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1. Pantser of Planner?

Do you plan out your novels in advance or write by the seat of your pants. 

http://www.adventuresinyapublishing.com/2014/09/craft-of-writing-from-pantser-to.html

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2. Singing my song

The habit of making art is wonderful. Sharing it is sublime.”

Danny Gregory, artist, author of The Creative License and other wonderful books on illustrated sketchbook-keeping

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3. Evil Editor Classics


Dear Agent X,

For Cassidy MacNamara, Thanksgiving’s no piece of piss—after all, throwing a bunch of fire elementals in one room incites brawls and torched curtains. [It sounds more like Thanksgiving is a piece of piss. Not that I'm familiar with the term, but I assume it means the same thing as piece of crap or piece of shit.] [Oops, a bit of research reveals it's British and means the same as piece of cake. Hey, at least cake, unlike piss, comes in pieces, you crazy Brits.] [Wait, do Brits even celebrate Thanksgiving? Additional research shows they don't, but these could be Americans in Britain or Brits in America, so I'll let it go.] However, this year air elementals crash their dinner, killing some of her own and kidnapping others. including her little sister. [The word "however" suggests that this year Thanksgiving is a piece of piss, when in fact it's still no piece of piss. What you want is something like: Thanksgiving's never been a piece of piss, but at least it's never been a piece of shit. Or rather, shite. Or: Cassidy didn't expect Thanksgiving to be a piece of piss—after all, putting a bunch of fire elementals into one room always incites brawls and torched curtains. But when air elementals crash their dinner, killing some of her own and kidnapping others, including her little sister, she declares it her second-worst Thanksgiving ever.] [Note that I changed "throwing" to "putting." "Throwing" was giving the wrong impression.] [By the way, "piece of piss" is a great tongue twister. Say it five times fast.]

With her aunts and uncles arguing among themselves and her drunk Ma cradling a bottle in the corner, [This is in the same room with the corpses of their relatives lying on the floor?] Cassidy, like always, has to take responsibility. Those bastard air elementals took her little sister, but she’s going to get her back.

Problem numero uno though: fire elementals are restricted to the South. If she crosses the border, the elemental Council will send their extraction team after her. [Problem numero uno should be arranging for the Council's disposal team to get rid of the bodies in the dining room. Otherwise Sis will be coming home to a highly unpleasant scene.] [Are air elementals restricted to the North? If so, why didn't the extraction team deal with them? If not, how does Cassidy know her sister's been taken to the North?] If caught, not only will her little sister be gone for good, but Cassidy will be stripped of her powers. A fire elemental without fire is nothing. Even though all she’s armed with is a couple of her crazy, but loyal cousins, her ‘69 Camaro and a hostage who won’t shut up, [You forgot to include the ability to manipulate fire. When you have flamethrowers and your enemy has leaf blowers, I like your chances.] Cassidy will make sure her family comes home, no matter what the cost.

"When Fire Ignites" is a 90,000 word urban fantasy.

Regards,


Notes

You'd think a society that has extraction teams to keep elementals in their own areas would also have authorities to deal with renegade air elementals who commit crimes.

Presumably the mix of mythological creatures, Thanksgiving, "piece of piss," "numero uno," is part of the book's charm, and not anachronism gone wild.

I like the voice and humor if the book is also funny, but it's unusual for a query in which the main plot development is that characters are murdered and kidnapped to stress the comical aspects. Is the plot more adventure/thriller or comedy?

The query is mostly setup. When her little sister is kidnapped by air elementals, Cassidy and two of her cousins head into the forbidden North on a rescue mission. Expand that into a three or four-sentence paragraph that includes the important stuff I left out, and you still have room to tell us what the plan is, what obstacles pop up, what the air elementals want with Little Sis.


Selected Comments

AlaskaRavenclaw said...I found this query incomprehensible, even when I tried rereading it without EE's blue comments. Try for less, er, voice and more clarity.


IMHO said..."A fire elemental without fire is ..." what? A human? A fairy? I'm really unclear on the characters and the setting (Alabama/Connecticut? South Pole/North pole?). Why did air elementals crash the party/kidnap the kid? Feels more like a madcap movie trailer than a query designed to hook an agent.


Veronica Rundell said...Jesus god. Please don't de a Brit trying to write 'Murrican. This ALWAYS falls flat. Because, as EE has stated, the colloquialisms simple do not translate. I don't care if the words are English--the sentiment is foreign. That being said, set your query aflame and start again.

Describe what the heck actually happens in the story. And be more specific than North v. south, k? If you are a dreaded Murrican (that's how my son calls the incompetent persons seemingly constantly featured on Fox News) you know that America is region-specific. And North-South is too vague to really gain a flavor of authenticity.

Good luck!


AlaskaRavenclaw said...The Brits talk about their North and South too, with the cultural assumptions more or less reversed AFAICT.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...
I'm going to try to synopt this story as I understand it from a 3rd reading of the query.

Cassidy McNamara is hosting Thanksgiving for her extended family of fire elementals when some air elementals show up. They kill several of Cassidy's family and kidnap her little sister.

The relatives don't fight back, they just argue and get drunk. So Cassidy goes off to look for her sister alone.

However, she's not allowed to leave the South. (I'd leave that out, since it clearly doesn't deter her. The next sentence contains an unclear antecedent... let's not worry about this. You'll have to rewrite from the ground up.)

She hops into a car with some relatives-- it turns out she wasn't the only one willing to pursue Sis. Off they go.

Hm.

I would work on the fire elemental aspect if I were you. You don't say what it means. I'd think, for one thing, it would make one want to stay away from alchohol and Camaros. Also, give us some context. Who are air elementals and why are the fire elementals so powerless against them? Air makes fire stronger. Is this some kind of Hatfield/McCoy feud? What's at stake? If it's preserving Cassidy's family, can you make them sound less undesirable?

In other words, what is the actual challenge facing the protagonist?


Veronica Rundell said...EE and Alaska make concise work of the set-up, unfortunately I don't get a true sense of urgency from the author's query. It's heavy on the snark, light on the plot. Try re-balancing with a good dose of 'toning this down'.

Also, and perhaps this is me, but why the muscle car? I mean, the dang thing is 50 years old. Why is it so important to the story that it's in the query?

Also, no idea why anyone would host Cassidy's family for a Sunday dinner, let alone turkey day. They sound reprehensible, and TSTL.


Veronica Rundell said...That Alaska has read this query three times, author, should give you some sense of her kindness, and commitment to helping you rewrite this...

I hope you understand how unlikely it is that an agent will read it more than once. It has to be perfect. Work hard, revise. Let us see it again...


AlaskaRavenclaw said...Why thank you, Veronica. What a nice thing to say.


Anonymous said...Hey Alaska, many of us appreciate your decisive and insightful comments.


Evil Editor said...Actually, I think you meant divisive and incite-ful.

Hey, just kidding.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...Thanks, Anonymous.

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4. Before Quatermass There Was....DENE VERNON THE THING BELOW

DENE VERNON THE THING BELOW

Writer: Terry Hooper-Scharf
Artist: Gavin Stuart Ross
A4
Black & White
Paperback, 
53 Pages 
Price: £5.00
It was the 1940s and he was the first British comics investigator of the supernatural. Dene Vernon -Man Of Mystery! 
Now Dene Vernon gets his first adventure in 60 years.

Set in the late 1940s, Vernon is recovering from a previous case when he is called upon to investigate mystery deaths in London dockland.

Despite the assistance of one of the Silvermaigne family - famous werewolf, demon and vampire hunters-  it looks as though the threat of Lorimed may be the Man of Mystery's last....

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5. Ten Library Books I'm Thankful To Have Read This Year


Happy Thanksgiving! I thought I would share the top ten library books I'm thankful to have read this past year. If you love the library, you might want to create a top ten list of your own! I'd love to read your list if you do make one!

1. The Night Gardener. Jonathan Auxier. 2014. Abrams. 350 pages. [Source: Library]

I love and adore Jonathan Auxier's The Night Gardener. Love and adore is probably even an understatement. I read this one twice this year. I have a review here at Becky's Book Reviews and a review at Operation Actually Read Bible.

Here's how this one begins:

The calendar said early March, but the smell in the air said late October. A crisp sun shone over Cellar Hollow, melting the final bits of ice from the bare trees. Steam rose from the soil like a phantom, carrying with it a whisper of autumn smoke that had been lying dormant in the frosty underground. Squinting through the trees, you could just make out the winding path that ran from the village all the way to the woods in the south. People seldom traveled in that direction, but on this March-morning-that-felt-like-October, a horse and cart rattled down the road. It was a fish cart with a broken back wheel and no fish. Riding atop the bench were two children, a girl and a boy, both with striking red hair. The girl was named Molly, and the boy, her brother, was Kip. And they were riding to their deaths. This, at least, was what Molly had been told by no fewer than a dozen people as they traveled from farm to farm in search of the Windsor estate.

2. Goodnight, Mr. Tom. Michelle Magorian. 1981. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I checked out the book and the movie from the library. Both are highly recommended!!!

3. Unbroken. Laura Hillenbrand. 2010. Random House. 473 pages. [Source: Library]


This memoir is so intense and compelling!!!


4. Bridge to Haven. Francine Rivers. 2014. Tyndale House. 468 pages. [Source: Library]

Historical fiction set in the 1950s. Would love to see this as a movie!!!

5. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. Steve Sheinkin. 2014. Roaring Brook. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

Love this nonfiction title!

6.  Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles. Douglas Florian. 2014. Penguin. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

Without a doubt my favorite poetry book of the year!!! 

7.  Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]

Yes, it's more nonfiction! And, yes, it's set during World War II.

8. The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

More World War II. But it's so good. A Holocaust book for the audience of Number the Stars perhaps. 

9. The Midnight Library. Kazuno Kohara. 2014. Roaring Brook. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

There is something oh-so-magical about this picture book. It just captured my heart.

10.  A Snicker of Magic. Natalie Lloyd. 2014. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

It wasn't easy choosing the final book. Hence why there will be honorable mentions!

Honorable Mentions:

Bo at Ballard Creek. Kirkpatrick Hill. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2013. Henry Holt. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Free to Fall. Lauren Miller. 2014. HarperCollins. 480 pages. [Source: Library]

Kiss of Deception. (The Remnant Chronicles #1) Mary E. Pearson. 2014. Henry Holt. 489 pages. [Source: Library]

Absolutely Almost. Lisa Graff. 2014. Penguin. 304 pages [Source: Library]

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tanita and I wish you all a wonderful holiday weekend full of book binges and marathon reading sessions. (I'm hoping to fit in a few myself!)I found this nifty Book Turkey here.Just a moment of gratitude, here--I could not be more grateful for all... Read the rest of this post

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7. Chang3lings & MyExcess Feature at 2014s Edinburgh Toy & Comic Mart!




Photo: Our poster campaign will start 'VERY' soon, but in the meantime can you please share this digital version as much as possible, and indeed tag anyone who you believe may be interested...










Once more, Hero Conventions are bringing their own brand of FREE COMIC & TOY MART to Edinburgh...

VENDORS INCLUDE: 


Chang3lings http://www.chang31ings.co.uk/

My Excess Comics/Books  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/myexcess
Hero Comic Shop
Comic Convict
Cosmic Art
Rough Cut Comics
Planet Jimbot
City of Lost Souls
Changelings
Forbidden Planet
Adamsons Attic
Keith Crawley Art
Gnometastic
Chris Teasdale Comics
Rubber Pineapple
Lefay Engraving
Phat Cat
Da Judge
Nathan A Lyon Art
Kukuruzovic Comics
Turn Book Time
Skulls & Cross Stitches
Sands Art Glass

During the mart, there will be a performance of the Ghostbusters tribute 'STILL Ready to Believe You' by Des O'Gorman at 1pm. This will be 100% FREE*, but you can feel free to provide a donation at the end of the show as the poor blighter hasn't eaten in weeks. :p

Also, after the show the legendary Marc Farrimond will be hosting 'The Challenge of the Kingpin' geeky pub-quiz. Entry to this will be FREE, and there will be some rather lovely prizes...


YES!! David "The British Manara" Gordon WILL be at the event with his Chang3lings dolls and MyExcess books including Cosmic Oddity which was reviewed here: http://hoopercomicart.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/my-excess-dave-cosmic-oddity.html 

Plus.......

Dave Gordon´s Pin Up Girls Summary

Dave Gordon returns with an epic volume of new pin up material.  100 pages of beautifully detailed linework is behind an exceptionally conceived cover.
One for the collectors for sure as there will be just 100 copies of this book printed and signed by the artist.
Order yours today.

Suggested for Mature readers....and ONLY £10.00?????
 
Of course the Chang3ling dolls are a sight to behold but there are plenty of other figures to buy such as this one

Cyborg from Takara 1998

Cyborg from Takara 1998

If you have to visit and buy from one table this weekend then it HAS to be Chang3lings and MyExcess....otherwise you may need psychological treatment!

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8. If you want to know the answer to Ruff Christmas?

This picture might give you a little clue about our bellatastically exciting sixth book, Ruff Christmas, or maybe it won't!

If you want to know the answer, then enter the FREE competition to win the only signed copy of Ruff Christmas.  The link is below.



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ruff Christmas by B.R. Tracey

Ruff Christmas

by B.R. Tracey

Giveaway ends December 09, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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9. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pea-turkey8x10-web.jpg

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10. Art as a literary device in fiction

Bronze of "David," by Verrocchio
Our May 31, 2014 blog discussion included a concept of "ekphrasis," a term referenced by writer Stephanie Coyne DeGhett as a "literary representation of visual art."  DeGhett explored, among other things, the ways that accomplished writers, including Oscar Wilde, Steven Millhauser, Stanley Elkin, and A. S. Byatt, have incorporated actual works of art as focal points in their works of fiction; i.e., in Byatt's Matisse stories.  

There are many ways that visual art might point the way to creating interest and satisfaction in literary constructs, and it has been a topic in several past postings. In this post let's explore how some creative energies that seem evident in a particular work of visual art might prove useful in drawing out a main character's own emotional space, and in a most natural manner.  


I've chosen an example from my recent YA novel, "Leaving Major Tela," about a young woman, Caitlin, reared by a strict, army officer mom, and given an opportunity to find her independence while having to temporarily live with her divorced dad:



The pot fumes were most fragrant near a long, glassed-in porch at one side of the house, and they wandered through the doorway there.  Stopping next to an elephant-leaf palm tree growing in a redwood tub, they lit their cigarettes and listened-in on the conversation.  A dozen boys and girls were there, some sitting on wooden Adirondack lounge chairs; others straddled on straight-back chairs brought out from the dining room.  They passed around the last tokes of a dying roach, held by a metal clip at the end.
“When is he going to get here?” someone named Jay groused.  “This roach is hereby pronounced dead.”
“Product’s been a little tight lately,” his friend said.  “Wouldn’t surprise me if he asked for a price jump on this run.”
“Yeah.”  Jay looked over at the newcomers.  “What kind of junk are you two smoking?”
“Regular old tobacco-stuffed coffin nails, sorry,” Luka said.
“Come over here, and let’s get a look at you,” Jay said.  “Do I know you?”
The two girls walked over to where he sat in a propped-up lounge chair.  “We’ve met before,” Luka said.  “You came to a showing at my mother’s art gallery a few months ago.  We talked, remember?”
“Oh yeah, got it; you were the chick passing around the finger food and champagne. You know, that artist really sucked.  Did you sell any of his stuff?”
“My mom said he had the third biggest opening night sales of any artist she’d handled over the last two years.”
He scowled and turned to Caitlin.  “Were you there, too?  Did you see all that welded brass rod and polished aluminum tube crap?  Do you like that sort of sculpture?”
“Well, I didn’t see the exhibit, but no, it’s not my favorite sculpture.”
“Oh yeah--what is?”
Caitlin studied him.  He could have been twenty or so, a tangle of dark hair, long angular face, nice mouth.  He was so edgy though, and he had her on shaky ground about sculpture.  “Well, I haven’t seen all that much sculpture, just in Art Appreciation, but I often think of Verrocchio’s ‘David,’ and—“
He interrupted.  “Verrocchio’s?  You don’t mean Michelangelo’s?”
“No, I’ve seen Michelangelo’s too, but it’s so muscular, almost too perfect a male body.  Verrocchio’s was this slender, bushy-haired boy dressed in a sort of kilt, holding a sword, standing relaxed and with Goliath’s severed head lying between his feet.  Even just the screen image projected a whole room full of qi.”
“The severed head must have done it for you.  What the hell is qi?”
“Oh, well, you can think of it as his inner energy.”
“Hey, Jay, he’s here,” his friend said.  “Grab your money belt and let’s go.  He’s dealing in the kitchen.”

Caitlin and her friend, Luka, are at a neighborhood party, gathering material on student use of recreational drugs for their school newspaper article.  Caitlin's brief meeting and discussion with the new character, Jay, presented an opportunity to explore a number of his personality traits, and suggest possibilities for a relationship with Caitlin.  The statue of David, by Verrocchio, shows Jay having a sensitive nature--he sometimes attends art shows--and knows something about art.  He affects a macho attitude toward this powerful sculpture, but also seems impressed by Caitlin's response to it.

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11. dinosaur police - first peek!

I've been wanting to talk about this book for ages, and Scholastic UK have finally tweeted a photo of the cover! So yes, look out for this book next spring!



Here's a look into my studio, when I was using a dip pen and ink to trace the pencil sketch onto the watercolour paper.



And here's the day I brought in the final cover artwork! Met Team Dinosaur Police! That's designer Rebecca Essilifie and editor Pauliina Malinen. We've put together a great dinosaur romp for you; we hope you'll like it.



Warning: contains pizza. Lots of pizza.

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12. The Collected Merriwether: God's Demon-Thumper!

Merriwether: Gods Demon Thumper

 
Terry Hooper-Scharf  & Ben R. Dilworth
Paperback,
A4
Black & White
 85 Pages
Price: £8.00
The complete Merriwether series, originally published in Black Tower Adventure and A Little Midnight Horror–but with three strips never before published… including the Reverend’s battle with the ultimate Evil! 
 
From The Horror Of Hob Street to The Village Of Demons and Varney the Vampyre to The Fallen Angel himself, see how one Church of England vicar deals hard-fisted [and various spiked objects] justice to the ungodly ...and pays the ultimate price!!! 
 
If you were into Charlton Horror Comics or any horror comic then this one is for you! 
 
At the end of Merriwether:Gods Demon-Thumper, the Reverend had been confronted by Satan and as a consequence lay fatally injured. 
 
Star of 1980s comics, Benjamin R. Dilworth, takes us through the fleeting seconds before death as Merriwether has flash backs showing just why he took on the career he did. 
 
Be prepared for horror and a little tongue-in-cheek humour. COMIC HORROR FANS WILL LOVE THIS!

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13. PiBoIdMo Day 27: Mylisa Larsen Panics Creatively (plus a prize!)

by Mylisa Larsen

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today is the 27th of November. For some of you, that means you have 27 ideas lined up like jewels on your desk. I have nothing to say to you. Keep doing whatever it is you’ve been doing. Never mess with what’s working.

But some of you have only 17 ideas or 14 or [sigh] 9. Let me be frank. It is now time to panic.

256px-Panic_button

by John (Flickr: Panic button)

Panic can be a great motivator. But there are two kinds of panic. Only one is going to be useful here. We want nothing to do with the kind of panic that says, “See, I knew I couldn’t do this. I knew I wasn’t the kind of person who could have thirty ideas.” Stop. Immediately. No one wants to be around you when you are like that. Especially muses.

mylisaforpibo

We are going for an entirely different kind of panic. We are going for elevated pulse, eyes wide open, “well let’s try something completely new today because we have to get 15 ideas in the next 3 days and isn’t that going to be crazy fun” kind of panic. We are going for a “get out of your comfort zone and go drink the world in until it pours out in ideas” kind of panic.

So, here are 5 ideas for creative panicking:

  1. Are you sitting down at your desk? Why? That B.I.C. thing can be taken to an extreme, you know. If the ideas are not showing up at your desk, why are you still there? Why aren’t you out kayaking or dancing or sitting in a bubble bath? At the very least, you should be running through the halls yelling, “December is coming, December is coming.” People will just think you’re freaking out over holiday shopping so you’ll totally get away with it. But really, you’re signalling to your brain, “Today is not business as usual. Get out of your well worn little rut. We are going for a ride today.”
  1. Are you putting yourself where you can hear rhythm? We’ve already talked about dancing but you could also find some kids to play jump rope with. Play a clapping and rhyming game with the kids at the bus stop. Or climb up a tree and pay attention for awhile. The world is made of rhythms. So are a lot of picture books.
  1. Quick, who is your favorite illustrator? Go outside and look at everything as if it were one of their illustrations. What would that look like? What things would that illustrator notice or create out of what you are seeing? Try not to let yourself have words during this exercise. Just visuals. Then come back inside and pretend an editor has just called to say, “Edward Gorey/Diane Goode/Lane Smith/Pamela Zagarenski just called. They’d like to illustrate one of your books.” Write that book. Then pick another artist with a completely different sensibility and repeat.
  1. Wait, aren’t you going somewhere today to eat pie? This is perfect. Crazy relatives, frazzled toddlers, small children meeting Aunt Cora’s special jello for the first time. There will be stories there. Watch for them. Offer to entertain someone’s two year old. Remember what being two was like. Take all the young cousins out in the backyard and help them build a snowfort or rake leaves or play tag. They will love you for it. And you will find a story.

And if you aren’t meeting up with relatives for Thanksgiving, where are you going today? Because I’ll bet there’s a story there too.

  1. Look, the point is that panicking creatively is just about pulling out all the stops and flying at this task from some new angles. It’s about playing. So quit acting like such a grownup. When was the last time you sat down with some colored paper and cut it into shapes just because it was cool paper and you had scissors? When was the last time you laid on your belly in the grass and watched a tiny world go by? Have you drawn on your walls lately?

Loosen up a little. Grin like you have a secret. Play. Panic (creatively.)

guestbloggerbio2014

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books, January 2016) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking).

You can visit her online at MylisaLarsen.com.

prizedetails2014

Mylisa is giving away a picture book critique!

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!


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14. Off to brisbane Supanova today.

Once more  over the top

Heres a 2xA0  (8xA2) drawing I did really quickly (30 min) at  Book Expo earlier this year.
Girl is a bit small for horse etc- but considering how quickly I did it and how big its not too bad.


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15. Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you have a lovely day full of gratitude and good food. But if the kiddies get antsy - remember I have Thanksgiving-themed coloring pages. CLICK HERE or the image to download them for free!

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16. Hard to believe it’s been almost 10 years since I wrote this post

She finished the last round of high-dose chemo on Thanksgiving Day of 1997. We ate Boston Market turkey and stuffing in the hospital playroom while her meds finished running. There were two more years of low-dose chemo to go, but we expected to spend most of that period as out-patients. When we got home that night—home, where we hadn’t spent more than ten days in a row since March—it was late, a cold, clear night, with as many stars as a New York City sky can muster. I remember thinking I couldn’t imagine ever being more thankful for anything than I was to be carrying that little girl up the stairs to our apartment that night.

I was wrong.

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17. Happy Birthday to Let’s Get Busy!

This morning at 7-Imp, I’m doing something a little bit different. Matthew Winner, who founded and runs the Let’s Get Busy podcast, is celebrating his 100th episode. He’s been visiting a few blogs to talk about his work, and today he has a cup of cyber-coffee with me to answer some questions about the wonderful resource that his podcast has become.

Matthew is an elementary school librarian and also runs a blog called The Busy Librarian. Today we’re going to focus, though, on his informative podcast. (Lucky me, I even got to visit in August.) Those of you who read my May interview this year with author-illustrator Dan Santat may remember this moment:

I’ve recently become addicted to Matthew Winner’s Let’s Get Busy podcast, where he interviews authors and illustrators in children’s publishing. Everyone should check that podcast out. … I think in about a year, when everyone catches on, it will be one of the most important media sites in the children’s publishing field.

So, here’s Matthew. I thank him for visiting today and congratulate him on 100 episodes!

Jules: What have been some of your LGB highlights and greatest joys this year?

Matthew (pictured right): Seymour Simon told me he feels like a father figure to me and that he’s proud of me. Brian Won called me “The Ira Glass of Kidlit, only cooler.” A bunch of #KidLitArt pals invited me into their weekly Mario Kart 8 online tournaments. I’d say it’s been a pretty spectacular year for me.

I feel like I could tell you something special about every single interview I’ve shared on the podcast thus far, but maybe the best way I can sum it up is to say that each interview brings with it something new. And there’s always at least one special moment in each of the conversations that makes a memory with me and that I end up sharing with others. I’ll give you an example: I recently interviewed Scott Campell (Episode 98) on his new picture book, Hug Machine. After a moment of gushing over his heartwarming story about a kid who is a champion for (and of) hugging, I told Scott that there was such a powerful sense of truth in his book’s text, and I asked if he himself was a hug machine. Shortly after I received my first and only virtual hug. It’s a moment that makes me smile so much and still it brings me back to his book. Near the end of the story there’s this great spread where the boy, in essence, gives the reader a hug. And on that page, in no uncertain way, Scott is hugging every single one of his readers. It’s awesome. And it’s a moment of the podcast that I know I’ll remember for a very long time.

Jules: Did talking to any of the many illustrators and author-illustrators you interviewed this year change your view of picture books in any remarkable ways?

Matthew: The work of authors and illustrators varies so much from person to person. We all know that. And yet I do find myself intrigued in hearing artists describe their process and how it’s changed over time. Lauren Castillo (Episode 100) published two books this year as an author-illustrator and both show such master of craft in the way she balances well-tempered words with these beautiful watercolors. I’m talking, of course, about The Troublemaker and Nana in the City. Her process includes writing a much more text-heavy manuscript, then editing it down as she creates dummies and considers her illustrations. It’s as if she’s split herself in two to work out the perfect balance of text and art. That just kind of blows my mind.

I had a similar experience when I spoke with Nathan Hale (Episode 61), known most notably for his Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales graphic novel series. Nathan writes a full manuscript for every graphic novel before ever drawing a single sketch for the work. I mean, that’s amazing! He’s creating hundreds of drawings for his story with limited text, being that he tells much of his story through the art. And yet all of that is playing around up in his head and is captured, to oversimply his process, in what comes down to stage directions and art notes. Had you asked me prior to starting Let’s Get Busy about the way in which graphic novelists work, I never in a million years would have guessed that so many begin with a manuscript.

Then there’s the way that Dan Santat (Episode 41) envisioned our imaginary friends as extensions of ourselves, taking various forms that mirror our own interests. I mean, REALLY! Would you have guessed that Beekle resembles a blank sheet of paper onto which brilliant ideas can be captured?

Or that Bob Shea (Episode 23) designs each of his characters from a basic jellybean shape so that his readers can recreate his characters more easily?! My students and I spent an entire week drawing characters out of jellybean shapes when I learned that. First we started with Bob’s characters, and then we created ones of our own!

Or that Raina Telgemeier (Episode 39) tries to build a hook into the last panel of each of her pages in order to get the reader to turn the page and stay engaged in the story? No wonder none of us can put her books down!

Or that Chris Haughton has actually moved from creating his illustrations using a digital collage technique to working with cut and torn paper to create actual collage art for his newest picture book, Shh! We Have a Plan!

If anything, I would say that hosting Let’s Get Busy has made me an even bigger fan of picture books. I marvel at the process and the technique that goes into creating these works of art, and I think about how very lucky I am to get to peek into these artists studios and learn more about the inspiration and journey that brought them to the finished product.

Wait … did I answer your question? I hope I did.

It’s all remarkable to me.

Jules: If the sky were the limit, what’s one thing you wish you could do at your podcast, if anything?

Matthew: I would love for a whole bunch of us kidlit fans and advocates and creators to build a network together of podcasts and YouTube channels and blogs and news outlets. I know that would be a huge undertaking, but I think having one large collective with a single entry site to access all of this truly awesome content would be incredible. I listen to this great podcast called The Nerdist (see my response to the next question for more back story). But The Nerdist has grown over the past several years into a network of podcasts, YouTube shows, articles and more really cool stuff, and the idea grew from connecting fans of the podcast with other content they might enjoy. That’s where I’d love to see Let’s Get Busy connect and grow. I’d love to find a more efficient way of connecting my listening audience with other podcasts and resources they might love and also to get Let’s Get Busy to the ears of people who might not know about it yet.

I love being a part of Nerdy Book Club and all of the amazing connections I’ve made through that awesome collective, but it just wants me to help connect others in this kidlit community even more.

Jules: Can you talk a bit about why you started the podcast?

Matthew: I blame Travis Jonker, author of the 100 Scope Notes blog, for actually getting Let’s Get Busy started.

One of my favorite things about attending library and reading conferences is getting to meet authors and illustrators and cartoonists. But something special happens when you get to hang out with those same people beyond the exhibition halls or artists alleys. Chances are that, if you sit down with anyone you find remotely interesting and have an earnest conversation with them for ten or more minutes, you’ve found yourself. And when you speak with authors and illustrators and cartoonists, the stories you start to hear often inform the stories these creative types create. It’s not always so direct, but it’s always something I find really fascinating.

So when I was telling Travis Jonker this, as we were hanging out with other kidlit pals at a hotel bar in Chicago at a recent ALA conference, I related these conversations to one of my favorite podcasts, The Nerdist, in which the conversations with guests from all over the comedy, music, and movie scenes are informal and are given the time to breathe and get really interesting. Why not create something similar for the kidlit world where we’d get to hear these sincere interviews with authors and illustrators and then get to know and love their work even more so in the process?

Travis said in so many words, “Sounds great! I would listen to that! When are you going to start?”

Those words were the permission I needed to start Let’s Get Busy, a friend’s encouragement and validation of an idea. The rest is sort of history. I started interviewing my friends in the library and publishing worlds. After each interview I would ask my guest to make a recommendation of whom I should talk to next. From there, the connections have grown far and wide but have always maintained a sense of family and closeness. That’s a quality I hope the podcast never loses.

Jules: What’s your favorite thing about podcasting? What drives you to keep doing it?

Matthew: I learn something new with each person that I talk to. And I get to talk to people I never expected this small town school librarian to brush elbows with. And I get to be a fan of my guests’ works without having to filter or hide it. And it’s maybe the most fun thing I’ve ever been involved with. Okay… that’s an awful lot of sentences ending with articles, but it’s all to say that the thing that drives me to keep podcasting is that every conversation is like a gift that I’ve been given that I get to love and cherish and then share with someone new. Each guest, whether it’s someone whose work I know well or if it’s a person who just happens to be best mates with a recent guest, every single guest has been a pure joy to chat with. I’m glad I get to be the guy behind the mic on this one. And I’m grateful for the couple of people who are listening.

Jules: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

Matthew: I’m a super slow reader. That’s probably why I don’t have more middle grade or YA authors on the podcast. It’s so hard for me to read through their books in time for the interview and it makes me feel really, really bad. I’ll talk to anyone and I’m really, really good at starting books. Ha!

Oh! And for a non-booky thing, I’m teaching myself to play banjo. I inherited a banjo from my wife’s grandfather, and I try to play a little bit every day. It’s been almost a year now, and I’m still struggling with my finger-picking, but I figure by the time I have a picture book contract of my own, I maybe—just maybe—will be able to write some sort of awesome song for the book trailer.

* * * * * * *

Photo of Matthew and images from the podcast are used by permission of Matthew Winner.

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18. Washington, D.C. Best Kept Secrets

Hi!Washington, D.C. Travel Tips for Families!

I’ve been a United States President fanatic since first grade, so it was only natural that my mom started bringing me to Washington, D.C. during summer vacations. I’ve been there three times, and here are some tips I’ve learned.

Washington D.C. Capitol building

Photo by Nicholas Raymond

Tip #1: Everything is awesome, especially the D.C. Metro.
The Metro is an underground subway, and it is a good way to get around D.C. It’s safe, clean, and easy to use. Within a few days I learned all the lines to take. Some places don’t have a Metro stop nearby, so be ready to walk a little. It will be worth it because you are probably going somewhere awesome.

Tip #2: Get more out of your Capitol building tour.
You can book a tour through the Capitol building website or through your congressional representative. I’ve done both, and the tour from my Congressperson’s office was way better. I got to see more stuff, such as the Brumidi Corridors and the spot where George Washington laid the original cornerstone for the Capitol. It was also a smaller group, so there was more time for questions. Remember to pick up your passes to see a session of the Senate or House of Representatives. If you get lucky, you might be able to see a debate in action. I saw a minor debate and it was totally worth the line.

Tip #3: National Postal Museum: Mail yourself to a great time!
I was really surprised by this museum. I thought it would be boring, but it was extremely fun. It was interesting to see how mail delivery developed from pony carts to modern trucks and airplanes. When I was there I saw a Titanic and Hindenburg exhibit on how these accidents disrupted the mail system. I also learned about a mail dog named Owney.

Tip #4: Make a visit to Woodrow Wilson’s home.
This is not the first thing you think of when you go to D.C. (unless your parents are Princeton University alumni). You get to see Woodrow Wilson’s whole house, from the kitchen to his room. An especially interesting thing is the elevator he used to get around, since he had a wheelchair at the end of his life.

These places are just an introduction to D.C. There is a truckload full of more sites, memorials, branches of government, and museums to visit. Have fun!

Beata, Scholastic Kids Council

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19. "So How Long Before we Can Expect To See The Green Skies Book?"

Thank you for asking, Mark.  Did you buy Return?  Anyway, I need to respond to these things out of old fashioned politeness.

No idea. I have images cramming out my brain but I even think about picking up a pencil to draw -panic. This is total burn out. Can't even read comics.


When will The Green Skies appear?   meh

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20. Silvermaigne:Knight Ghoul Hunter

 
 
Paperback, 
A4
Black & White
42 Pages
Price: £7.00
The Silvermaigne line is said to go back to the time of the Ancient Britons. 
 
Silvermaignes ancestors were part of a druidic clan based in the great forest that is today known as Leigh Woods, overlooking the River Severn entering (today) Bristol. All the members of the tribe had white hair from birth and they were known as the mwng arian (Silver Manes). Even the druids bowed to their knowledge of demons, spirits and things of the darkness. 
 
But at a point several centuries ago the family split and took two paths -one embraced magik for its own fight against evil. 
 
For the first time Ben Dilworth looks at this branch of the family and what one of them endures to keep the fight Holy!

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21. The Glassblower's Children a book review



Quote of the day:

"Glassblowing is an animal unto itself, it requires skill, knowledge, physical strength and respect." 

Featured book of the day:



Title: The Glassblower's Children
Author:  Maria Gripe

A New York Review Children's Collection







It comes with illustrations:


About the book:

This splendid fairytale is of German origin.  An impoverished glassblower, named Albert, lives with his beloved wife Sophia and their two children, Klas and Klara.  He creates beautiful glass bowls and vases that are unique and extraordinary. Unfortunately they are so impractical that no one buys from him forcing his wife to work in the fields to supplement their living needs. 

He packs up his wears each year and takes his family to a local fair to hopefully sell his goods.  It is at the fair that Flutter Mildweather comes into their lives.  She is a weaver of tapestries, tells people's fortunes and is involved with witchcraft.  She owns a one-eyed raven named Wise Wit who can only see good in the world.  They live in isolation away from the rest of the villagers. Klas and Klara are spotted by a very wealthy Lord and Lady of All Wishes Town.  The couple have everything at their disposal but they do not have any children.  The Lord takes it upon himself to kidnap the children to give to his lovely, unhappy wife, hoping that the children will make her happy once again.  

Klaus and Klara find themselves prisoners in the Lord's mansion surrounded by the River of Forgotten Memories.  Their only playmates are reflections of themselves in the mirrors that line the grand hallways.  A controlling and evil Nanny is hired for the children and their quality of life diminishes even more.  What is to  be done?  Their parents don't know their whereabouts and they themselves cannot escape.  Is this to be their destiny?

Just as their very lives are at risk, Flutter Mildweather, and her raven companion, arrive to rescue them from their hopeless existence.  The book is full of vivid, strange characters and makes you think about the difference between what you want and what you really need.  

This book is reprinted in a beautiful edition with the original white-on-black etched illustrations. This mystical, allegorical story won the 1974 Hans Christian Anderson Award.  I highly recommend this book.



About the author:





Maria Gripe (1923–2007) was born Maja Stina Walter in Sweden’s Stockholm archipelago, the daughter of an army captain. She attended Stockholm University, where she studied philosophy and the history of religion, and in 1946 married the artist Harald Gripe. Though she wrote stories from the time she was a child, Gripe did not publish her first book until she was thirty-one. Her first notable success came in the 1960s with a trilogy of books about Hugo and Josephine, and in 1964 she published Glasblåsarns barn, translated into English as The Glassblower’s Children in 1973. In 1974 she received Hans Christian Andersen Award, the most prestigious prize given to a writer of children’s literature. She adapted many of her books for radio, television, and film; in 1998 a movie adaptation of The Glassblower’s Children, starring Stellan Skarsgård, was released. Among Gripe’s books translated into English are The Night DaddyElvis and His Secret, and Agnes Cecilia.




Book review rating:  9 (Close to perfection!)



Read on and read always!  Carpe diem.




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22. In Room Oblivion There Are Cupboard Doors...........................

Bored. Burnt out.  I'll repair the camera!!

These are the results.





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23. Thankful for....



OK, books I have read recently that I have to review.  (Not all in one day, although I read one yesterday and one today.)

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Dangerous by Shannon Hale

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

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24. Star Stuff with Stephanie Roth Sisson

Carl Sagan was prolific. He used to walk around with one of those tape recorders that had a strap and a microphone on a cord and record ideas when they came to him. Ideas just poured out of the guy. I love that image of him wandering around with this, recording his thoughts about this and that. I had many of [his] books to draw on, as well as television, radio, and print interviews. Mostly, I was looking for material that would capture the feeling that he left his audience with — that feeling of wonder and wanting to explore and find out more. ”

* * *

Today over at Kirkus, I chat with author-illustrator Stephanie Roth Sisson, pictured above, about Star Stuff, her new picture book biography of Carl Sagan.

That link will be here soon, and next week I’ll have some art from the book here at 7-Imp.

* * * * * * *

Photo of Stephanie Roth Sisson used by her permission.

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25. Reasons to Be Thankful: Classic Cartoons

Today we're thankful for many reasons, including classic animated shorts.

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