....

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15. Lee & Low's Diversity in Publishing Petition

Diversity is one of the issues we really care about at Finding Wonderland, and our eclectic reading list reflects that, we hope. That's why it's thrilling to see publishers Lee & Low really pushing the issue--not only promoting diversity in a... Read the rest of this post

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16. Out of Your Hands

There comes a time when a mom has no control over her child. When one of her babies makes a very adult decision that will alter your future relationship indefinitely. Mom feels hopeless, as if her hands are tied over this decision. Mom, while those hands are tied, hit your knees and pray like never before. Jesus is still on the throne. Maybe this decision was really an act of God and your child is following His lead.

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17. Rook (2015)

Rook. Sharon Cameron. 2015. Scholastic. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The heavy blade hung high above the prisoners, glinting against the stars, and then the Razor came down, a wedge of falling darkness cutting through the torchlight. One solid thump, and four more heads had been shaved from their bodies. The mob around the scaffold roared, a sudden deluge of cheers and mockery that broke like a wave against the viewing box, where the officials of the Sunken City watched from velvet chairs. The noise gushed on, over the coffins, around bare and booted feet crowding thick across the flagstones, pouring down the drains and into the deep tunnels beneath the prison yard like filth overflowing the street gutters. The city was bloodthirsty tonight.

If you love The Scarlet Pimpernel, Rook may appeal to you. Though I can't promise you'll love of it, of course. Rook is a loose retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. It's not set in France and England, but in the "Sunken City" and the "Commonwealth." Also, it's not historical fiction set during the days of the French Revolution, but, is set at least eight hundred years in the future. Perhaps a love of dystopia would add to the book's appeal. But for those readers who happen to love both, well, this one has a great premise.

Did I LOVE everything about Rook? I'll be honest, I didn't LOVE, LOVE, LOVE every little thing about it. I thought, however, that it worked more often than not. That overall, it was an enjoyable, mostly compelling romantic adventure.

Sophia Bellamy is the heroine of Rook. She keeps herself very busy, mainly by saving as many as she can from the Razor, all undercover, of course. Her father has arranged a marriage for her, not that he's concerned with her happiness or her future. But a good marriage will bring in enough money to pay off his debts and keep the property out of the hands of the Commonwealth. I don't often want to boo, hiss characters, but I must say that I was oh-so-tempted here. For he not only hurts his daughter, but, his son, as well by his words and actions. Rene Hasard has his own reasons for wanting the marriage.... Both Rene and Sophia have a few secrets they'd like to keep secret until they know the other person much, much better.

One thing, however, is obvious. Rene's cousin, Albert LeBlanc, is TROUBLE for Sophia. For it is his main goal in life to find the Red Rook...and bring "him" to justice.

Action, adventure, intrigue, betrayal, drama, and ROMANCE. I wouldn't mind a good adaptation of this one!

Here's how Scarlet Pimpernel begins so that you can compare:
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity.
During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her desire for liberty and for fraternity. The carnage had only ceased at this late hour of the day because there were other more interesting sights for the people to witness, a little while before the final closing of the barricades for the night.
And so the crowd rushed away from the Place de la Greve and made for the various barricades in order to watch this interesting and amusing sight.
It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such fools! They were traitors to the people of course, all of them, men, women, and children, who happened to be descendants of the great men who since the Crusades had made the glory of France: her old NOBLESSE. Their ancestors had oppressed the people, had crushed them under the scarlet heels of their dainty buckled shoes, and now the people had become the rulers of France and crushed their former masters—not beneath their heel, for they went shoeless mostly in these days—but a more effectual weight, the knife of the guillotine.
And daily, hourly, the hideous instrument of torture claimed its many victims—old men, young women, tiny children until the day when it would finally demand the head of a King and of a beautiful young Queen.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Don Hertzfeldt: “Artists shouldn’t be making art on the side, it should be their job”

The award-winning independent filmmaker drops some truth in this "Vanity Fair" interview.

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19. Schooool's Out...for...the Summer!

Time to pack up that classroom or library and head to the beach! While you're relaxing, let us offer a little light reading with our recent goings-on.

Latest News

Emma Virján

Emma is pleased to announce that her latest book 
What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig is now officially on sale!
Publisher's Weekly has listed the book as one of the Best Books of Summer 2015, so be sure to pick up a copy for your trip to the beach.
A HUGE thank you to BookPeople for hosting Pig's fantastic book launch.
Learn more about the book and see the trailer here.
Thank you Texas librarians and teachers for your support!

Jeanette Larson

Jeanette was honored to receive the Texas Library Association's Distinguished Service Award, one of the state's highest recognitions for librarians and educators across the state, at the TLA Conference in April. 
Way to go, Jeanette!

P. J. Hoover

P. J. had a busy month filled with school visits, wrapping up a great year, including a highlighted visit to her own son's middle school (he wouldn't talk to her for a solid hour afterward!). 
During the 2014-2015 school year, P. J. visited over thirty schools, talking with kids from 3rd grade through high school. It was a blast, and she is looking forward to doing the same next year. Her schedule is filling up, so if you are interested in an author visit for the 2015-2016 school year, please contact P. J. as soon as possible. 
P. J. surprised students at Trinity Episcopal School in Austin for a Lone Star List celebration lunch.

Over Memorial Day weekend, P. J. banded together with Texas Writing Ninjas Mari Mancusi, Madeline Smoot, and Joy Preble for Comicpalooza in Houston. Aside from having fun at the booth and talking to book fans, she participated in panels on everything from YA Literature to Star Wars vs. Star Trek: It's on. (Star Trek, btw, is definitely the winner!)
P. J. ran into all sorts of awesome SFF icons at Comicpalooza.

K. A. Holt

Kari is excited to show you a sneak peek of the cover of her newest middle grade novel, RED MOON RISING. It will be released by McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) in the Spring of 2016. 
Pitched as Firefly meets Little House on the Prairie, RED MOON RISING is about a feisty 13-year-old who becomes an unwitting pawn in the standoff between her struggling colony and an enclave of aliens who may be something quite different than they seem.

If you are going to be at ALA in San Francisco this June, Kari would love to see you. She'll be signing books on Sunday the 28th from 11:30-12:30, and she'll be on the Engaging Reluctant Readers panel at the Pop Top Stage on Monday 29th at 1 pm.

Don Tate

School Visiting
Don says: Thank you for your support, Texas librarians! Each month, I visit schools all over Texas, and beyond; it's because of you that I get to do what I love-create inspiring, important books for young readers. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletters, and for all of the won
derful responses you've sent me throughout the school year. You rock!
Freedom Touring
Last week, author-illustrator Don Tate and his colleague, author Kelly Starling Lyons, forged the next leg of their Freedom Book Tour through the Washington D.C. area. The tour featured their books that celebrate inspiring African-American historical figures and their journeys to freedom. Stops included: a live taping of RIF Live!, to kick off RIF's (Reading Is Fundamental) 2015 Multicultural Booklist; a Diversity in the Classroom event sponsored by We Need Diverse Books; an Early Childhood Education Literacy Workshop with the National Black Child Development Institute; and a reading at the African-American Civil War Museum. A blurb about the event in Publisher's Weekly can be found here. 
Above: Don at RIF Live!
Below: Don speaks to students at Sherrod Elementary in Arlington, Texas.

Jessica Lee Anderson

Jessica Lee Anderson looks forward to sharing more details about her educational books in the pipeline soon!  She's now booking school visits for Fall 2015 and is currently offering a discount if the visit is booked by June 15, 2015.  You can visit Jessica's website for contact information and more details.

Jo Whittemore

Jo has been juggling working on the new Confidentially Yoursseries for Harper Collins, debuting January 2016, with teaching craft to her fellow writers. She's looking forward to a brief summer break between projects!

For some kids, reading is strictly a school activity, where books are abandoned once the last bell rings. Before they head out the door, why not suggest a summer reading program like theScholastic Summer Reading Challenge? Or create one of your own!


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20. Every Day Hero

I used to do this thing called Every Day Heroes. I kind of miss it. So, I'm going to bring one out of the archive. When I wrote this, Hannaford's actually noticed and commended Angela, which is super nice of them to do. They were/are lucky to have her.

Angela at the Grocery Store

Angela, the cashier at Hannafords has a soft voice. You can barely hear it above the beeping of the scanner as she registers our bananas, our milk. But she pauses for a second and checks out Em who is laughing, mouth open.

“Oh!” the cashier squees. “I love your braces.”

Em’s mouth slams shut.

But the cashier? She notices the change. She notices the effect her comment had on Em’s 13-year-old self esteem.

She journeys on. “I love them, really. They are so cute. The brackets are all different colors.”

“Yeah,” Em manages. She pales. She hates her braces.

“And your teeth are going to be so nice when you get them off.” The cashier rings in some Annie’s macaroni and cheese. “Really.”

Em nods. She bags the box. “I know.”

She half smiles, but she still doesn’t open her mouth wide enough to see her teeth.

The cashier lady finishes up, helps up bag while the credit card processes. Then she looks up at Em. It’s a long, look. It’s a sweet look. Then she says, “You know something?”

She doesn’t wait for Em to answer. She continues on. “You know, you are a beautiful girl. You’re just really lovely. It’s stunning.”

Em smiles and her winter pale cheeks red up a little. “Oh… thanks.”

Angela presses her lips together, pulls a receipt out of some machine. The transaction is completed. We haul our canvas bags full of groceries over our shoulders. We’re ready to go. But the cashier pauses for a second. Em pauses too.

“I mean it,” she says. Her eyes are beautiful. They look right into Em. “You are.”

When we’re walking out of the store, Em bops a little bit even though the sky is gray, the parking lot is full of slush. She bops and says to me, “That lady is really nice.”

She is.

That lady made my daughter feel special. They don’t know each other. They don’t know each other’s names, although they can probably recognize each other in the cereal aisle. Still, Angela took her time to make sure that Em left the grocery store feeling good about herself.

That woman is my hero.

I can tell you one thing, if you go into Hannaford’s you’ll be able to find her. She has short, thick brown hair, plucked eyebrows and pretty eyes. But the way you’ll really be able to find her is the way she’ll look at you. She won’t look at you like you’re a customer. She’ll look at you like you’re a person.

And that’s a rare enough trait now-a-days that it makes her one of my favorite heroes.

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21. The Good Provider

I clean the cream from my whiskers with my paw. I sit watching the delicious little birds hop from seed to seed on the dying thistles in the garden outside the window. This window seat is made for these lazy autumn afternoons. Red’ll be home soon. I love to watch his change of expression when he approaches the house to greet his latest wife. She’s Lola this year. It was Linda back in those days, Bennie’s sister. It’s getting harder to remember that I used to live with Bennie. The boys came up with the idea, in a poker game, at Bennie’s. There was Mutt, Jeff, Bennie and Slocum. I watched from the back of the couch, cleaning my paws with my tongue. There were clouds of smoke and interesting smells emanating from the table that night. The boys were flying high. Bennie figured his ship had finally come in. The next morning, as we drove to work, Bennie talked about the score. He talked to me, but he was really talking to himself. He was a good provider though, so I went along with it. Bennie was my owner, a cat worshipper, who also owned Brutus, a watchdog. Bennie took me to work with him most days. I was an excuse for Bennie to talk to himself, a warm body to have around. Bennie was the only employee left in Red Smith’s auto parts warehouse. Red didn’t make much wholesaling used auto parts, but he had a famous safe which made him a tidy profit. He held payrolls for a lot of companies which didn’t have the facilities to handle large amounts of cash. They couldn’t fit into bank schedules. The safe also held such items as receipts, estates and some money from questionable sources which Red labelled, ‘Other’. On the way to work the next morning, Bennnie dreamed along with the sports show on the radio. “With my cut, I could buy an island, like Brando. Down in Tahiti. So what if he’s fat? Women still love him. I’d have a party for the boys, but not for a couple of years. This is Slocum’s chance too. He can escape from his old lady, finally. The guy’s not well. She’s a bad influence. Don’t you think he’s shrunk and turned grey since he’s been with her?” I sat in the back seat watching some dogs on the sidewalk. Gross. Brutus ran out when Bennie opened the front door of the warehouse. There are dogs and there are dirty dogs. Brutus was dirty and aggressive with everyone except Bennie and me. Bennie had trained him, I had shown him my claws when we first met. He almost lost an eye that time, always respected me since. I wouldn’t turn my back on him, though. Brutus is big. He’s a big, dirty watchdog who would tear anything apart just for fun. Unless someone killed Brutus or otherwise incapacitated him, they’d never be able to steal from this warehouse. Unless they had an in and knew how the safe worked, that is. Bennie was counting on this as part of his plan. He could control Brutus and retirement was approaching. If he ripped the place off, he could sit tight for a few years and let things cool down. If everyone kept their mouths shut and they paid a lawyer Mutt knew, they would all end up rich. Even Red had some kind of insurance for a robbery, Bennie figured, but it wasn’t an urgent consideration. Red could afford it, no doubt. There would be questions. There would be all kinds of cops. They would insist on a lie detector test, but he didn’t have to take it, they couldn’t use it in court. Brando never backed down from a role. This was one for which Bennie had been preparing all of his life. That was the way Bennie saw it, anyway. I always thought he was a little crazy, but who could have known? The safe only opened once a day. If robbers did get past Brutus and the other alarms, unless they came at exactly the right time, they would have to blow the door off of it. It would take a big explosion to blow the door, neighbouring alarms would go off all over the place. There wasn’t much paper around, but there might be a fire. The other thing, which only Red knew about the safe, but no one else knew, was that it expelled all of the oxygen, slowly, after the door closed. Red got it from an art museum when the government closed it down. One of the perks of having a foolproof safe was that big companies were advised, by word of mouth, to use Red’s, in emergencies. Red made a pretty penny helping out big companies. When the boys thought up the plan at the poker game, it was after Bennie had told them all about the “special job” Red was doing that weekend. A big company was moving millions of dollars from city to city. They were leaving it in Red’s safe overnight on the weekend. Bennie and the boys planned to rip it off. I stretched and tasted the fresh cat food Bennie had left in my dish by the office door. I settled in the comfortable window, watched Bennie strike poses in front of the mirror. Every time I cleaned the outside of my ears, I remembered the ticks. Getting rid of them was a painful process. Bennie thought he looked like Brando when he practised a sneer. I thought he looked like an overweight Elvis impersonator. There was an inventory to keep, some paperwork to do, but Bennie mostly listened to a redneck on the radio and talked to me during his work day. When we were at the warehouse, Bennie kept Brutus in his run outside in the back. Red dropped in on Friday afternoon for a few minutes. He ruffled my fur, scratched my ears. Red was just getting to like me in those days. He went over the delivery of the money on Saturday morning, told Bennie that he had Sunday off, that he, Red, would be there to make sure of the pick up on Sunday morning. Red sat in Bennie’s chair, feet up, smoking a cigar, called Linda. He put Bennie on with his sister, enjoyed their fraternal banter. Red glowed with love for Linda. His face changed when he talked to her on the phone. When he spoke about her with Bennie, the latter thought he was kidding. Bennie looked at Red, quizzically, behind his back, after these conversations about his older sister. The boys planned to pull into the warehouse as soon as the delivery was made on Saturday morning. They would load the money and take it away. They would leave Bennie in the safe to be released by Red the next day. The story would be that the robbers showed up right after the security company delivered the cash, pushed Bennie into the safe, left with the loot and the security film. The key to getting away with it was for everyone to behave normally. These guys thought they could pull it off. It sounded good, that night, when the boys met for poker at our place. Mutt had all the papers and powers of attorney for them to sign. It would give their lawyer, who wasn’t above a bit of graft himself, the right to move their money around. No one could quit their jobs or do anything out of the ordinary for at least two years. They were all thinking about retirement. The boys were closer to old than young. The delivery Saturday morning went smoothly, the security company guards moved the cash into the safe. They had just pulled out of the parking lot when Mutt, Jeff and Slocum pulled up, at the front door, in Slocum’s black van. Bennie had already taken the film out of all the security cameras when they walked into the office. They wore gloves, but no masks or disguises. Bennie showed them the millions of dollars they were stealing by opening a package. They got lost in a delirious minute of congratulations while they admired the bills. After a short debate, they figured that I should keep Bennie company in the safe. There was nothing soft and warm inside the safe. I never did like it. They threw me in with Bennie after they put my dish and some water inside the door. I circled the safe quickly, ran out, just as they slammed the door shut. They left him some chocolate bars and water, but they couldn’t do anything about the light. There was no light, but Bennie planned to sleep and rehearse his shock and anger until Red arrived. They didn’t even notice me until it was too late. No one had time to worry about me, so they left. The three of them giggled as they got into Slocum’s van. In a few years, they would be on easy street. Margaritas all around at Bennie’s place in Tahiti, one island over from Brando’s. All they had to do now was to drop off the money at the lawyer’s. At the time, I didn’t know, nobody did, except Red, about the slow leak of oxygen from the safe. Bennie must have realized that something was wrong because he made a lot of noise in the safe around the same time that Red arrived, the next morning. Red’s Cadillac pulled up beside Bennie’s Celebrity in the empty parking lot. I watched from the front window as Red got out of his car and walked toward the building. He looked back once at Bennie’s car. He was about half way between his parking space and the warehouse when his cell phone went off. He dug it out of his jacket pocket and answered it. I could tell that he was talking to a woman he loved by the change of expression on his face. It lit up. He stopped, looked at the sky as he talked. He had a big smile on his face when he turned back to the car. He listened to the phone, smiled at his shoes. Red got back into his Caddy, talking on the phone, his eyes on Bennie’s Celebrity. He was talking to Lola that day. He thought Bennie had his days off mixed up, so that he was taking care of the pick up. He was partially right, Bennie was there, but he was in the safe. The noises from the safe got fewer and further between, quieter, then stopped all together. Brutus started howling and whining from the back of the warehouse. Brando’s death scene in The Godfather always was one of Bennie’s favourites, but I think he would rather have played it in a tomato patch. When the security guys from the pick up company arrived, there was no one around. They called Red and told him that they could see the cat in the office window and that Bennie’s car was there, but no Bennie. By this time I was hungry, the litter box was filling up. I knew, from Brutus’s mournful howl, that Bennie had somehow died in the safe. Red drove over from Lola’s the next morning. He took a long time calling long distance, pushing digital codes to open the safe before its special time. Red’s reputation was on the line. The reputation of his service to the big companies. The security company had to have the money. Red breathed through his nose a lot, walked around the office with a serious expression followed by the security guards talking into their cell phones. If they had arrived earlier, if Red hadn’t taken so long to open the safe, they could have seen Bennie gasping for his last breath. The police were called as soon as Red opened the door and found Bennie dead in the safe, the money gone. Red seemed surprised and a little hurt by the discovery of Bennie’s body. When he saw the cat dishes of water and food inside the safe door he adopted me on the spot. He took me home to his very comfortable estate. It was as if he was protecting me. He switched from Linda to Lola just after Bennie’s funeral. Linda accused him of holding out on her, but Red paid her off. It wasn’t the payment she wanted but she had to settle for it. The police questioned all of Bennie’s friends. Nobody talked and no one was caught for the theft. Lola’s a real cat lover so I’m pampered and lazy here. There are no poker games with smoke and interesting smells, but the food is great. Yesterday she got some cat treats and served them to me on a pillow. It gets harder and harder to remember life at Bennie’s. Red suffered his loss manfully, in public. Bennie’s death was so shocking that Red’s compensation from the insurance company went unnoticed. Red doesn’t know Mutt or Jeff or Slocum. They don’t move in the same circles. They were all there at Bennie’s funeral which was also attended by a large number of undercover cops. I watched from the passenger seat of Red’s Caddy. When it was over they filed past the Cadillac on their way to the cars. Red argued with Linda over Bennie’s grave. Slocum looked me right in the eye and winked as he passed the windshield. He knew that I had seen it all and that Red was a good provider.

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22. Current Scratch: Join Us, Good News, Book News, Contests, & Just For Fun

Hi there, folks! Sorry for the delay, but I was without phone & Internet Monday and Tuesday due to the storms. You never realize how plugged in you are, until you're without! Here's one positive about all the rainy weather... At least we have time to work on all of our creative projects. Let's get busy!

Need a little inspiration? JOIN US at our next event!

At Washington-on-the-Brazos StatePark on June 13 for a Writing Day and Sketch Crawl. We'll meet at the large pavilion in the park at 9:30 a.m. and after brief introductions you'll be on your own to write, sketch, research and relax. Bring a picnic lunch, and we'll reconvene from 12 to 1 p.m. to eat together. Work on your own again, then 3-4 p.m. will be an optional time to meet and critique.

Admission to the park is FREE. There is a small fee for the museum ($5) and for the living history farm ($5 for each side or $9 for all 3 sides). NO LAWN CHAIRS are allowed. In addition to the pavilion, there is seating in the historical buildings and there are benches and picnic tables around the grounds, including the river overlook. We will have access to a few electrical outlets and running water in the pavilion. Bring a picnic blanket or cushions if you plan to sit on the ground.

We will arrange carpools early in June. Please email Liz Mertz or Candi Fite for any questions or if you'd like to carpool. lizbmertz@gmail.com and candice.fite@gmail.com . If severe weather is predicted ahead of time, we may cancel, but the plan is to go rain or shine.

Next month's schmooze will be on June 24th with illustrator Garrett Hines from Waco. Stay tuned for details.


Congrats to member Kelly Bennett! Her picture book, Not Norman, a Goldfish Story, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (published by Candlewick Press, 2005) has been selected as Jumpstart’s Read for the Record book for 2015. On October 22nd folks all over the world will read the book. Support Jumpstarts goal of helping every child become Kindergarten ready by signing up to #ReadfortheRecord and buy your Jumpstart edition here http://bit.ly/jumpstore

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23. Why You Should Create Art Everyday!

In this video I give reasons why I think you should set a schedule of creating artwork each and every day...oh - and I have fun drawing this hedgehog while I'm at it.

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24. D.C. Public Library Hosts Brian Selznick Exhibit

Brian Selznick (GalleyCat)One branch of the D.C. Public Library is hosting an exhibit called “Building Wonder, Designing Dreams: The Bookmaking of Brian Selznick.”

This display showcases the works of the Caldecott Medal winner behind The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It can be found inside the Great Hall of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

According to the organization’s website, visitors will be able to “enter Selznick’s books; the pages are 8’ tall and 18’ wide,” “open the drawers in the ‘Cabinet of Wonder,” and “play with a wooden automaton.” A closing date been scheduled for June 21st.

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25. Face-Lift 1259

Guess the Plot

A Fearful Brew

1. Was it a heart attack that killed that dinner party guest? Or was it poison in his soup? Inspector Snow is on the case, but can his scientific investigation reveal the truth before the society ladies' gossip destroys lives? Also, women's suffrage.

2. When amateur microbrewer Joe Bona creates what may well be the best beer in the world he's ecstatic - until he realizes that his creation is sentient . . . and it's got stage fright. 

3. John Longstein has had a good run as a serial killer. Now it's time to toss back a few brewskies. Just one last step. His last victim-to-be watches him prepare a batch of home-made brew with those "special" ingredients still to come. 

4. Celebrity, actress, chef, writer, model and lifestyle guru Gwen Patronal has a new beverage for the health-happy Hamptons set: a gluten-free, GMO-free, sodium-free, cruelty-free, fat-free, calorie-free, cholestoral-free, free range, organic, vegan beer she calls "Good". Will she clean up at the Sag Harbor Brew Fest, or will she fall to a *gasp* traditional ale? Also, hipsters.

5. High school student Taylor inherits her late grandmother's recipe collection and it includes a recipe for witch's brew. Is this the secret to getting that new boy Josh to finally notice her? Or will the concoction kill everyone who drinks it? Only one way to find out.

Original Version

A Fearful Brew

Inspector Snow thinks there is more to the death of Sir Atwood than the hasty verdict of heart attack. ["Hasty" because Atwood was a young man, and an athlete, and his head is missing.] [Assuming Atwood isn't the guy's first name, that should be Sir John or Sir John Atwood, but not Sir Atwood. I know this because on golf telecasts they always refer to Nick Faldo as Sir Nick.] ["Heart attack" sounds more like a diagnosis than a verdict. Has there been an inquest or was Atwood merely examined at the scene by a doctor?]

The hostess of the fatal dinner party fears the gossip will damage her social position. [Already there are whisperings that Sir Atwood's heart attack was caused by the Clams Casino.] Her guests, obligate [obligated] to attend, find their secrets at risk. 

[Guests: He had a heart attack. What do you want from us?

Inspector Snow: I want to know all of your secrets.]

Charlotte Magnolia, observes sagely from her husband's side, [Observes what?] with a flask of bourbon to keep her warm. [Is Charlotte Magnolia the hostess? A randomly chosen guest? I was convinced we were in London; now I'm thinking Mississippi.]

Jane Bradford, [no comma needed there.] fights her fear. She convinces her widowed sister, Lady Harrington, to help her start a suffrage group, [What is this "fear" Jane is fighting? I can't think of any fears that can be overcome by starting a suffrage group.] despite Aunt Edith's warning that it will ruin their chances of marriage. [Wait, are we in the same book?]

With only three recruits, her sister wavering, and Aunt Edith's smug reaction to their lack of members, Jane makes the radical decision to include the household servants in their group. The only one to object [decline?] is the cook, to everyone's surprise. [The surprise isn't that the cook didn't want in; it's that the butler did.] 

When news of the death of Sir Atwood reaches the group, the servants prove to be more than mere prop . The cook's knowledge of herbs, Maisy's determination to help a sacked maid, [Who is Maisy?] and tidbits of gossip from the society ladies, spark a transformation in an era that demand [demands] social correctness. 


What does Sir Atwood's death have to do with the servants in Jane Bradford's home?

Characters named in query: Inspector Snow, Sir Atwood, Charlotte Magnolia, Jane Bradford, Lady Harrington, Aunt Edith, Maisy. Add to that the hostess, the guests, Charlotte's husband, the cook, Jane's other household servants, and the society ladies, and we have a cast bigger than Downton Abbey. Which is okay for a novel, but way too many for a query letter.

Stating the title at the top isn't enough. We want a couple sentences in which you give the title, genre, word count, and anything else that might convince the reader to request your manuscript.

The first name mentioned is Inspector Snow, but he's never mentioned again. If Jane's cook solves the murder, we don't need the inspector in the query. 

You need to decide whether the main plot is Inspector Snow's murder investigation or Jane Bradford's quest for suffrage. The latter seems to get more attention, but as the suffrage group comprises only Jane and her sister (maybe) and her household staff, maybe the suffrage group is a subplot.

If the investigation is the main plot, tell us why Snow thinks there's more to Atwood's death than a heart attack, and name some suspects and their possible motives.

If women's suffrage is the main plot, open the query with Jane, tell us about her struggles to interest others in the cause, and mention Atwood's death only if you can explain how it's connected to the cause.

Don't name characters without also telling us who they are.

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