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1. The influence of economists on public policy

There’s a puzzle around economics. On the one hand, economists have the most policy influence of any group of social scientists. In the United States, for example, economics is the only social science that controls a major branch of government policy (through the Federal Reserve), or has an office in the White House (the Council of Economic Advisers). And though they don’t rank up there with lawyers, economists make a fairly strong showing among prime ministers and presidents, as well.

But as any economist will tell you, that doesn’t mean that policymakers commonly take their advice. There are lots of areas where economists broadly agree, but policymakers don’t seem to care. Economists have wide consensus on the need for carbon taxes, but that doesn’t make them an easier political sell. And on topics where there’s a wider range of economic opinions, like over minimum wages, it seems that every politician can find an economist to tell her exactly what she wants to hear.

So if policymakers don’t take economists’ advice, do they actually matter in public policy? Here, it’s useful to distinguish between two different types of influence: direct and indirect.

Direct influence is what we usually think of when we consider how experts might affect policy. A political leader turns to a prominent academic to help him craft new legislation. A president asks economic advisers which of two policy options is preferable. Or, in the case where the expert is herself the decisionmaker, she draws on her own deep knowledge to inform political choices.

This happens, but to a limited extent. Though politicians may listen to economists’ recommendations, their decisions are dominated by political concerns. They pay particular attention to advice that agrees with what they already want to do, and the rise of think tanks has made it even easier to find experts who support a preexisting position.

Research on experts suggests that direct advisory effects are more likely to occur under two conditions. The first is when a policy decision has already been defined as more technical than political—that experts are the appropriate group to be deciding. So we leave it to specialists to determine what inventions can be patented, or which drugs are safe for consumers, or (with occasional exceptions) how best to count the population. In countries with independent central banks, economists often control monetary policy in this way.

Experts can also have direct effects when possible solutions to a problem have not yet been defined. This can happen in crisis situations: think of policymakers desperately casting about for answers during the peak of the financial crisis. Or it can take place early in the policy process: consider economists being brought in at the beginning of an administration to inject new ideas into health care reform.

But though economists have some direct influence, their greatest policy effects may take place through less direct routes—by helping policymakers to think about the world in new ways.

For example, economists help create new forms of measurement and decision-making tools that change public debate. GDP is perhaps the most obvious of these. A hundred years ago, while politicians talked about economic issues, they did not talk about “the economy.” “The economy,” that focal point of so much of today’s chatter, only emerged when national income and product accounts were created in the mid-20th century. GDP changes have political, as well as economic, effects. There were military implications when China’s GDP overtook Japan’s; no doubt the political environment will change more when it surpasses the United States.

Money, by 401(K). CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
Money, by 401(K). CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

Less visible economic tools also shape political debate. When policymakers require cost-benefit analysis of new regulation, conversations change because the costs of regulation become much more visible, while unquantifiable effects may get lost in the debate. Indicators like GDP and methods like cost-benefit analysis are not solely the product of economists, but economists have been central in developing them and encouraging their use.

The spread of technical devices, though, is not the only way economics changes how we think about policy. The spread of an economic style of reasoning has been equally important.

Philosopher Ian Hacking has argued that the emergence of a statistical style of reasoning first made it possible to say that the population of New York on 1 January 1820 was 100,000. Similarly, an economic style of reasoning—a sort of Econ 101-thinking organized around basic concepts like incentives, efficiency, and opportunity costs—has changed the way policymakers think.

While economists might wish economic reasoning were more visible in government, over the past fifty years it has in fact become much more widespread. Organizations like the US Congressional Budget Office (and its equivalents elsewhere) are now formally responsible for quantifying policy tradeoffs. Less formally, other disciplines that train policymakers now include some element of economics. This includes master’s programs in public policy, organized loosely around microeconomics, and law, in which law and economics is an important subfield. These curricular developments have exposed more policymakers to basic economic reasoning.

The policy effects of an economic style of reasoning are harder to pinpoint than, for example, whether policymakers adopted an economist’s tax policy recommendation. But in the last few decades, new policy areas have been reconceptualized in economic terms. As a result, we now see education as an investment in human capital, science as a source of productivity-increasing technological innovations, and the environment as a collection of ecosystem services. This subtle shift in orientation has implications for what policies we consider, as well as our perception of their ultimate goals.

In the end, then, there is no puzzle. Economists do matter in public policy, even though policymakers, in fact, often ignore their advice. If we are interested in understanding how, though, we should pay attention to more than whether politicians take economists’ recommendations—we must also consider how their intellectual tools shape the very ways that policymakers, and all of us, think.

The post The influence of economists on public policy appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. The Magic School Bus

Early in my career I got a call from my rep asking me if I had ever heard of the Magic School Bus and if I wanted to illustrate a Magic School Bus book. Having no idea what I was agreeing to of course I said yes. As it turned out the animation series was just about to be released on PBS and things were really heating up for the publisher. They were looking for several artists to help illustrate books that would hit the market to coincide with the release of the PBS television show. It was about to go from a very popular book series to a very popular TV show to an even more popular book series based on the very popular TV show. How do you say no to that?

When artists sign up to work on licenses, art directors will often ask for a sample to see if the artist can handle that particular license. The artists job is to emulate the original creators work, in this case Bruce Degen, as closely as possible so that’s exactly what I did.
Magic School Bus childrens book illustration by Bob Ostrom 3 Magic School Bus art by Bob Ostrom 1 Magic School Bus childrens book illustration by Bob Ostrom 7 Magic School Bus childrens book illustration by Bob Ostrom 4 Magic School Bus childrens book illustration by Bob Ostrom 6 childrens book illustration the magice school bus by Bob Ostrom

I studied Bruce’s work and practiced working with it until only his own mother could tell the difference, then I created a sample and sent it off to my rep. It was well received and I was in. I received a contract to work on my first Magic School Bus book. It was about Miss Fizzle’s class traveling to outer space. I was pretty unfamiliar with the series at that time but that was all about to change.

The manuscript showed up and I got to work. The process generally goes something like this. A publisher puts out the word they are looking for artists, usually by contacting a rep or artists they have worked with before and trust. Artists respond by submitting sample art. The artists who submit the samples they like best are offered a title or whatever the publisher needs them to do. With animated properties like the Magic School Bus the titles are often based on an actual episode. The publisher will send the artist all the material they need to do the best job possible. That usually includes some kind of spec manual with model sheets and a video of the episode. In the case of the Magic School bus it was such a new property the videos weren’t always totally finished when they showed up and once or twice the voices of characters like Phoebe or Dorothy Ann were done by the animation sound engineers. It was a little strange seeing this little girl characters with adult male voices.
The book was fun to work on and I was really thankful to put away the airbrush and work with watercolor again. It took me a while to adapt to Bruce Degen’s drawing style but he was pretty cool with letting the artist show their hand a bit. For those of you who have worked in licensing you’ll know this is exceedingly rare and so it though me at first. I had no idea which direction to go in. Did I follow the original books or go with the animated look? They were both very different and I ended up settling somewhere in between. After I finished my art I sent it off to my rep for review before it went to the publisher.  I got a call from my rep first thing the next morning. I figured he was calling to congratulate me on a job well done. What else could it have been? Boy, was I ever wrong. What I received from him was some of the most severe criticism I had ever received in my entire career then and now. Mind you, this was not coming from the publisher or Bruce Degen this was coming just from my rep at that time, the publisher hadn’t even seen the art yet.
One of the page I had painted showed a couple of the characters sliding down an ice hill on Mars. Admittedly I knew this page wasn’t going to win me any awards but my rep really tore into that piece when he saw it. We went back and forth, me telling him it wasn’t so bad and him telling me it looked like a spit sink after a root canal. Hilarious now, devastating at the time. Anyhow he sent it back along with a couple of other pieces art and I worked herder on fixing them then I did on the entire book. I resubmitted in the nick of time with no further comments from my rep and off it went to the publisher.
The following week I got a nice note from Scholastic thanking me for a job well done. I worked on quite a few more books in that series and they all paid ridiculously well compared to any other publisher I was working with at the time. Although sometimes I question a few of the tactics my old rep used I did learn a lot from him. He later apologized for the remark and we laughed about it but aside from all that working on those books was a very special thing for me and I have a soft spot when I look through all that old art. Not because my rep berated me or because my art was in every single books store or library I could think of but because my son was such a huge fan of the Magic School Bus and we were able to spend a lot of time together watching the videos and reading the books. For him it was like Magic. I was invited to his classroom to draw with his class and even though I wasn’t Bruce Degen the rock star artist who’s name everyone recognized from the show I got to be a rock star for my son and his friends and that was magic.

The post The Magic School Bus appeared first on Bob Ostrom Studio - 919-809-6178.

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3. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson & Brigette Barrager

Rare is the princess picture book that I find worth reviewing here. In fact, I even find the "anti-princess" picture books not worth mentioning. However, I LOVE fairy tales and I couldn't resist  reading Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, with illustrations by Brigette Barrager. Clarkson takes four well known fairy tale princesses and imagines them fed up

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4. Review and Giveaway: Her Highland Fling by Jennifer McQuiston

 

This morning I have a review of Jennifer McQuiston’s novella, Her Highland Fling, as well as an excerpt and an awesome giveaway.  Enjoy!

My Thoughts:

I am always game to read a novella.  Their compact length makes them perfect to squeeze into an overloaded reading schedule, and for authors I haven’t read previously, it gives me a good idea whether or not I want to make the time commitment for a longer book.  When I saw Her Highland Fling, I was intrigued.  I’ve picked up a couple of Jennifer McQuiston’s other works, but I haven’t gotten around to actually loading them on my Kindle yet, so I was more than happy to download this and start reading.

William McKenzie is stressing about the financial health of his village, so he organizes the Highland Games, hoping to lure Londoners and their wallets to his humble hometown.  He even foots the bill to refurb a room at the local inn, all to impress the reporter he’s arranged to visit Moraig.  The joke’s on WIlliam, though.  Instead of the reporter he’s expecting – one of the male persuasion – a beautiful woman descends from the coach and immediately turns his life on end.

Poor William!  He’s so devoted to improving the fortunes of the villagers that his usual sense of humor has fled.  Worse, he can’t seem to form a coherent sentence when Penelope is around.  He comes off like the village idiot, and that was my only sticking point with the story.  Pen has a stutter, and was bullied mercifully because of it.  I was disappointed when she constantly referred to William in less than flattering terms.  Yes, they got off on the wrong foot, and yes, she misjudged him terribly, but for someone who was made fun of and didn’t care for it, I expected a little more tolerance from her. It made me not like her at first, probably because I felt that I knew William so well, and how can you not like a guy willing to don his plaids in the middle of the afternoon on a hot summer day, all to secure the future of his beloved home?

The tone of the story is light, and it clicks quickly along.  I loved William, and slowly warmed up to Penelope.  Once she sets her sights on William, he has no chance against her onslaught.  Determined to finally have a fling and get some first hand knowledge of the opposite sex, Penelope quickly determines that the Highlander is perfect for her research, even if he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.  William is just so tongue tied around this fiercely independent woman that he can’t get out an intelligent thought, which makes him perfect for Pen’s plans to love him and leave him behind.  

Her Highland Fling is a fun story, and I enjoyed my visit to Moraig.  It’s a very fast read with plenty of humor and one very determined spinster ready for her walk on the wild side.  Did I mention the water fairies?   

 

 

Her Highland Fling
Second Sons #2.5

By: Jennifer McQuiston

Releasing January 27th, 2015

Avon Impulse

Blurb

Let the Games Begin…

William MacKenzie has always been protective of his Scottish village. When Moraig’s economy falters, he has the perfect solution to lure wealthy Londoners to this tiny hamlet: resurrect the ancient Highland Games! But for this to work, William knows he needs a reporter to showcase the town in just the right light.

A female journalist might be a tolerated oddity in Brighton, but newly minted reporter Penelope Tolbertson is discovering that finding respect in London is a far more difficult prospect. After receiving an invitation to cover Moraig’s Highland Games, Penelope is determined to prove to her London editors just how valuable she can be.

Penelope instantly captures William’s heart, but she is none too impressed with the gruff, broody Highlander. However as she begins to understand his plans, Penelope discovers she may want more from him than just a story. She’s only got a few days…but maybe a few days is all they need.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/12/her-highland-fling-novella-by-jennifer.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22836685-her-highland-fling

Buy Links Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Her-Highland-Fling-Jennifer-McQuiston-ebook/dp/B00M719Z1K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418837254&sr=8-1&keywords=Her+Highland+Fling+by+Jennifer+McQuiston

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-highland-fling-jennifer-mcquiston/1120159653?ean=9780062387226

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/her-highland-fling/id904016482?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/books/her-highland-fling/AzKXHXcFjUu4ftwXCWhiNw?MixID=AzKXHXcFjUu4ftwXCWhiNw&PageNumber=1

Author Info

A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal. Jennifer can be reached via her website at www.jenmcquiston.com or followed on Twitter @jenmcqwrites

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.jenmcquiston.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifermcquistonauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenmcqwrites

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6163186.Jennifer_McQuiston

Excerpt

Fling (n.): “Vigorous dance” (associated with the Scottish Highlands), from 1806.

Period of indulgence on the eve of responsibilities,” first attested 1827.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary

Chapter One

Moraig, Scotland, 1843{/H1}

All the world hated a hypocrite, and William MacKenzie was no exception.

But today that trouser-clad hypocrite was his brother, James, which made it a little hard for William to hate him like he ought.

As James sauntered to a stop beneath the awning of Moraig’s posting house, his laughing gaze dropped to William’s bare knees and then climbed northward again. “If you’re trying to make a memorable impression,” he sniggered, “all that’s missing is a good breeze.”

“You are late.” William crossed his arms and tried to look menacing. “And I thought we agreed last night we would share this indignity.”

“No, you agreed.” James shoved his hands in the pockets of his trousers and offered up a shite-eating grin. “I listened and wisely withheld a formal opinion.”

William bit back a growl of frustration. For Christ’s sake, he knew well enough he looked like a fool, standing in the thick heat of early August, draped in the MacKenzie plaid. And there was no doubt he would be teasing James unmercifully if the reverse were true.

But today they were both supposed to look like fools.

And James had a far better set of legs.

As though summoned by his brother’s fateful words, a ghost of a breeze stirred the wool that clung to William’s sweat-moistened skin. He clapped a hand down over his sporran, ensuring the most important parts remained hidden. “You live in Moraig, just as I do,” he pointed out to his errant brother. “You owe it to the town to help me make a proper impression for the reporter from the London Times.”

“Oh, aye, and I will. I had thought to say something properly memorable, such as ‘Welcome to Moraig.’ ” James raised a dark, mocking brow. “And we shouldn’t need to put on airs. The town has its own charm.”

“Well, the tourists haven’t exactly been flocking here,” William retorted, gesturing to the town’s nearly empty streets. Hidden in the farthest reaches of Scotland—far enough, even, that the Atlantic coast lapped at its heels—the little town of Moraig might indeed be charming, but attempts to attract London tourists had fallen somewhat short. If William had anything to say about it, that was going to change, starting today.

The only problem was he should have said it a half hour ago.

He took off his Balmoral cap and pulled his hand through hair already damp with sweat. While he was willing to tolerate looking like a fool in order to prove Moraig was the perfect holiday destination for Londoners seeking an authentic Highland experience, he still objected to having to look like one alone. “We’ve an opportunity to get a proper story printed in the Times, highlighting all Moraig has to offer.” He settled the cap back on his head. “If you have an issue with the plaid, you could have at least bestirred yourself to put on a small kilt.”

James burst out laughing. “And draw attention away from your bonny knees?”

As if in agreement, a series of catcalls rang out from a group of men who had crowded onto the sidewalk outside the Blue Gander, Moraig’s inn and public house.

One of them held up his pint. “Lovely legs, MacKenzie!”

“Now show us your arse!”

William scowled in their direction. On another day, he might have joined them in raising a pint, but not today. Moraig’s future was at stake. The town’s economy was hardly prospering, and its weathered residents couldn’t depend on fishing and gossip to sustain them forever. They needed a new direction, and as the Earl of Kilmartie’s heir, he felt obligated to sort out a solution. He’d spent months organizing the upcoming Highland Games. It was a calculated risk that, if properly orchestrated, would ensure the betterment of every life in town. When David Cameron, the town’s magistrate, had offered to invite a reporter up from London, it had seemed a brilliant opportunity to reach those very tourists they were aiming to attract.

But with the sweat now pooling in places best left unmentioned and the minutes ticking slowly by, that brilliance was beginning to tarnish.

William peered down the road that led into town, imagining he could see a cloud of dust implying the arrival of the afternoon coach. The very late afternoon coach. But all he saw was the delicate shimmer of heat, reflecting the nature of the devilishly hot day.

“Bugger it all,” he muttered. “How late can a coach be? There’s only one route from Inverness.” He plucked at the damp collar of his shirt, wondering where the coachman could be. “Mr. Jeffers knew the importance of being on time today. We need to make a ripping first impression with this reporter.”

James’s gaze dropped once more to William’s bare legs. “Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt of it.” He leaned against the posting house wall and crossed his arms. “If I might beg the question . . . Why turn it into such a circus? Why these games, instead of, say, a well-placed rumor of a beastie living in Loch Moraig? You’ve got the entire town in an uproar preparing for it.”

William snorted. “Sunday dinners are enough to put this town in an uproar. And you know as well as I that the games are for their own good.”

Though, God forbid his nolly-cocked, newly married brother lift a hand in the planning.

Or be bothered to put on a kilt, as it were.

William could allow that James was perhaps a bit distracted by his pretty wife and new baby—and understandably so. But given that his brother was raising his bairns here, shouldn’t he want to ensure Moraig’s future success more than anyone?

James looked up suddenly, shading his eyes with a hand. “Well, best get those knees polished to a shine. There’s your coach now. Half hour late, as per usual.”

With a near groan of relief, William stood at attention on the posting house steps as the mail coach roared up in a choking cloud of dust and hot wind. Scrawny chickens and stray dogs scuttled to dubious safety before the coach’s barreling path, and he eyed the animals with a moment’s concern, wondering if perhaps he ought to have tried to corral them into some hidden corner, safely out of sight.

But it was too late now.

A half hour off schedule. Perhaps it wasn’t the tragedy he’d feared. They could skip the initial stroll down Main Street he’d planned and head straight to the inn. He could point out some of the pertinent sights later, when he showed the man the competition field that had been prepared on the east side of town.

“And dinna tell the reporter I’m the heir,” William warned as an afterthought. “We want him to think of Moraig as a charming and rustic retreat from London.” If the town was to have a future, it needed to be seen as a welcome escape from titles and peers and such, and he did not want this turning into a circus where he stood at the center of the ring.

As the coach groaned to a stop, James clapped William on the shoulder with mock sympathy. “Don’t worry. With those bare legs, I suspect your reporter will have enough to write about without nosing about the details of your inheritance.”

The coachman secured the reins and jumped down from his perch. A smile of amusement broke across Mr. Jeffers’s broad features. “Wore the plaid today, did we?”

Bloody hell. Not Jeffers, too.

“You’re late.” William scowled. “Were there any problems fetching the chap from Inverness?” He was anxious to greet the reporter, get the man properly situated in the Blue Gander, and then go home to change into something less . . . Scottish. And, God, knew he could also use a pint or three, though preferably ones not raised at his expense.

Mr. Jeffers pushed the brim of his hat up an inch and scratched his head. “Well, see, here’s the thing. I dinna exactly fetch a chap, as it were.”

This time, William couldn’t suppress the growl that erupted from his throat. “Mr. Jeffers, don’t tell me you left him there!” It would be a nightmare if he had. The entire thing had been carefully orchestrated, down to a reservation for the best room the Blue Gander had to offer. The goal had been to install the reporter safely in Moraig and show him a taste of the town’s charms before the games commenced on Saturday.

“Well, I . . . that is . . .” Mr. Jeffers’s gaze swung between the brothers, and he finally shrugged. “Well, I suppose you’ll see well enough for yourself.”

He turned the handle and then swung the coach door open.

A gloved hand clasped Mr. Jeffers’s palm, and then a high, elegant boot flashed into sight.

“What in the blazes—” William choked on his surprise as a blond head tipped into view. A body soon followed, stepping down in a froth of blue skirts. She dropped Jeffers’s hand and looked around with bright interest.

“Your chap’s a lass,” explained a bemused Mr. Jeffers.

“A lass?” echoed William stupidly.

And not only a lass . . . a very pretty lass.

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The post Review and Giveaway: Her Highland Fling by Jennifer McQuiston appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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5. Review: Ida M. tarbell

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Library copy.

It's About: Ida M. Tarbell, born in 1857, who became one of the first American journalist and also helped found investigative journalism. Her noteworthy articles included a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and an expose of John D. Rockefeller and his company, Standard Oil Trust.

The Good: I really enjoyed learning about Ida M. Tarbell, whose name seemed vaguely familiar from history class.

I was impressed with Ida's many accomplishments and the things she did -- starting with her love of the sciences, attending a co-educational college, her start in journalism, traveling to Paris, freelancing, and then joining the staff of McClure's Magazine, where she wrote her most memorable articles.

One of the things that struck me is how matter of fact it was, how "of course this is what Ida is going to do" it was. While Ida was a pioneer, her story is also a reminder that her life, while not typical of the time, was also just that -- her life. She, with other women, did go to college. She, as others did, created a career, lived away from her family, traveled to Paris, working, having her own home.

I confess: that part of Ida's life, the pre-McClure part, fascinated me the most. I wanted to know more about those things, and those people in her life.

Of course, then, there is Ida's actual journalism, a career she came to sort of sideways. She began loving science, thought she'd be a teacher, and found herself working as an editor at a magazine. It wasn't until her early thirties and her trip to Paris that her work as a journalist really began. So, you can see all the reasons I kept turning the pages -- here, a women in the nineteenth century, having multiple careers. Pursuing her dreams. Living her life on her terms.

One cannot make generalizations about people: for all of Ida's accomplishments, which resulted from drive and determination, she had what seems to be mixed feelings about women's suffrage and equality. McCully explores this area in detail, noting that Ida's being against women getting the vote is probably one of the reasons she is a bit forgotten. What struck me was how modern, actually, Ida's beliefs were: I could easily imagine her in the present, being someone explaining how she didn't need feminism and wasn't a feminist because look at what she accomplished, on her own, and if she did it anyone can so stop with the feminism already.

I would like to learn more about Ida, and her life -- always a good sign in a biography, being left wanting more! I wonder if the things I want to know more about are things that McCully didn't cover because of length (this is a long, detailed biography) or if it's because there aren't the source documentation to answer the questions. For example, I wanted to know more about Ida's unnamed roommates during her 20 but imagine that was left out because of space. I also was curious as to Ida's relationships with her family and those family dynamics. Ida loved her father dearly, and ended up being the main provider to her mother, sister, brother, and brother's family. And yet certain things here left me asking for more and wondering things like whether her father was as wonderful as she painted him, for example. Is that not explored more because of space? Or because there is very little surviving from that time that would fill in the gaps about Ida's family?

Being left with questions, wanting more -- excellent. Learning more about Ida M. Tarbell, and also about what it was like for a woman pursuing a career over a hundred years ago? Even better. I'm so happy that this is a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award! I read it because it was a finalist, and I'll be chatting it up because it's a finalist.




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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6. Child Poets - Clementine Beauvais

‘The ink was in the baby, he was bound to write a tale

So he wrote the first of stories with his little fingernail’

Nathalia Crane was nine years old when, in 1924, she wrote ‘The First Story’ and many other poems, published in a collection called The Janitor’s Boy. She was one of many child poets in the 1920s, which saw a spate of precocious poetry and prose in the UK and the US. In the 19th century already, a cult of poetic precocity in children had erupted with the rediscovered works of Marjory (/Marjorie) Fleming, a little Scottish girl who wrote everyday from the age of six and conveniently died before she was nine, in 1811 - embodying forever the vision of glorious, pure and doomed childhood genius for the Victorians (this is a great article on the subject)

a rather haunting sketch of Marjorie Fleming by (?)Isa Keith
I’m currently looking at those works by child poets and at the adult discourse which developed around them, and it’s fascinating to see the extent to which such works were simply not allowed to be on their own: they were relentlessly explained, explored, excused, by the adults who read, published and critiqued them (another great article).
We get, of course, the usual amount of ‘how cute they are!’, and the associated Romantic claims that they were ‘close to nature’, ‘close to God’, ‘close to universal truth’. Not coincidentally, references to classics of children’s literature recur when critics analyse those poems: they talk of Alice in Wonderland and Rudyard Kipling, and James Matthew Barrie prefaced a novel by nine-year-old Daisy Ashford. This was around the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of children’s literature, at a time when children and childhood already had cult status; the verbal abilities of the precocious poets gave hope that their word might be interpreted, and ‘teach’ adults about the beyondness to which childhood supposedly had access.
But those poets were also thought of as dramatically unstructured and lacking technical skill. In 1926, an academic reviews ‘some child poets’ and gives Marjorie Fleming the kind of review anyone would cringe to see written about oneself:
‘An affectionate little soul, with a real joy in nature, and a strangely precocious taste for books, she found her surroundings prosy, though her heart expressed itself in bursts of pitifully inadequate song.’
He goes on to expose Marjorie Fleming’s ‘limitations’ by indicating that she often invents words to make up for a lack of rime (heaven forbid!) and:
‘Another shift which she found useful was the introduction of a purely irrelevant line:
At supper when his brother sat
I have not got a rhyme for that.’
Purely irrelevant indeed. Thankfully, George Shelton Hubbell reassures us that young Shelley was also a ‘juvenile blunderer’ in matters of poetry.
A strong concern of much of the general audience at the time was whether the children were actually writing those poems, or if adults were sneakily doing so. A passionate correspondence developed in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse in 1919, concerning little Hilda Conkling, who dictated poems to her mother:
‘Dear Poetry: Could you not give your readers more explicit information as to just how those poems of Hilda Conkling’s are done: To what extent does her mother select, rearrange and give form? Is it all actually improvised as given?… What a delightful little genius!… (E. Sapir.)’
‘I do not change words in Hilda’s poems,’ replied her mother, ‘nor alter her word-order; I write down the lines as rhythm dictates. She has made many poems which I have had to lose because I could not be certain of accurate transcription.’
The ‘accurate transcription’ of childly thoughts, the ‘authenticity’ of the child’s poetry needed to be ascertained at all costs, to the extent that Nathalia Crane, perhaps the most controversial of all child poets, was asked to produce a poem in the same room as a journalist. 
Nathalia Crane was quite unique in that her poetry got published in a newspaper without the editor’s knowledge that it was a child’s. The editor, Edmund Leamy, wrote an afterword to her collection, in 1924, in which he talked about his astonishment when he discovered the ‘imposture’:

My surprise is excusable. So many times I had received “poems” from youngsters who were careful to give their ages in addition to their names; so often I had received visits from doting parents or relatives requesting publication of verses by their children or sisters or cousins that I never dreamed any child would ever submit any work from his or her pen without adding the words “Aged — years”. But little Nathalia was the exception — and there was nothing in her poems that I received to indicate her age. The poems bought were accepted on their merits and on their merits alone.

‘On their merits alone’, with no ‘child-loving’ bias (to quote Kincaid’s famous study); this was, therefore, proper poetry. Yet it made adults feel relentlessly uncomfortable. Her poetry was more structured, more sexualised and more aware of the constraints of the adult world than other child poets, and adults didn’t know how to tackle it. Louis Untermeyer, in 1936, prefacing Crane’s new collection ‘Swear by the night’ (she was 22 by then), talks about the uncanny feeling he had when the poet was a little girl: 
‘She was ten and a half years old and she puzzled me. She puzzled me as a person even before she puzzled me as a poet. … There was even then a queerness about her, an almost too pronounced childishness coupled with a curious vocabulary.’
The blending of categories is always troublesome, the difficulty to draw lines between adulthood and childhood always a problem. Adults then, but still now, find it difficult to make sense of moments when the presence to the world of children is felt literally, fully, rather than wrapped in layers of symbols.
Nathalia Crane died in 1998 and I’ll leave you with one of her early poems, because it’s fair, after contributing myself to obscuring the works of those child poets with my own, to let her have the last words. I think the work might still be under copyright, so I'll only put the first stanza here; click to redirect to her collection on the Internet Archive.

LOVE


_____________________________________

Clementine Beauvais writes in French and English. She blogs here about children's literature and academia.

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7. Would You Read It Wednesday #159 - The Trouble With Homework (PB) PLUS Straight From The Editor

Wait til you hear how forethoughtful I'm being!

Seriously.  You are NOT going to believe it.

It's Sunday night.  SUNDAY.  And I am putting the finishing touches on this post which isn't due to go up until Wednesday!

Wednesday is like 2 1/2 entire days from now!

I don't think this has ever happened before in the history of my blog!

Don't worry.

You're in the right place.

I have not been possessed by aliens or anything.  (Of course, I would probably say that if I had been, wouldn't I? Because they'd make me... But I'm pretty sure I haven't!)

It's just that the weatherperson in these parts seems pretty convinced that we're going to be getting heavy snow - at least a foot - maybe 3 - and that means, in all probability, that I will have no internet.  So my usual operating procedure of finishing my Wednesday post 37 seconds before it's due to go up may not pan out well.  And I don't want today's pitcher to miss her day!

PLUS!  We have not one, but TWO Straight From The Editors to share - always educational AND fun - so I wouldn't want you to miss that either.  Or the most important part of the post... Something Chocolate :)

Black Magic Cake

Yummmmm!  Scrumptious!!

I know how you all count the hours until Wednesday for your chocolate treat, so far be it from me to deprive you! :)  I would never want it to be said that I don't take good care of you!

Alrighty!  Now that we're fortified, let's see what the editor has to say!

Straight From The Editor for October:

You will recall Michelle's winning pitch:

Miss Knaffle and her second graders all just want to have fun at school. But when her students take theiridea of fun too far—conducting a farting symphony during reading time, smuggling coffee beans to the class hamster, and using their desks for a bubblegum sculpture contest—Miss Knaffle decides that only a field trip to the zoo will avert classroom disaster. Once there, the canny teacher enlists irritable zoo animals to her cause. When Fátima tangles with a snake and Mario ends up on the wrong side of a baboon, the students quickly come to appreciate the zoo rules—and their teacher—in a whole new way.

Here are editor Erin Molta's comments:

This is so cute! My only suggestion is to be more specific about the zoo incidents like Fatima tangles with a snake because she did what? You are specific about the farting symphony (hilarious!) and the coffee beans to the hamster so we need to see the zoo side, too—at least one. I’d omit the bubblegum sculpture contest to fit in more specific zoo incidents.
Straight From The Editor for November:

Here is Heather's winning pitch:

The harpsichord is dusted, the tea is poured, the vases are arranged on doily laces, and Hubert the pug is settled calmly on the rug. Lottie Dobson is ready for her fancy luncheon party. But when the members of the Grandview Rose Society arrive with even more blooms, poor Hubert's allergies kick in. What happens next is a riot of mishaps that gets him banned from the room. But when a wily rat sneaks in, steals the cheese, and dangles from the chandelier, it sends the proper party guests on a crazy chase--with a sneezing Hubert in the lead. One big sneeze will save the day! Too bad for Hubert, the sneezing doesn't end there. 

And here are Erin's comments:

Cute! The only problem I saw with it was that why wouldn’t Hubert be allergic to the roses that are already there? Would more make that much of a difference? I think Hubert’s allergies should be a new issue—a surprise, so to speak. And then be specific about at least one of the mishaps. Otherwise, it’s very fun and sounds like a delight!
As always, I find Erin's comments insightful and helpful!  I hope they help you in your mission to create the perfect pitch!

Today's pitch comes to us from Maria.  Maria is an educator with the best job in the world – she works as a Fire & Life Safety Educator for a municipal fire department! When she isn’t teaching others how to be safe, she can be found writing under a pecan tree, playing with her dogs and cats, or cruising around town with the top down searching for inspirational ideas or the next big story.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: The Trouble With Homework
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 6-9)
The Pitch: What’s a kid to do when he’s waited until the lastminute to do his homework? Sometimes, you just have to improvise!

Join Connor along with his zany classmates as they prepare (some more than others) for their first-ever demonstration speeches.  Follow Connor’s speech outline and you, too, can show others what skills and talents you have.
Disclaimer: No snails or house cats were harmed in the making of this book! 

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Maria improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in June so you've got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Maria is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to getting my internet back so I can catch up on everything I've missed!  It should be back this morning, but we shall see... (Of course, I'm just assuming... because it's SUNDAY! so I don't know yet what will happen!)

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone, and for everyone who lives on the East Coast, I hope you all weathered the storm okay!!!

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8. Novel Wisdom (25)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

This is a book I found at my public library. It’s been on my radar for awhile and I was happy when I saw it on the shelf. Ironically, I had just re-read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath the week before so maybe it was kismet since this book revolves around this author.

This novel centers around several teens who are all going through their unique traumas. This particular line spoke to me because we have all been through some type of trial or trauma ourselves and sometimes we just want it to be over — but sometimes you just have to go through whatever it is that has hurt you before you can move on.

Belzhar
From Jam, the narrator of the novel Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

“I hadn’t known that if you hold on, if you force yourself as hard as you can to find some kind of patience in the middle of all your impatience, things can change. It’s big, and it’s always incredibly messy. But there’s no way around the mess.”

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9. Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard, by Janice Dean | Book Review

Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard does an excellent job of creating a creative way to get kids interested in learning about the science of weather.

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10. The Top 5 Email Messages Formats

Email marketing should be a part of your inbound marketing strategy. It’s one of the best ways to reach and connect with subscribers, customers, readers, and so on. Email marketing is a direct marketing through digital means. It’s better than other direct marketing because it’s permission-based. This means the individual on your list willingly gave you his email address so you can send him

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11. Will Someone Save PDI/DreamWorks’s Pirate Bar?

Now that PDI/DreamWorks is shutting down, who will save the studio's Pirate Bar?

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12. Don Hertzfeldt’s ‘World of Tomorrow’ Wins Sundance Short Film Grand Jury Prize

Don Hertzfeldt's 'World of Tomorrow' has won the top short film at the Sundance Film Festival.

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13. Publishing in ... Africa

       In The Herald Beaven Tapureta offers A tale of two book industries, comparing the situations in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
       High book prices, lack of media coverage, and the failure of schools to develop a reading culture are among the problems identified.

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14. je croque, je croque...suite du WIP

C'est juste histoire de m'entrainer, je me trouve un peu rouillée.   ^o^




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15. Writer Wednesday: Revising Out Loud

I've been doing a lot of editing lately, both for clients and for my own books, so I thought I'd share a tip with you all today. I talk a lot about how I edit books backward in one of my reading passes, but something else that is just as important (maybe more important) is reading the book out loud.

I can't stress this enough. Yes, you will probably lose your voice if you revise too much in one sitting, but reading aloud allows you to identify so many weakness in your writing. Don't believe me? Ask people who have had their books made into audio versions if their readers (the person making the audio) identified errors. I bet they did. 

Here are just a few things you'll hear when you read your book aloud:

Repetition  Every manuscript I edit has repetition it in. Every single one. And in 
most cases it's unnecessary repetition that you don't want. (My editors get on my case for this too because seriously, everyone does it.) If you read your book aloud, the repetition pretty much slaps you in the face, and then you can get rid of it. You'll be thankful when the book reads more smoothly and the pace picks up, too.

Missing Words  Yes, you can hear missing words. You hear them because they aren't there. When we read in our heads, we don't always catch a missing "the" or "an," but you will when you read aloud.

Awkward Wording  You'll stumble over sentences that aren't quite right if you read them aloud. If you have to slow down or reread a sentence, something is wrong with your wording. Maybe it's a case of poor word choice or a phrase that doesn't quite read correctly. Either way, this is the time to fix it.

Contractions  I've had clients make words into contractions that have no right to be contractions. ;) It's awkward for the reader. In the same token, most kids don't speak without contractions, so if you're avoiding them completely, think again. Reading aloud will highlight areas that don't sound like real life speech.

Italics  Sometimes you have to make sure your intent with emphasis is clear. Italics will do that. So if you're reading a sentence and the emphasis could be placed on the wrong word, make life easier on your reader and add italics to the word or words you want emphasized.

I could probably keep going, but I think you get the point. It's worth the extra time it takes to read a manuscript aloud. 

Do you make reading aloud part of your revision process?


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16. Yes Please: Review Haiku

Masshole makes good,
makes us all laugh, kicks some a$$
in the process. Rock on.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Dey Street Books, 2014, 352 pages.

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17. Sapir Prize

       They've announced that הבית אשר נחרב ('The Ruined House') by Reuven "Ruby" Namdar has won this year's Sapir Prize (פרס ספי), one of the leading Israeli literary prizes.
       It's apparently noteworthy that longtime New York resident Namdar is an "expat" author -- the first to take the prize. See, for example, Beth Kissileff's Reuven Namdar Wins Israel's Sapir Prize at Tablet, or her Q & A with the author in the Forward.

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18. TCB

A day you hadn’t planned on
When you get to stay at home
Is the perfect time for TCB
(Or jotting down a poem).

Go through closets, pay some bills,
Read a magazine;
Cook or bake or take the time
To actually clean.

Write an email, make a call,
Catch up on some shows;
Dive into the novel that
Your book club did propose.

Having time for TCB’s
A rare and special treat.
Take advantage but beware –
Between the chores, you eat!

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19. Whitbread Costa Book of the Year

       They've announced (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) this year's Whitbread Costa Book of the Year, selected from the five category winners -- and it is the Biography-winner, H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald.
       It's not even out in the US yet -- coming in March; pre-order your copy at Amazon.com -- but has already enjoyed considerable success in the UK; get your copy at Amazon.co.uk.

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20. Aim Higher: Know Students as Writers

Four ways to help you discover what makes your students tick as writers.

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21. Science Fair Season

Do you remember Science Fair time? Was it a fun time or a stressful time for you? When I was a student, we had the option of doing a science fair project or a social studies project. While I remember some parts were fun (my social studies fair project on Helen Keller was an educational highlight for me), finding ideas for science fair projects was always rather daunting. I didn’t really enjoy science experiments or activities until I learned more about the importance of STEM education and put together science experiment programs at my library.  Thankfully, there is an amazing amount of fabulous science experiment books that should help both students and adults discover the fun aspects of science:

481868_cover.indd

(image from Wiley)

If I ever get to San Francisco, visiting The Exploratorium is tops on my “must do” list. Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied with their awesome books and website.  The Exploratorium Science Snackbook features modified versions (“snacks”) of their exhibits. If you’ve ever opened up a science experiments book and groaned at the very specific materials needed for experiments, fear not. All experiments feature easily obtained materials. Best of all, scientific principles behind the experiments are carefully explained. Each lesson plan includes  advice, tips and time estimates.

vancleave

(image from Wiley)

Anyone in need of easy science experiments definitely needs to be familiar with Janice VanCleave’s vast library of science experiments. Janice VanCleave’s Guide to the Best Science Fair Projects  not only includes detailed instructions for engaging experiments (everything from astronomy to zoology!), but offers points on the scientific method and the ins and outs of research. If you need experiments for very young students (kindergarten and such), check out her Play-and-Learn series.

 

wedareyou

 

(image from Skyhorse)

For fun and creative science experiments that anyone can do with easily obtained materials, Vicki Cobb’s books will provide a vast amount of inspiration and knowledge. We Dare You!  explores geometry, physics, and many other fields of science with fun (and sometimes funny!) science activities. “Insider Information” explains the scientific activity in each experiment.

Do you have any favorite authors or titles of science experiment books? Talk about it in the comments.

The post Science Fair Season appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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22. Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington

Continuing on my quest to find books for my soon to be nine-year old niece, I read Karen Harrington's Sure Signs of Crazy last week. While I enjoyed the book a lot and recommend it for the over ten crowd, I think I'm going to hold off my girl until she's a wee bit older.

Protagonist Sarah is 12 and new in town. She and her father move around a lot as Sarah's mother was the object of a notorious trial and is now committed to a mental hospital. Her father was also tried but found innocent; he still struggles a decade later to cope and while a loving father, definitely self-medicates with alcohol.

In the course of one summer, Sarah fulfills an English assignment by writing letters to Atticus Finch, crushes on the college boy across the street (we've all been there) and builds up her courage to challenge the family secrets. She's smart and funny and determined which makes for a great protagonist. Most interestingly though, considering her family drama, Sarah is also very easy to identify with and I'm sure many young readers will like her a lot.

For my purposes though, I think the alcohol and the reasons behind her mother's trial, are just too much for my particular nine-year old. At least a year, maybe two and she will be ready. I'll be keeping Sure Signs of Crazy for the future.

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23. Music To Write By

I don't think I'm the only one to use music to get me in the mood for writing. In fact, some novelists add to the back page a playlist of the tunes they have used while creating their works of genius.

The thing is, quite a lot of my writing has been done outside the house. This, for example, is being written on the Watergardens train, on the way to my first day at work for 2015. So it's done to the music of train whistles, powered doors closing and wheels on the rails. I wrote most of Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly at the Presse Cafe in Elwood, because at the time I was on dialup and I had used most of my twenty hours per month of download time; the Presse has free wifi - and no background music, thank heaven!

But I do have days - and late nights - when I set up my laptop in the living room, put on the kettle and get stuck into my latest WIP. At those times, I like to get in the mood with the appropriate music or even, occasionally, movie.

If I'm writing a mediaeval fantasy, for example, I might play some early music. That can sometimes be a problem because I used to learn Renaissance dance and a sprightly galliard tune will get me out of my seat and doing galliard variations, or a pavane to the Boar's Head Carol. Actually, you really need a partner to do the pavane properly, but never mind. I do it, and it takes me away from the writing. Not for long, though, and when I return I'm energised and keen to write more.

For a battle scene I like epic film music, Miklos Rosza or Elmer Bernstein for preference, but Howard Shore's Lord Of The Rings music will do nicely.

When I was working on the edits for Wolfborn, my mediaeval werewolf novel, I put on my DVD of  Ladyhawke, that lovely film in which two lovers are cursed never to be together because he's a wolf by night and she's a hawk by day, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't influence me. The music isn't mediaeval style, but it sets the right mood.

Monday I absolutely had to finish my first draft of the bushranger story I'm submitting to Ford Street. I'd been stuck halfway, even though I knew how it was ending. I thought the appropriate score would be some Australian folk songs, but I don't have any. Well, I do have one or two CDs somewhere on my shelves that are along those lines, but not quite. Next best was Irish folk music, and maybe some Scottish. And I had CDs of The Chieftains, the Bothy Band and Silly Wizard. There are also Clannad and Loreena McKennett, but they don't have quite the same flavour, too much singing, not enough of the traditional instruments. I needed music that might have been heard by Frank Gardiner and his merry men, penny whistle, fiddle, accordion, bodhran...

It was amazing how easily I managed to finish the draft while that music was playing. It worked so well, I managed a second draft.

I wonder, now, if playing music will help me choose a title...



  

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24. Fantastic Four | Official Teaser Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX

I do NOT want to be Charlie Negative but this looks awful.  Really awful.

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25. Malice review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Higashino Keigo's Malice.
       Higashino is phenomenally successful in eastern Asia -- his native Japan as well as China and South Korea, where he is among the most successful authors. Two of his 'Detective Galileo'-mysteries have been published in English (The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint), with a third to follow this year; Malice is from his 'Detective Kaga'-series (a 1996 novel that has only now been translated -- but apparently the fourth in the series); there's also the stand-alone Naoko. This haphazard and very limited presentation of his work -- he's written dozens of novels, and these 'Detective Galileo' volumes are also random ones in the larger series, not the first two ... -- can't be helping his success in the US/UK, which falls well, well short of his Asian success -- but he's gotten pretty good US/UK-press reviews, including for this book -- much better, in fact, than the book deserves, in my opinion.

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