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1. Artist Round Table #1 with Jose-Luis Segura

Greetings friends! Over the weekend, I hung out with an awesome group of artists, and we had a great discussion about our careers as artists. We started by interviewing artist Jose-Luis Segura, and then broke into a group discussion. Come and listen while you work! We hope to do more of these in the future, stay tuned!

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2. Free e-book for March: Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave

9780226301310 2

Our free e-book for March is Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave by Simon Goldhill. Read more and download your copy below.


The Victorian era was the high point of literary tourism. Writers such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Sir Walter Scott became celebrities, and readers trekked far and wide for a glimpse of the places where their heroes wrote and thought, walked and talked. Even Shakespeare was roped in, as Victorian entrepreneurs transformed quiet Stratford-upon-Avon into a combination shrine and tourist trap.

Stratford continues to lure the tourists today, as do many other sites of literary pilgrimage throughout Britain. And our modern age could have no better guide to such places than Simon Goldhill. In Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave, Goldhill makes a pilgrimage to Sir Walter Scott’s baronial mansion, Wordsworth’s cottage in the Lake District, the Brontë parsonage, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and Freud’s office in Hampstead. Traveling, as much as possible, by methods available to Victorians—and gamely negotiating distractions ranging from broken bicycles to a flock of giggling Japanese schoolgirls—he tries to discern what our forebears were looking for at these sites, as well as what they have to say to the modern mind. What does it matter that Emily Brontë’s hidden passions burned in this specific room? What does it mean, especially now that his fame has faded, that Scott self-consciously built an extravagant castle suitable for Ivanhoe—and star-struck tourists visited it while he was still living there? Or that Freud’s meticulous recreation of his Vienna office is now a meticulously preserved museum of itself? Or that Shakespeare’s birthplace features student actors declaiming snippets of his plays . . . in the garden of a house where he almost certainly never wrote a single line?

Goldhill brings to these inquiries his trademark wry humor and a lifetime’s engagement with literature. The result is a travel book like no other, a reminder that even today, the writing life still has the power to inspire.

To download a copy, click here.


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3. Cybils Finalist Review: THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS by Max Brooks and Caanan White

Summary: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II are, by now, well-known to American and African American history. But the regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters--the Army's 369th infantry unit--were the first American unit to reach the Rhine in the... Read the rest of this post

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4. Be Thankful for Friendship!

Ten Thank-You Letters

By Daniel Kirk


There are so many approaches to this picture book, I honestly don’t know where to start reviewing them.

First, I thought I’d take the friendship angle of the yin and yang. Hey, it IS the beginning of the Chinese year of the goat. Friends are often not mirror images of one another. But often they do complement each other. After all, we are all not alike in personality and tastes; that’s why we have chocolate and vanilla ice cream!

And, in the case of Rabbit and Pig, I was reminded of the divergent friendship of Wally Cleaver, in TV’s “Leave It To Beaver” and his pal, Eddie Haskell. Does your child have a friend that they fully embrace and you, as a parent, scratch you head and wonder why? Wally’s parents did. But they sagely figured there was something about their super kind and considerate son Wally, that he needed in the “all about me” Eddie.

Here, Pig is bent on writing a series of thank-you notes, only to be constantly interrupted by Rabbit for paper, stamps and who knows what all.

Pig is nothing if not task-based and very methodical in his pursuit of same. Rabbit is, well, shall we say, more of a spontaneous spur of the moment type. Rabbit is constantly prompted by the ideas of Pig, and he too sets his own into motion. There’s one glitch. Rabbit lacks the physical things to put make them happen! Enter his friend Pig. He is only too obliging, kind and willing to provide the needed apparatus of pencil, paper, stamps, and envelopes for Rabbit’s just thought of thank-you notes.

As Rabbit thinks of MORE people to write letters to, Pig’s letter to his grandma is constantly put on hold amid a flurry of interrupts.

Here’s another take on this picture book that is a great angle to bring up for kids. And that is the writing of a thank-you note. Does anyone even do this any more?

I remember at Christmas; first, came the thank-you notes to aunts and uncles that sent us presents, and then, and only then, were we allowed to play with said toys.

Let’s face it, some kids are natural procrastinators. “Later, mom.” or “I promise I’ll do it later.” And sometimes later never arrives. “Ten Thank-You Notes” is a fine vehicle for reminding young readers there are so many people in their lives deserving of thanks. It’s not only provides a fine read, but a teachable moment. Everyone, from Madame President to the crossing guard is worthy, in Rabbit’s book, and on paper, of a thank-you note!

I fully realize Pig and Rabbit are very young, and therefore they have only learned to print letters in their notes. And that is so wonderful in and of itself. They are so neatly written and very well expressed. But, I can’t let this picture book go by without another plug for the teaching of handwriting.

Finally, what if Pig’s grandma writes a reply to Pig in her own handwriting? Might he be unable to read it? Just some food for thought, parents, as the teaching of cursive sinks from view in some schools.

We have letters that family members wrote by hand on the day of our daughters’ christenings. They were put aside until the girls were old enough to read them. The letters were filled with the feelings of family members on that day. They are rare and revert to a time filled with members of our family that are no longer with us. Please don’t deny your young reader the ability to actually read letters like these.

In the meantime, have your young ones read along with Pig and Rabbit as they both model behaviors and a friendship that not only allows for differences, but would make both Martha Stewart and Emily Post proud!


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5. Mystery Grab Bag Sale... LAST DAY!

Only a seven more Mystery Grab Bags left for sale... $20 a piece in my Etsy shop.

I'm gonna close the sale at the end of day on TODAY, and sort books for shipping on Tuesday, so get them while the getting is good!

Each package will include at least 4 to 5 vintage books that are super awesome. The $20 includes shipping and packaging, and will hold guaranteed awesome stuff and maybe a surprise here and there. Way, way, way over a $20 value. The suspenseful thrill alone is world hundreds! All books shipped media mail. Allow 2 weeks for delivery, though it usually taken less time for the PO to deliver. Continental United States only please. Remember, all books will be vintage, but they will be in good condition. Still an old book is not a new book, but you get my drift... If you put a note with your child's age and likes, I can try and accommodate.

 Click here to sign up!

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6. Book review: Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents

Herman bookJeff Herman, a long-time literary agent, has published his guide to the publishing industry for more than 20 years. I’ve used it a number of times to research publishers, agents, and editors. It could be quite useful for you to save time, target your efforts, and avoid missteps.

He opens the book with articles with information on the publishing industry and its processes. There are good insider insights that could help you in your quest. In this 2015 edition I found an idea I like: can’t get an agent? Then become one yourself. If you do this, then the sections on book publishers and their editors become your guide to pitching.

If you’re looking for a literary agent, he asks them a number of questions that can help guide and focus your queries (he also discusses how to write query letters and book proposals). There’s personal information that could help you connect with an agent (not all agents answer all questions, but their answers are helpful nonetheless). The questions he asks include:

  • Describe what you like to represent and what you won’t represent
  • What are the best ways for writers to pitch you?
  • When and where were you born?
  • Do you charge fees?
  • Describe your education and career history
  • Why and how did you become an agent?
  • Would you do it over again, or something else?
  • List some representative titles you have placed
  • Describe yourself as a person
  • Do you miss the way the business “used to be”?
  • How would you describe the proverbial “client from hell,” and what are the warning signs?
  • Describe your job and what you like and don’t like about it

If you’re working on getting your book traditionally published, I think Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents could well give you an edge in opening that door. Highly recommended.

For what it’s worth,


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7. Instagram of the Week - March 2

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

This week we're focusing on school libraries and media centers. From board games to book dominos and book clubs to volunteer opportunities, school libraries can provide a place for students to have fun and unwind during free periods or before and after school. Prominent displays are one way to grab students' attention and connect them with books and library services with which they may unfamiliar. Book themed bulletin boards can also call attention to library materials or can drum up interest for upcoming events.

We've included a few examples below, but we want to hear from you! Do you offer before and after school programs for your students? What's the coolest display you've put together? Which bulletin board theme has been most popular? Do your teens give you input or decorate for you?


Have you come across a related Instagram post this week, or has your library posted something similar? Have a topic you'd like to see in the next installment of Instagram of the Week? Share it in the comments section of this post.

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8. Why we write (in GIF form)

We write.


We write because we want to change the world.

We write because we want to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.

We write because we want to travel new places.

We write because we want to see what we know in a new way.

We write because we want to create.

We write because we want to connect.

We write because we want to inspire.

We write because we want to see the future.

We write because we want to remember the past.

We write because it's an immense challenge.

We write because it's an incredible feeling to finish.

We write because we want to make magic.

We write because sometimes we just can't deal.

We write because we seek the truth.

We write because we want justice.

We write because we're angry.

We write because we're happy.

We write because we're lost.

We write because we want to find something better.

We write because we love.

Why do you write?

Want to write your story? Check out my guide to writing a novel, How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever, on sale for just $4.99 at:

Amazon Kindle
Apple iBooks
B&N Nook

The print edition is on sale for just $11.99 at:

Barnes & Noble

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9. Stinky Blinky - a bookwrap


This book is authored by Troy Kent and illustrated by Amanda Erb.

Unwrapping the illustrations for you...

His face says it all.  Blinky is experiencing the consequences of eating beans and most of us know what that means.  Yep, a rumble, a rip and a reason to blush.  This witty, humorous book will have you giggling as you turn each page.  Poor Blinky tries his best to keep it under control but gasp!!....the gas does not obey.  Mortified, he  hurriedly darts from his classroom and races to the little boy's room where he parks himself. Yes....mmmmm....ahhhhh!  He believes that this too shall pass....and it does.

When he arrives home his mom lovingly prepares him an after school snack.  She suggests leftover meat, a sandwich with cheese whiz, and then remembers there is a tasty can of beans that he might like.  Do you think Blinky will have another go with the legumes or pass? I think he's "bean" there done that don't you?  

This book is delightful, especially the illustrations. It is written in rhyme and kids (especially boy kids) will laugh and want to share it with others and read it themselves again and again.  I highly recommend this book.  It's a gas!  

For author Troy Guindon, getting emotional reactions is so much better than rejections.
Guindon, a long-time teacher in the Upper Canada District School Board, has had his share of rejections from publishers - every would-be writer gets them - but his children's book "The Reading Promise" is drawing some rave early reviews.
"It's exciting as a writer to evoke some sort of emotion - and surprising for me, (because) I can't get over the response it's getting," said Guindon, who is having two kids' books published by Mascot Books in Herndon, Va.
"The Reading Promise" is the story of a young mother whose promise to read to her newborn becomes her legacy. In the book's dedication, Guindon writes, "To my wife Robyn, who not only encouraged me to publish this story, but was also the inspiration behind it."
He took a year off from coaching a high school football team to spend time with the book project and it's not Guindon's first one.
"I've always been dabbling in (writing) stuff," Guindon said. "This particular one (The Reading Promise), my wife encouraged me to see if somebody would publish it."
Mascot did, but the book did get some rejections, including, Guindon noted, from several publishers in Canada.
It was a year ago in May when Mascot representatives called Guindon to tell him they were very interested in his manuscript and he was asked if he has anything else.
"That made me feel really good," he said
So Guindon sent them "Stinky Blinky," which Mascot said was "Troy-tastic." While it pushes the boundaries of a children's book, it'll also be published by the company.
"Stinky Blinky" was released to Amazon, Barnes & Noble et al on June 3, with "The Reading Promise" hitting stores July 1.
"In Stinky Blinky," the only thing better than laughing gas is laughing at gas. Young readers are invited to join Blinky as he dodges a real-life problem that's quite a hoot - or toot.
Guindon dedicated the book to his sons Kent, Andrew and Alex, "who encouraged me to publish this book, despite the fact that my wife and daughters didn't want me to. They think the subject matter stinks!"
Advance copies of the books are available at Kid's Korner (Cornwall), R&L's Book Nook (Alexandria) and Your Friendly Neighbourhood General Store (Long Sault).
Both are currently being reviewed by Scholastic, a world-wide publisher and distributor of children's books and success in that realm would take Guindon's hobby to a whole new level.
He has more kid's books on the way, with a third manuscript soon to be green-lighted by Mascot.
His pen name is Troy Kent, a semi-pseudonym as those are Guindon's first two names and "The Reading Promise" is illustrated by Elisa Moriconi, an Italian artist.
How many copies will his books sell? That's hard to say, of course.
"(Mascot has) no idea, (but) they have a lot of confidence in them," he said.
Guindon, a graduate of Acadia University in New Brunswick, has been a high school English teacher for over 20 years, most of his career at Tagwi Secondary School near Avonmore. 

Hello! my name is Amanda Erb and I am Boston, MA, USA-based Illustrator with a love for children's book illustration, animation and anything cute. I enjoy playing soccer and am hopelessly addicted to dark chocolate.

I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in May 2013 with a BFA with Honors in Illustration and have been drawing since the age of three. Some of my earliest memories are of drawing characters on printer paper. Throughout my public school education no handout or homework assignment left unscathed from my doodles.

Clients Include:
- Highlights For Children
- Kids VT
- Mascot Books
- MeeGenius  
- Charles Products Incorporated

Published Works:
The Naughty Pancake by Katherine Rawson, MeeGenius
Do Not Go to Work, Dad by Candido Perez, MeeGenius
The Popcorn Predicament by Danielle Boccio, MeeGenius
Annie's Crayon Story by Sheri Dillard, MeeGenius
- A Whirlybird Ride by Teresa Zabierowski, Mascot Books
- Stinky Blinky by Troy Kent, Mascot Books

If you would like to contact me with any questions, project ideas, or opportunities for work 
I can be reached at my email:
amanda (at) amandaerb (dot) com 

Read on and read always!

It's a wrap.

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10. Veronica Roth Inks Two-Book Deal

Veronica RothVeronica Roth has signed a two-book deal with the Katherine Tegen Books imprint at HarperCollins.

Publisher Katherine Tegen negotiated the deal with Newleaf Literary agent Joanna Volpe. The release date for book one has been scheduled for 2017; book two will follow in 2018.

Here’s more from the press release: “In the untitled first novel of a highly anticipated duology in the vein of Star Wars, Veronica Roth explores—with poise and poignancy—the story of a boy who forms an unlikely alliance with an enemy. Both desperate to escape their oppressive lives, they help each other attain what they most desire: for one, redemption, and the other, revenge.”

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11. News flash

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12. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story

shamrocksChoose Your Own Adventure: A St. Patrick’s Story

This morning, you found out your two so-called best friends, Megan and Kelly, are going to be co-leading the presentation in the school St. Patrick’s Day festival . . . and you’ve been assigned to dress up as a bearded leprechaun. Ugh!

You were hoping that you could be a part of the Irish Step Dancing troupe, but when assignments were announced today, you found out that Megan and Kelly would be dancing with Tommy instead. And you three were supposed to be best friends! So you’ll be leading the “folklore” segment of the presentation, whatever that means, and you are definitely NOT a happy camper. The costume alone makes you want to hide under a million blankets until March 18th.

It’s a gray and dreary day, but at least it’s not raining. You take the long way home so you can get a cookie to cheer yourself up. You’re right–a delicious Snickerdoodle is just the trick, and you’re feeling way more chipper halfway through. That’s when you notice a kind of shabby-looking woman sitting behind a homemade stand. She is wearing a cape, and has long, windblown, brown hair flowing out from underneath her hat. She sees you, smiles, and starts waving. Something about her makes you curious, so you walk over. As you approach, you see her stand is full of little bottles organized neatly.

“Hello, darling,” she says in a thick accent. From underneath the brim of her brown hat, her eyes are sparkling and bright. “Fancy a potion?”

“A potion?”

“Yes, yes! A love potion, a healing potion, a lucky potion. I do all kinds of potions. Though I think what you need,” she says, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a little bottle, “is this little guy right here.”

The bottle is made of dark green glass. There’s a tiny, faded label on the side with a three-leaf clover painted on it.

“What does this one do?”

“Exactly what you need it to,” the woman says. “And don’t worry; it’s a gift.”

“How do I even use it?”

“You’ll know when the time is right.” She smiles and shoos you away, so you slip the potion in your pocket and start to go home.

Your walk takes you past a bridge that goes over the lake, and at the foot of the bridge you see a most unusual sight. A lone, white horse is standing at the edge of the water. It’s an overcast day, but the horse seems to be glowing. When it sees you, it begins neighing and nodding. When you don’t move, it starts to huff and paw the ground impatiently. You . . .

  1. call Animal Control. Someone is definitely missing a glowing horse!
  2. keep walking. Someone is definitely missing a glowing horse, and that someone is responsible for finding it!
  3. approach the horse. I mean, it’s a glowing horse! That’s awesome!
  4. take out your phone and look up how to safely interact with a horse. Hey, better safe than sorry, right?
  5. wait a while to see if the owner shows up. You don’t want to jump the gun and call for help, but you want to make sure the horse isn’t left alone or eaten by a swamp monster.

Leave your response in the Comments and tell us what you think will happen next! Part 2 of this 3-part story is coming to Ink Splot 26 on March 10.

En-Szu, STACKS Writer

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13. Face-Lift 1251

Guess the Plot

The Door

1. It's 2020, and the last living member of a seminal 60's rock group wants to go out with a bang.

2. One by one the members of the 1960s rock band "The Doors" are murdered. Seventy-year-old guitarist Robby Krieger is the last man standing. It's kill or be killed.

3. Alternate history in which Jim Morrison, instead of starting a band, goes on American Idol hoping for a solo career, but finishes ninth.

4. Cindy Sanders' garden is her pride and joy. Black spot, snails, and weeds are dealt with with ruthless efficiency. But when an enormous red door appears in her rose-bed, she isn't quite sure how to handle it. Especially as the door leads to an inter-dimensional hothouse full of brain-sucking slugs and elephant-sized greenflies.

5. Subject 00EG417 awakes locked inside a sterile white room. With no food or water, and needing medical attention, she must get out. But will she be any better off on the other side of . . . the door?

6. A former Wiccan turned prep school admin Chloe 'Rainbow' Rowe discovers that Fate closes one door to open another when she is forced to return to abandoned practices to fight off demons that try to take over the Holy Lady Prep School

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

It’s been ninety-seven days since subject 00EG417 awoke from [in] her pod. Thousands of feet underground, locked inside a sterile white room, [waiting for the sun,] she is safe from the sickness above. The doctors that made her and the other engineered humans watch over her. [That sentence could mean the doctors and the other engineered humans are watching over her. If it read: The doctors that made her watch over her and the other engineered humans, there'd be no ambiguity.][Anyone who spends ninety-seven days watching someone in a sterile white room would have to be nuts. But then . . . People are strange.] 

Then the power goes off and the doors open like gapping [gaping] mouths, ready to swallow her up. She steps out into a white hallway and finds the others. [The others being subjects 00BS624, 00BP666, 00UV435, 00FH451, BH90210, and 00U2INXS.] They wait for doctors that never come. There is no food or water and one of the boys is vomiting blood. The sickness is here and they will die within days without help.

She steps into a labyrinth of laboratories, larger than she ever imagined. [That suggests she knows she's in a labyrinth of laboratories, but imagined it was a smaller labyrinth. How does she know it's a labyrinth of laboratories at all if she's never actually been outside her room? If I woke up locked in a sterile white room I'd assume I was in a psych ward or a weird prison, not a small labyrinth of laboratories.] In every abandoned and destroyed room she finds more dead. The doctors have been executed and they could be next. To survive, subject 00EG417 will have to find the door to the above [, break on through,] and face a world she knows nothing about. [Why does subject 00EG417 have to  do this? Can't all the subjects work together?] 

THE DOOR is a 60,000 word YA Sci-fi.

Thank you for your time and consideration. [The End.]


This didn't really light my fire. I mean, I want a query to touch me.

Seems kind of inefficient to keep these engineered humans thousands of feet underground for 97 days, but to not have any food or water there. Why are there no faucets for drinking and bathing? And a storeroom filled with food? Or at least a snack bar? Are there bathrooms? Don't the doctors need a bathroom occasionally?

I'm not clear on what an engineered human is. Were they engineered to be immune to the sickness? Because it doesn't seem to have worked.

You've basically set up the situation subject 00EG417 finds herself in. We want to know what her plan is and why it fails and what she does about that. What you've told us could all take place in the first few pages. I want to know what happens in the first 40,000 words.

There are few places on Earth that are thousands of feet below the surface. Just digging that far is hard enough without putting a large labyrinth of sterile laboratories down there. Of course anything's possible in science fiction, just hoping the book has an explanation for why they need these labs so deep.

Obviously we can't tell if a book has "white room syndrome" until we read the text, but declaring in the query that your character wakes in a sterile white room will convince some readers that it does. If you could describe the pod and tell us what's in the room and leave out that it's a white room, it might get you past those readers who will say Aha! White room syndrome! Next query.

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Another quick oil paint study of mine, and more wisdom from my figure drawing teacher, Mr. Parks:

"Simplify your drawing into 3 values: light halftone and dark. Keep the halftone area noticeably grouped with the light. (It will help define your shadow pattern.)

--Don’t MUSH your values; keep them distinct."

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15. The Fault in Our Stars Movie Screenwriters to Re-Unite

Looking For Alaska 10th AnniversaryThe screenwriting duo behind The Fault in Our Stars movie, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, will re-unite for the Looking For Alaska film adaptation. In addition to writing the screenplay, they will also serve as executive producers for this project.

The author, John Green, announced the news on his social media accounts. The Facebook post has drawn more than 49,000 “likes.”

Here’s more from The Hollywood Reporter: “Green’s debut novel Looking for Alaska hit shelves in 2005 and went on to win the Michael L. Printz Award in 2006. Paramount scooped up the rights in 2005, but the studio waited to move forward on the project until after Fault became a massive success.” (via Entertainment Weekly)

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16. Advanced Copies of STRANGE SKIES Up for Grabs


I was originally going to do a Top 7 post this week, and I’m moving it to next week because something amazing happened today. Kat Kennedy from Cuddlebuggery organized an amazing 60+ blog tour in support of #LastListEgmont for today, March 2nd. Check out various interviews and guest posts by yours truly as well as other Egmont authors. We are blown away by the generosity and pure awesomeness of Kat and all the bloggers who participated. To highlight just a few, Jade at the BedtimeBookworm asked me the hardest part of writing a sequel, Shannon at ItStartsAtMidnight asks me what kept me (mostly) sane during the sequel drafting and she’s doing at INTERNATIONAL giveaway of STRANGE SKIES, and Erin at TheBookNut asks about my writing rituals and is also doing an INTERNATIONAL giveaway of STRANGE SKIES. If you follow me on Twitter (you are, right?), then you’ll see the other interviews and giveaways as I tweet them. Good luck and see you next week for my Top 7 post.

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17. Blog Tour: Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye (Review & Giveaway!)

3 soft & chewy snickerdoodles.

Cover Love:
This is one of those covers that I feel would be better in person than a digital file.  I don't love it, but I think if it was in my hands I would feel different about it.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I was asked to participate in the blog tour for Witherwood and Obert Skye is a popular middle school author so I decided to join up!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
After a slight misunderstanding involving a horrible governess, gravy, and a jar of tadpoles, siblings Tobias and Charlotte Eggars find themselves abandoned by their father at the gates of a creepy reform school. Evil mysteries are afoot at Witherwood, where the grounds are patrolled by vicious creatures and kids are locked in their rooms. Charlotte and Tobias soon realize that they are in terrible danger—especially because the head of Witherwood has perfected the art of mind control. If only their amnesiac father would recover. If only Tobias and Charlotte could solve the dark mystery and free the kids at Witherwood—and ultimately save themselves.

Romance?: Not that kind of book!

My Thoughts:
This story started out laugh out loud funny.  The first chapter when Tobias and Charlotte played their prank on their "nanny" was at times both funny and sad.  For a dad who seemed to love his children as much as theirs did, he was certainly clueless when it came to his children's needs and who was watching them.  But the description of the prank was gross and funny.  It would make a good read aloud.

I loved the author's style of writing.  I am not sure that authors like being compared to Roald Dahl, but that is was kept coming to mind as I got started reading this.  Fortunately kids really don't get tired or reading the wacky and unbelievable if there is a good dose of humor with it.  I haven't read any other Obert Skye books but was pleased at this style of writing. And a boarding school is always a good setting for the fantastic to happen.

I liked Tobias and Charlotte, very relate able characters. Tobias dives right in without thinking ahead and Charlotte observes more, but goes along with Tobias. They are fiercely loyal to each other and when they find themselves at Witherwood they are worried, scared and lonely.  Kind of like kids starting middle school for the first time!

Witherwood is a great setting, perhaps evil, certainly not normal and a little scary. I loved the illustrations and glad they were included. This book could get away without the, because of the authors clear descriptions, but I felt they added to the reading for me.

This is a series, so intends with no real resolution, which I didn't love. It's a reason I never read the whole Series of Unfortunate Events. I like a little more of an uptick at the end of my books, even ones that are series.  However, it never seems to bother young readers. This one will fit comfortably on my middle school library shelf, but not for long because I think it will be very popular.

To Sum Up: I think this would be a great beginning of the school year read aloud, but also just a fun read for older elementary and younger middle school readers.

Macmillan is offering a copy of Witherwood Reform School to one of my readers. Please fill out the form below to enter to win.  US residents only, contest runs through March 15.


Please visit the other blogs involved in this tour:
2/18: Little Red Reads
2/19: A Reader’s Adventure
2/20: Stories & Sweeties
2/23: The Hiding Spot
2/24: Bumbles and Fairytales
2/25: Manga Maniac Café
2/26: The Book Monsters 
2/27: Mundie Kids
3/2: Milk & Cookies: Comfort Reading
3/3: Green Bean Teen Queen

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18. Howie the hermit crab is looking for a bigger HOUSE!

Howie the hermit crab was originally commissioned by Your Big Backyard Magazine.

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19. Adventures in Outreach: Pick a Project

Volunteers from a partner organization help students with college applications.

Volunteers from a partner organization help students with college applications.

Last week we talked about finding your perfect community partner, the one who can make all your dreams come true. Once you’ve met a few potential partners and really gotten to know them, you may be ready to choose one and move forward on a shared program or project.

As you’re working with the partner to formulate the project, here are some questions to consider.

1. Do the partners play equally important roles?

This could shake out lots of different ways. Maybe you provide the space, the pizza, and the marketing, and the partner provides the expertise. Maybe you’re creating all of the program content, and the partner is bringing the audience. (Although ideally, you’d probably want to check in with the partner to make sure your content is relevant. If you can create the content collaboratively, even better.)

What matters most is that roles are clearly defined and both sides are making significant, meaningful contributions. If that isn’t happening, you may be doing something cool, but it’s not a partnership.

2. Does the project deliver something important to both partners?

Just as both partners have to put something in, both have to get something out. Outcomes should be clearly stated and deliver something that each side needs to further its mission. For the library, outcomes will often be concerned with promoting equity.

3. Does the project have an end point?

It took me a while to realize how important this is. Even if a project is relatively small and low-impact, set a firm date to pause and examine how things are going. If things are going really well, pat each other on the back and agree about how awesome you are. Make minor adjustments if necessary, then dive right back into it.

If things are not going so well, or if circumstances have changed for one of the partners, you’ll be glad to have a built-in opportunity to make big changes, start all over, or quietly pull the plug. Even in this worst case scenario, you'll have learned something valuable that you can bring to your next partnership.

4. Do the partners agree about how the project will be evaluated?

What are the top priorities? What kind of evaluation tool will you use: pre- and post-tests? Surveys? Interpretive dance?*

Who will design the tool? If you can, work with the partner to create evaluation tools collaboratively or, even better, empower the youth themselves to design the tools and evaluate the program.

And one last tip: Write it all down! We use a Memorandum of Agreement form to make sure that everyone knows what’s up with a new project. Better to tackle misunderstandings before you begin than in the middle, when it’s hard to adjust expectations, or at the end, when disappointment or resentment may have set in. Communication is key throughout the process, but good communication late in the game can’t make up for a lack of it up front.


*Note: Don’t use interpretive dance.

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20. March New Releases: Picture Books

I have lots of client books coming out in March. It's thrilling - but it also makes it somewhat difficult to blog about all of them without this blog becoming a wall-to-wall advertisement. So instead of doing a post every time one is released, I'm going to post about them in categories. Here, then, are the Picture Books of March 2015. Enjoy!

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21. New Cymbeline Trailer Unveiled

A new trailer has been unveiled for the forthcoming Cymbeline movie. The filmmakers created a modern re-telling of William Shakespeare’s play.

The video embedded above offers glimpses of Dakota Johnson as Imogen, Ethan Hawke as Iachimo, and Ed Harris in the titular role. According to JustJared.com, this film features “a gritty story of a take-no-prisoners war between dirty cops and an outlaw biker gang.”

The theatrical release date has been set for March 13th. Click here to download a free digital copy of Shakespeare’s work. (via IndieWire.com)

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22. Together Forever Art Give Away!!

Acquerello III Kickstarter​ up-date:

This week, I am giving away special edition original art from Acquerello III. I will randomly pick two lucky winners and announce the result on March 6nd, Friday morning, Pacific Time.  The campaign only have 10 days left, I will do one more give away this up-coming Friday, and announce the winners on the last day of the campaign.  Join in the fun and pledge now!!

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23. An evening in conversation with Anthony Horowitz OBE and Sir Trevor McDonald

Join us for an evening in conversation with two of Britain’s most respected personalities as Anthony Horowitz OBE and Sir Trevor McDonald take the floor.
Guests will be able to listen to Anthony reading an exclusive extract from his next James Bond novel (due for publication in September) as he discusses his writing and other topics of interest with Sir Trevor, followed by a Q&A session open to all.
This will be an extremely entertaining event guaranteed to provide guests with a memorable evening. Tickets cost £30 and all proceeds from the night will support Kidscape’s vital anti-bullying work.

Date: Thursday 16th April, 6-8pm
Venue: Westminster Foundation, 70 Grosvenor Street, London W1K 3JP
Tickets: £30
Please note that this event is open to people over the age of 13.

Click here for more information and tickets

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24. Doing the Promo Thing

I'm making animated GIFs of all my novelty books.
Please send help, or cookies, or say well done or something.

If you think that having books published means that people do all your promo for you, boo you are wrong. Almost all of us need to sort out our own author pictures, websites, reading tours and whatnot.

In good news, the basement now has a light tent.


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25. Guest Post: Cecilia Galante on Where to Start Your Story?

Cecilia Galante
By Cecilia Galante
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

One of the things I’ve noticed my graduate creative writing students struggling with is where exactly to start in a book.

I’ve had two students fill up the first 40 pages of their novels with excruciating back-story details involving family history, blood-lines, place of birth, and so on.

Another one began her book with a five-year-old protagonist relaying her ideas on life, which might have worked if any of her musings had eventually found their way into her adult life. (They did not.)

The truth is, it is a very difficult process to figure out where in your character’s life you should start telling his or her story. But it’s not impossible.

Here are a few pointers that have helped me navigate this process in my own writing:

1. Don’t ever start at the beginning. Unless you’re writing a memoir, starting out with your character as a kid and then following them up through the teen years and into adulthood is not only boring, it’s missing the point of writing good fiction.

(Random House, April 28)
Most people don’t read books to learn how other people navigate their entire lives; they read books to learn how others navigate a certain part of their lives. The hell of eighth grade perhaps, or a loveless marriage. Don’t cheat your readers by weighing down enormous life experiences such as these other unnecessary ones.

Start right at the crux of things, where the details are the ugliest. The truest. Your readers will trust you right away.

2. Back off the back-story. Even if writers don’t start at the beginning of their characters lives, a lot of them still seem to think that they have to get into all their messy histories, as if apologizing beforehand for all the coming mistakes he or she is going to make.

Don’t fall into that sandpit. Not only will your reader get bored by all the unnecessary details, your story will stop dead in its tracks, which is certain death for both the reader and the writer.

That’s not to say of course, that you don’t need some back-story. Every character needs a little fleshing out when it comes to their pasts. But insert that kind of information sporadically, here and there in little fits and starts, especially when things come up in the present that remind the character of the past.

3. Write big. Right away.

All I knew, when I sat down to write my first book, The Patron Saint of Butterflies (Bloomsbury, 2009), was that I had a scene in my head that had to be put on paper. The scene involved a little boy whose finger was accidentally amputated in a door.

I could see this scene in my head. I could feel it. Taste it. I wrote it out in two days, flush with detail, pulsing with life. And from that scene, the next one came. And then the next, until, a year or so later, the book was finished.

But the finger amputation scene did not end up being the beginning of the book. In fact, it ended up being somewhere in the middle. But because I’d pulled up the anchor and started somewhere, the ship had been allowed to set sail.

Don’t get bogged down by the details of starting. Just start. And if you’re like me, start with something big. Something exciting. Something that makes you want to get back into the chair every morning and keep writing.

And one day, maybe much sooner than you think, you might find yourself climbing up on that deck to see something that looks very much like the end in the not so distant shore.

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