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1. Poetry Friday - A review of On the Wing

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci

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2. The MeeGenius Author Challenge



I am thrilled to be a finalist in the 2014 MeeGenius Author Challenge! MeeGenius is a digital children’s book publisher that offers hundreds of picture eBooks via the MeeGenius app which is available for download to all the major operating systems and devices. MeeGenius creates enhanced eBooks that captivate young readers by sporting “read-along word highlighting, rich illustrations, and engaging story narration”.

I am one of ten finalists. In September, a winner will be selected who will receive a cash prize. Regardless of who wins, all of the finalists stories will be published in digital format and available at www.meegenius.com. Click on the MeeGenius logo at the top to see all of the finalists. And stay tuned to find out when my story Dinosaur Tag will be available and if I win the contest!

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3. Best Books of July 2014

July 2014: 43 books and scripts read

Middle Grade Fiction
The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers

Teen Fiction
Poison Ink by Christopher Golden (third time I've read it)

The Play's The Thing
The Bad Seed play adaptation by Maxwell Anderson, based on the novel by William March
(The novel came first, then the play, then the film. I like them all.)

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4. Breaking: SDCC cosplayer was injured as the result of a fall not an assault


The San Diego Unified Port District Harbor Police have issued a second and final press release in regards to the case of the injured cosplayer at Comic-Con, and it has been ascertained that her injuries were most likely sustained as the result of a fall, not an assault.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, July 27, 2014, a juvenile female was found with significant injuries in the pool area of a hotel at 333 West Harbor Drive in San Diego. The juvenile female had attended Comic Con earlier in the day and still had her costume on. She was transported to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.

In connection with the case, Harbor Police arrested a 29-year-old man early Sunday morning, July 27 at the hotel. He was booked into San Diego County Jail at 11:20 a.m. on charges of sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The Harbor Police Investigations Unit has been investigating the incident, including the cause of the injuries to the victim.

After the incident, Police began a thorough investigation of the facts, including a review of footage from multiple surveillance cameras, as well as the assistance of community members and Comic Con attendees who provided extensive information and sent photographs for review. The investigation concluded with a finding that the juvenile female’s injuries were not the result of a criminal assault, and were likely the result of a fall. Her injuries, and physical evidence at the scene, were consistent with a fall from the distance of approximately six feet.

This finding does not affect the charges against the 29-year-old male, which will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. Because this case involves a minor, no further information will be released about this incident.

While the number of accidents that occurred at the con should not be downplayed, the true facts of the case are not nearly as dire as suspected.
While our heartfelt wishes for her recovery are in no way changed, I can’t help but think that a wave of relief has flooded over the Comic-Con community. It’s also notable that 1 am Saturday is a busy time at the con, and that a lot of people must have seen what happened and helped police put together an accurate report.

Once again, all good thoughts to the injured girl and her family.

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5. Poetry Friday -- Retro Post

This post originally appeared as a part of my 2013 Poetry Month Project: Common Inspiration--Uncommon Creations. I am working to gather my Poetry Month Projects and other assorted original poems on my website, Poetrepository. I'm not any where near finished yet, but it's been fun to look back. A huge thank you to Amy LV for her website, The Poem Farm, which was my "mentor text" for the design of my site. I chose this one for today because as you are reading it, I will be fly fishing in Vermont! 

Margaret has today's roundup at Reflections on the Teche. See you next week here at A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Roundup! Until then, I'll wish you "tight lines!"

I have been involved with Casting for Recovery since 2005, when I was a participant. I have written about it many times here on the blog. Use the search box ("Casting for Recovery") to find these posts, if the spirit moves you. And if you want, you can even "like" the Ohio CFR Facebook Page!

One of my favorite fishing memories happened in Maine when I treated myself to a trip to L.L. Bean's Women's Fly Fishing School. After I completed the classes, I fished on several rivers in Maine before returning home. One was much like the picture above, and although I wasn't dressed like that pre-1920's fisherwoman, I was standing on a large boulder, fishing alone. Alone, but not alone. A flock of cedar waxwings crowded the bank, chasing after the fly I was casting. I was having no luck with the fish, so I just stood quietly to enjoy the birds. When I had been still for a few minutes, one of the birds perched on the tip of my fly rod! My favorite fly fishing catch of all time!! Here's a haiku about that day:


Cedar waxwings flocked,
curious about my casts.
Calm fly rod: bird perch.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

You might have noticed that there is no attribution for this picture. That's because it's in the Public Domain. Here's what Wikimedia Commons had to say about public domain as it relates to this photo:

"This Canadian work is in the public domain in Canada because its copyright has expired due to one of the following:
1. it was subject to Crown copyright and was first published more than 50 years ago, or
it was not subject to Crown copyright, and
2. it is a photograph that was created prior to January 1, 1949, or
3. the creator died more than 50 years ago.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
Public domain works must be out of copyright in both the United States and in the source country of the work in order to be hosted on the Commons. If the work is not a U.S. work, the file must have an additional copyright tag indicating the copyright status in the source country."

The theme of my 2013 National Poetry Month Project is 

"Common Inspiration--Uncommon Creations." 

Each day in April, I featured media from the Wikimedia Commons ("a database of 16,565,065 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute") along with bits and pieces of my brainstorming and both unfinished and finished poems.

I uesed the media to inspire my poetry, and I invited my students to use my daily media picks to inspire any original creation: poems, stories, comics, music, videos, sculptures, drawings...anything!

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6. Flag Samples have Arrived!

I love to get samples. I am so happy with these. They will be in Lowes this holiday season. The snowman has some lovely embroidered edges. 

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7. A Mexican Cemetery Comes Alive Through Animation

"They say Mexicans have a special fascination with death," writes Christian Bermejo of the Mexican animation website Tweenbox. "We don't believe it but maybe playing around with mapping in the cemetery doesn't help."

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8. Julia Denos: Fashion & Children’s Illustrator

Post by Heather Ryerson

Julia Denos

Julia Denos

Julia Denos

Julia Denos

Julia Denos

Julia Denos’ loose, colorful illustrations are sure to make girls everywhere ooh and ah. Her quick lines and saturated colors say a lot with a little and her playful evocation of texture and pattern is pitch perfect for children’s fashion. She has illustrated numerous picture books for girls like I Had A Favorite Dress, Just Being Audrey, and Grandma’s Gloves. Candlewick Press, HarperCollins, Penguin, RandomHouse, Scholastic, and Highlights are amongst her many clients.

See more of her work on her website.

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9. Con BLOG wars: Hall H line kerfuffle leads blogger to quit


Oh man. This really is the year everything got out of control isn’t it. Before we dig in here, I should note that I’m friendly with everyone mentioned below. I’ve talked to Jeremy at the SDCC Unofficial blog many times, appeared on their podcast several times, tweeted with Tony from Crazy4ComicCon, linked to them all and in general respected their passionate coverage of Comic-Con as a pop culture effort. So I’m just reporting what I hear.

The SDCC unofficial blog is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most authoritative blogs about the show with all kinds of news hints and tips. As mentioned before, I appear on their podcast, and members of the team I’ve spoken with seem engaged and professional. This year, blogger Sarah Mertan of ConShark was doing some writing for them, but she announced that she quit over—wait for it—an unofficial line for Hall H. It seems that on Friday night some people created their OWN LINE for HAll H, and those people included several from SDCCUB, who managed to keep the line secret and get A level wristbands. The SDCCUB people respond in the comments, and then Tony Kim from Crazy4Comic-Con went and wrote a novel:

Many of you may have made the assumption that those that blog about Comic-Con are one big happy family, unfortunately that is not the case.

This goes under “Very long, set aside beverage to read” or vl;sabtr. Shorter version as I can make out, is that Tony was also once a member of the SDCCUB team and quit over stuff, and now they badmouth him and there is no love lost. And then there’s the matter of the secret line and who should have said what and when and who. Kim writes:

If CCI had granted the SDCC Blog special access into Hall H for coverage, I would have been fine with that. Then it’s accounted for and I would trust CCI’s judgement call on it. People get special access all the time- no big deal. But instead, the SDCC Blog took the initiative and exploited a vulnerable part of an experimental system. Because of the ConShark’s courageous act, they got caught. As you can see from the comment section of the post, Jeremy takes no responsibility, blames her for not communicating, blames security for being wrong, and chalks it up to a big misunderstanding. Even though he is arguably the single most influential source for Comic-Con news, his last comment on the post included this:

“Next time we’ll just tweet out every unsanctioned line that forms, screw over folks who started them and invested their time, cause a situation for security to deal with and get CCI to hate us. I guess then everyone will be happy.”

So many sharks, so much jumping. =(

I know you are all sick of Comic-Con by now, and I will restrict my future comments to two big round-up posts over the weekend, but this is part of the problem. Secret lines! Secret wristbands! Secret podcasts and photos and CONspiracies. I can attest that there was bad blood between SDCCUB and C4CC — I’d gotten wind of it several times png before this and thoughts, “Small space, competitive market”…but Comic-con coverage really isn’t that small. I don’t know how many dedicated blogs the space can support but it’s more than one.

I’ll admit I got into Hall H on Saturday morning, but it was the first time I’d been in four years and it will probably be four years before I go again. It was cool alright, but I enjoyed my lunch at Sushi Deli and watching the casts of various vampire shows taking pictures with fans at the Hilton just as much. Every moment at Comic-con is precious. I get that Hall H is the Holy Grail of pop culture participation but is it really worth all this drama? I mean I know a lot of people think so but…life is too short, people.

Way too short.

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10. Audiobook Review: Beyond Belief: My Secret Life in Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill

From Goodreads:
Jenna Miscavige Hill was raised to obey. As the niece of the Church of Scientology's leader David Miscavige, she grew up at the center of this highly controversial and powerful organization. But at twenty-one, Jenna made a daring break, risking everything she had ever known and loved to leave Scientology once and for all. Now she speaks out about her life, the Church, and her dramatic escape, going deep inside a religion that, for decades, has been the subject of fierce debate and speculation worldwide.
Well done.  I don't have much to say either positively or negatively about the quality of the writing.  I think the real appeal of the book lies in Hill's story, and it's told well, but without anything extra in terms of style or device.

Entertainment Value
Absolutely fascinating.  After reading and enjoying Going Clear last year, I was really interested in the subject of Scientology and excited to see this memoir by someone who actually grew up inside the cult.  Jenna Miscavige Hill was not only a member of Scientology, but closely related to high-level Scientology leaders, including her uncle, David Miscavige.

Hill's story is heartbreaking.  She describes being separated from her parents from a very young age, being raised in a communal group with other children, and being forced to perform physically demanding labor and harsh punishments.  We follow her as she becomes a teenager and young adult and begins to question some of the rules and restrictions placed on members of the Sea Org, the elite group of church members who devote their lives to the practice of Scientology.  It's a story that is difficult to hear and chilling at times, when you realize that these abuses are happening in the country we live in at this moment in time.

Well done.  As with the writing, I have no strong feelings either way.  The author doesn't narrate the book and that always feels a little bit weird to me when listening to a memoir, but I still enjoyed the experience.

I highly recommend it to fans of memoir, those interested in contemporary cults, or who are interested in Scientology specifically.

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11. I Got Presents Too

Yesterday I was away celebrating Bookman’s birthday. He says he turned forty-ten. Sure, why not? We went out to breakfast at our favorite cafe, spent some time in the garden, went for a walk at the lake and went to a bookstore. I also made him a cake so chocolatey that it is a good thing we have been building up our chocolate tolerance for years otherwise we might have overdosed. Also, it is just as well that I don’t cook very often, especially when it comes to things like cake. As I was mixing up all the ingredients I was overcome with horror — how much sugar? How much butter? OMG, MORE sugar?!!! Of course when it came to eating cake I still had a piece, though maybe not as big as I would have had if I had been ignorant to the sugar and fat content. It’s a good thing Bookman has a birthday only once a year!

One of the things Bookman decided he wanted to do was go to a bookstore. So we did. We went to Half Price Books. It has been a really long time since we have been there and we had even vowed to never go back after some bad experiences there, but it is close to our house and we decided to check it out.

They must have had a sale recently because there were large gaping holes on their shelves where I would have expected books. And browsing, it seemed like there just wasn’t much of anything. However, I still managed to bring home three books.

  • Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag. Leslie Jamison mentions Sontag and this book in Empathy Exams and I have seen it crop up in other places. It seemed like it was about time to get a copy.
  • Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, the NYRB edition. I’ve heard good things about Taylor but I rarely see any of her books turn up at the secondhand shop so when I saw NYRB and Taylor together, I couldn’t pass it by.
  • Vita Nuova: A Novel by Bohumil Hrabal. I do love Hrabal and his books are hard to find in bookstores either new or secondhand. This one is the second in a trilogy of fictional memoirs but it seems I don’t have to read them in order. At least I don’t think I do. It is written from the perspective of his wife and depicts their life in Prague from the 1950s to 1970s.

Not bad, huh?

We also found Doctor Who salt and pepper shakers that we are attempting to repurpose. We are in the midst of a little setback on that project but hopefully we will be able to figure it out and I can make a happy reveal of it soon. In the mean time you will just have to imagine what one might use salt and pepper shakers for besides salt and pepper. Hmmmm.

Filed under: Books, New Acquisitions, Personal

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12. How Japanese Animators Use Flash to Create Amazing TV Animation

Science Saru, the new studio started by Japanese directors Masaaki Yuasa and Eunyoung Choi, has shared a behind-the-scenes look at how they used Flash in the recent TV series "Ping Pong."

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13. Who is My Audience?

On Twitter ages ago N. K. Jemisin asked “*do* white writers want only white readers?”

The immediate, obvious answer for me is: No, I don’t want only white readers. And I’m really glad I don’t have only white readers.

But I’ve not been able to stop thinking about that question. And the shadow question which is “do white writers only write for white readers” regardless of what kind of audience they might want?

In order to respond I need to break it down:


I’m white. That fact has shaped everything about me. I know the moment when I first realised I was white. I was three or four and had just returned from living on an Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory. My parents were anthropologists. I was on a bus with my mum in inner-city Sydney when I pointed to a man of possibly Indian heritage and said loudly, “Mummy, look it’s a black man.” My mother was embarrassed, apologised to the man, who was very gracious, and later tried to talk to me about race and racism in terms a littlie could understand.

What happened in that moment was me realising that some people were black and some people were white and that it made a difference to the lives they lived. I’d just spent many months living in the Northern Territory as the only white kid. The fact that I wasn’t black had not been made an issue.1 We played and fought and did all the things that kids do despite my difference. So much so that tiny me had not noticed there was a difference. Despite seeing many instances of that difference being a great deal I wasn’t able to make sense of it till I was living somewhere that was majority white, majority people with my skin colour, and then the penny dropped.

Many white Australians never have a moment of realising that they’re white. That makes sense. Whiteness is everywhere. White Australians see themselves everywhere. Our media is overwhelmingly white, our books are overwhelmingly white. In Australia whiteness is not other; it just is. Whiteness doesn’t have to be explained because it is assumed.

Because whiteness just is, like many other white people, I don’t identify as white. For me whiteness is the box I have to tick off when I fill out certain forms. While it shapes every single day of my life it doesn’t feel like it does. Because what whiteness gives me is largely positive, not negative. My whiteness is not borne home on me every single day. I don’t need to identify as white because, yes, whiteness is a privilege.

When I see a white person talking about “their people” and they mean “white people” I assume they are white supremacists. Anyone talking about saving the white race from extinction is not my people.

For many different reasons I do not think of white people as my people. As a white writer I do not write for white people.

I admit that I have used the phrase “my people.” I’ve used it jokingly to refer to other Australians. Particularly when homesick. Or when someone Australian has done something awesome like Jessica Mauboy singing at Eurovision at which point I will yell: “I love my people!” Or an Australian has done something embarrassing on the world stage: “Oh, my people, why do you fill me with such shame?”

I’ve used “my people” to refer to other passionate readers, to YA writers, to fans of women’s basketball, to Australian cricket fans who like to mock the Australian men’s cricket team and care about women’s cricket, to people who hate chocolate and coffee as much as I do etc.

All of that comes from a place of privilege. I can’t think of a single time in my life when I have been referred to as “you people.” I’ve gotten “you women” or “you feminists” or “you commies”2 or “you wankers” but never “you people.”

White people are rarely asked to speak for their entire race. N. K. Jemisin’s question about white writers writing for white readers is not something that gets asked very often. Meanwhile writers of colour are asked questions like that all the time. They are always assumed to have a people that they’re writing for.


When I sold my first novel3 I was not thinking about who would read those books. I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote those books either.4 Frankly I was still over-the-moon ecstatic that they’d sold, that there were going to be novels out there that I wrote! I didn’t get as far as imagining who would read them.

I’ve written stories ever since I was able to write and before then I would tell them to whoever would listen. My first audience was my sister. And, yes, I tailored some of those stories to suit her tastes, adding lots of poo jokes. But, come on, I like(d) poo jokes too. It’s more that I got lucky that my sister liked what I liked.

All my novels are books that, if I hadn’t written them, I would want to read them. I write for myself. I am my main audience.


That all changed when I was published, when my stories found distribution beyond my sister, my parents, friends, teachers.

When I, at last, had an audience and that audience was responding to my novels is when I started thinking about that audience.

When members of my audience started writing to me and I met members of my audience is when I really started thinking about who my audience was and how they would respond to what I had written.

That’s how I know my audience isn’t all white. It’s how I know my audience isn’t all teens. How I know they’re not all women. Not all straight. Not all middle class.

As my books started to be translated I found myself with an audience that isn’t all English speaking.

Discovering how diverse my audience was changed the way I wrote which I have discussed here.

Addressing a White Audience

There is one place where I am addressing a mostly white audience. And that’s on this blog and on Twitter when I’m trying to explain these kinds of complex issues of race to people who haven’t thought much about them before. White people tend to be the people who think the least about race because it affects them the least. So sometimes that’s who I’m consciously addressing.

Writing to an Audience

But white people who are ignorant about racism is never whom I’m consciously addressing when I write my novels.

Even now when I have a better idea of who my audience is I don’t consciously write for them. When I’m writing the first draft of a novel all I’m thinking about is the characters and the story and getting it to work. If I start thinking about what other people will think of it I come to a grinding halt. So I have learned not to do that.

It is only in rewriting that I start thinking about how other people will respond to my words. That’s because when I rewrite I’m literally responding to other people’s thoughts on what I’ve written: comments from my first readers, from my agent, and editors.

My first readers are not always the same people. If I’m writing a book that touches on people/places/genres I have not written before I’ll send the novel to some folks who are knowledgeable about those in the hope that they will call me on my missteps.

Any remaining missteps are entirely my lookout. There are always remaining missteps. I then do what I can to avoid making the same mistakes in the next books I write. And so it goes.

I hope this goes a little of the way towards answering N. K. Jemisin’s question. At least from this one white writer. Thank you for asking it, Nora.

  1. When we returned when I was 8-9 my whiteness made a huge difference.
  2. Many USians think anyone to the left of Genghis Khan is a communist.
  3. First three, actually. The Magic or Madness trilogy was sold on proposal as a three-book deal way back in 2003.
  4. Well not the first two, which were written before the first one was published.

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14. Update on the injured cosplayer


I’m sure everyone has now read up on the details of the arrest regarding the 17-year-old cosplayed who was found injured and was presumably attacked at Comic-Con on Saturday night. The man who was arrested was 29-year-old Justin Kailor, a photographer associated with something called Project Cosplay. Kailor was friends with the victim, and indeed many photos of her are watermarked with Project Cosplay so she clearly had an ongoing relationship with the project. According to Kailor, the two went to the show together and argued at the Marriott about whether to leave or not, and he became worried when she left. About an hour later she was found bloody and unconscious at the pool or the Marina Marriott.

“I just wanted to call it a night and take her home to her parents and be on my way…,” he said. “She ran off and I didn’t follow. She didn’t answer the phone. She was gone for so long I asked security if they had seen her.”

About an hour later, he said, security found the girl unconscious and bloodied in the hotel’s pool area. He added he was with security when they heard she had been discovered and police were notified. The hotel manager did not return calls seeking comment.

THe girl’s family was interviewed by local news, and confirmed that the victim would have a long recovery, but the support of the cosplay community was much appreciated. Police haven’t commented on whether Kailor is involved in the assault on the victim; his arrest was in connection with giving her alcohol and unspecified “sexual contact” with a minor.

The investigation is still ongoing; anyone who has any information should contact sdhpiwatch@portofsandiego.org.

A few personal comments: it’s hard to imagine an idea more disturbing than a bloody, severely injured teen-aged cosplayed being found by a pool at the Marriott Marquis, possibly sexually assaulted, in the middle of Saturday night at Comic-Con. I’ve been by that pool, you’ve been by that pool. I took a shortcut through that pool nearly every day at the con. I stayed at the Marriott on Tuesday night, I’ve been there with groups, I’ve been there alone and so have you.

There is a great deal we do not know about this case, and I’m not going to speculate on what happened. But based on what we do know, there is nothing shocking, unusual or dangerous about the behavior of the victim. She did what hundreds and thousands of people have done at Comic-Con for years—dressed up, hung out with friends and moved around a place she assumed was safe.

What is shocking, unusual and dangerous is the behavior of whoever left her lying bloody by the pool.

I’m turning off comments here, but if anyone has any RELEVANT information regarding this, such as benefits, cosplay group response, or knowledgable insights, email me at comicsbeat @gmail.com. This is obviously a tragedy, and will contribute to a lot of the ongoing discussion about cosplay, consent and conventions.

Please continue to think good thoughts for this young woman and her family.

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A new "KING BRONTY" story is at your finger tips! As always, I hope you enjoy it!


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16. Scattered? Me, Too!

Although it's been a good month since I moved into my new house, there is still a ton of work to do before we can say it's actually finished, or even completely livable. The main difficulty is finding both the time and the energy after work each day to accomplish everything my imagination envisions. The same holds true for my creative life at the moment. As much as I want to finish my WIPs, start a new art journal, and sew a winter wardrobe, it's not going to happen as quickly or completely as I would like. And that makes me feel . . . unhappy.

Last night I had trouble sleeping while I worried about what seemed like five hundred loose ends--disconnected projects and ideas that only spun into more projects and ideas. We had an unexpected (and what I would normally consider very welcome) New Mexico thunderstorm during the middle of the night, increasing my feelings of nervousness, incompetence, and outright failure. Consequently I woke up with a sore back and neck and the need for a serious re-think, resulting in some frantic morning pages and a list I titled, "What I Want to Do." It included:

  • Finish my new screenplay.
  • Go back to my screenwriting group.
  • Finish the edits on my nonfiction WIP, A Pet Owners Book of Days.
  • Draw the illustrations for A Pet Owner's Book of Days.
  • Finish the edits on my novel WIP, The Abyssal Plain.
  • Get back to working with clay.
  • Buy jewelry tools and make jewelry.
  • Start a really neat poetry project.
  • Read my friends’ manuscripts when they ask for critiquing.
  • Stay focused on my day job.
  • Finish my new house, as in FINISHED.
  • Keep up with the housework in my new house (amazing how fast dust collects).
  • Read for fun. 
  • Sleep.
  • Blog.
  • Stay current with social media.
  • Promote my books.
  • Buy a sewing machine and start some sewing projects.
  • Sketch more often.
  • Sign up for The Sketchbook Project.

Impossible? You bet.

Long ago, when I sold my first book, my editor said, “You are very ambitious.” I was genuinely surprised. I thought "ambitious" meant you were crazy for leather briefcases and suits with shoulder pads. I had no idea it simply meant I had big creative dreams and wanted to write stories that delved into many areas, topics, and themes.

Either way, I still don’t know how to not be ambitious; how to stop wanting to dive into color and words, how to stop writing multiple stories and chasing after all projects labelled "NEW." So here’s a little scheme I’m going to try. I'm calling it:  Concentration. 

The Concentration Plan

  • For my daily writing, edit and concentrate only on The Abyssal Plain.
  • For my daily art practice: concentrate only on pictures of dogs, cats, and Barcelona.
  • Social media is a reward only after I’ve accomplished a timed amount of work every hour or so.
  • Freewriting time is only for blog posts.
  • Reading is only at bedtime.
  • "Finishing the house" as well as housework is only on the weekends.

To get there I'll have to say no a lot, e.g.:

  • No sewing.
  • No jewelry.
  • No clay.
  • No poetry.
  • No screenplay.
  • No critiquing.

Just looking at these lists makes me feel a lot better; I might even get to sleep tonight! The beauty is that I now feel I have some goals back on track. For instance, finishing The Abyssal Plain edits means I can then move on to marketing the manuscript. Drawing cats and dogs will give me a break from the edits and help me create the illustrations for Pet Owners. And getting the house finished over the weekends means we won't get burn-out. So let it rain, let it pour--I've got it covered.

Tip of the Day: I’ve used calendars, spreadsheets, journal notes, all kinds of things to help keep me get focused. However, the best thing I’ve found to date is a stack of index cards. If my day’s tasks don’t fit on a single card, they don’t get listed at all. 

In the meantime, how do you focus best? I'd love to hear some ideas!

0 Comments on Scattered? Me, Too! as of 7/31/2014 8:48:00 PM
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17. Writing the Urban Sketch

Earlier this month, Daniel Roessler shared a three-part series on nature and poetry. I’m hoping to continue sharing both guest posts on various topics on Thursdays (missed last week because of illness and deadlines). If you have an idea, send it my way at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com, and we’ll work to flesh it out.

This guest post comes from Ian Chandler, who was a Top 25 Poet in the 2013 April PAD Challenge (click here to read an interview).


Greetings, poets! Robert has been kind enough to give me a guest post on this wonderful blog, so I’ll do my best not to mess it up. I’m writing on one of my favorite aspects of poetry (and all writing, for that matter): the urban sketch.

I first learned about the concept while studying Arthur Morrison’s book A Child of the Jago, which tells the tale of a London slum in the 1890s. I didn’t care so much for the book, but I came across a unique connection between the text and Japanese art. Morrison had a special fondness for a woodcutting technique called ukiyo-e. It depicted mostly city life, which eventually gave way to the modern urban sketch. At its core, the urban sketch is taking a vignette of or situation in daily urban life and using it as the basis for a written work.

While it may seem like a widely used (and even obvious) concept, deliberate urban sketching provides some unique perspectives to all poets. For those who already focus on modern life, you’ll get a defined sense of place using the technique. For those who don’t, you’ll discover a litany of marvelous things about everyday life.

Urbanity as Action
A great example is Anthony Hecht’s masterful “Third Avenue in Sunlight,” where he ends with the cutting quatrain:

Daily the prowling sunlight whets its knife
Along the sidewalk. We almost never meet.
In the Rembrandt dark he lifts his amber life.
My bar is somewhat further down the street.

Throughout the poem, Hecht weaves a narrative in between descriptions of the city and places the action in urbanity itself. The closer is an intense picture of the affected view of the titular avenue that truly clinches.

Nature of the City
For another example, take the appropriately titled “City Elegies” by Robert Pinsky:

All day all over the city every person
Wanders a different city, sealed intact
And haunted as the abandoned subway stations
Under the city. Where is my alley doorway?

This part in particular centers on the nature of the city itself rather than what is within it, and it does so tastefully.

Culture of the City
Lastly, a small self-plug for good measure. I used urban sketching in “tuesday,” which highlights millennial culture and focuses on small things some people might not see:

wet chainlink benchbacks
that are wooden and resolute
and my soy latte
a sketch of the counter with a found pen

The next time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard/screen), try using the urban sketch. Besides being a whole lot of fun, it’s a good way to train your mind. Who knows––that parked motorcycle next to a campus bookstore and an ant-line of cars on Main Street might be the stars of your next poem.


Ian Chandler

Ian Chandler

Ian Chandler is a poet and freelance writer based in Kent, Ohio. He is currently attending Kent State University studying English. He has been awarded the 2014 Malone Writers Prize in Poetry, and he has been published three times in A Celebration of Young Poets.

He also reviews albums for Surviving the Golden Age. Other hobbies of his include coffeemaking, cardistry, and music.

Read more at his blog: http://ianchandler.wordpress.com.


Find more poetic goodies here:


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18. 8 Online Resources for Historical Research

The beauty of doing historical research in the Digital Age is that so much can be carried out from the comfort of your couch, local coffee shop or anywhere with reasonably speedy Wi-Fi. Of course, there’s much to be said for libraries, museums and a trip to your novel’s locale, but because so much can be accomplished from home, the Internet should be your first stop. Here are eight tools to get you up and running.

American Memory <memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html>

The staggering breadth of multimedia available in these collections from the Library of Congress—more than 9 million digitized items—seeks to document the quintessential American experience through text, images, audio and video. Thankfully for researchers, these vast contents are organized by themes based on subject matter and format for more straightforward navigation. Learn what it was like to administer communion in 1550 from a mid-16th century handbook for priests, gain a deeper understanding of Civil War battle strategy with an 1863 map of Gettysburg, or inform your own story of a Mad Men-style ad firm with a Coca Cola commercial from the 1960s. Narrow your search to specific sections or explore the entire site at once, but either way you’ll walk away with something new and unexpected.

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940 <loc.gov/collection/federal-writers-project/>

The manuscripts collection from American Life Histories is another invaluable resource from the Library of Congress, distinct from American Memory. From 1936 to 1940, the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project, a jobs program that was part of the New Deal, compiled and transcribed more than 2,900 written life histories. Ranging from 2,000 to 15,000 words, these manuscripts document the lives of Americans living at the turn of the century, through the Technological Revolution, World War I and the Great Depression. These records include valuable details that could inform your writing, such as physical appearance, education, income, occupation, political views, religious perspective and more.

Archive Grid <beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/>

At the beginning of your research, when you’re looking for tools that cover a very broad swath of material, Archive Grid will be among your first stops. It’s a catalog of more than 2 million primary and secondary source materials from institutions around the world, from Yale to the Bibliotheek Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands. Searchable by keyword, you can inform your character’s career by looking up an occupation such as fireman to see an occupation analysis of “The Fireman in Cincinnati” (1930), or better depict the squalor of Parisian peasants in 1790 with a little help from “Economic conditions in Paris at the beginning of the French Revolution.” Not all archival material is openly accessible—some may requiring reaching out to an institution for permission—but the massive collection still makes it an excellent device for homing in on the exact information you seek.

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection <davidrumsey.com/>

The David Rumsey collection includes more than 48,000 historical maps and images that are available for you to browse and consume for free online. Though the majority of available maps focus on rare 18th- and 19th-century maps from North America and South America, historic maps of Europe, Asia and Africa are also available. This collection is digitized at an incredibly high resolution, making it easy collect details by zooming in. Use an 1857 street map of Chicago to understand the anatomy of the city before the Great Chicago Fire, or an 1834 atlas of Scotland with hand-colored county boundaries to see whether your character’s village was in Forfarshire or Kincardineshire.

Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project <digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/html/museum.html>

There is a wealth of online sources where you can plunder photos, manuscripts and other old ephemera, but the Feeding America collection from Michigan State University provides you the unique opportunity to accurately portray your character’s diet. The Historic American Cookbook Project includes full-text, searchable transcriptions of cookbooks dating as far back as the 1700s. Use the Manual for Army Cooks (1896) to describe an authentic meal of salt codfish hash for a wary group of Union soldiers, or a description of Johnny Cake or Indian Slap Jacks from American Cookery (1798) to realistically chronicle a meal at the table of Thomas and Martha Jefferson. In addition to the awesome archive of cookbooks, the site additionally includes a glossary of historic cooking terms, as well as images of old cooking utensils such as a bread grater and a gourd dipper.

Google Books <books.google.com/>

Provided by Google, the search engine monolith, Google Books offers a gateway to more than 30 million digitally scanned books, most of which are no longer in print or commercially available. As an additional feature, every digitized book has searchable text using optical character recognition, making it easier to track down the exact piece of information you’re looking for. While there are some books that are restricted to only an abstract or preview, full text of those in the public domain are available to download for free. Because this archive is so enormous, you’re bound to find background information on just about any subject you can imagine, from the Influence of Judaism on the Protestant Reformation to Bogs, Baths and Basins: The Story of Domestic Sanitation.

Measuring Worth <measuringworth.com/index.php>

Say you’re writing a novel about an oil magnate at the turn of the 20th century. For background, you read up on John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company, and stumble across the fact that he was worth about $200 million in 1902. This sounds like a lot, but you can’t fully understand the immensity of this number without comparing it to today’s standards. That’s where Measuring Worth comes in: an online tool that allows you to determine “historical worth.” By plugging in the numbers, we can see that Rockefeller was worth about $34.6 billion in today’s standards, a detail that can’t help but inform your character, granting him the eccentricities of the uber-wealthy. Use Measuring Worth to size up everything from how George Washington’s salary compares to President Obama’s, to how much a car in 1925 would cost you in today’s dollars. Calculating worth is not something that naturally comes to mind when trying to write a historically accurate work of fiction, but is an element both compelling and critical to consider when conducting research.

New York Public Library Digital Collections <digitalcollections.nypl.org/>

Put the coveted collections of the NYPL, the second largest public library in the US next to the Library of Congress, at your fingertips without the hassle of navigating busy Manhattan streets or trying to find a cheap hotel room in Midtown. Perhaps the most useful (and fascinating) feature on the website is the Digital Gallery. The NYPL Digital Gallery is a collection of more than 800,000 images, including historical maps and photographs, manuscripts, vintage posters and rare prints. Take a peak at the collection “Customs and Costume” to see how a family of Russians might’ve dressed in 1862, or explore “The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts” to see what details might’ve adorned a program from the Metropolitan Opera House in 1909.

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19. Goddess Girls & Heroes in Training | Book Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed copy of Goddess Girls #14: Iris the Colorful and Heroes in Training #7: Ares and the Spear of Fear, written by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. Giveaway begins July 31, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends August 30, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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20. SDCC 14: Becky Cloonan, The Killjoys of Moving…

By David Nieves

Since 1999 Becky Cloonan has been breaking down doors; whether they be from moving to new places or the ones every creator has to go through to make comics for a living. I had the overwhelming  joy of sitting down with her on the SDCC show floor last week. To no one’s surprise, I found her to be every bit the –best in the world– her poignant art style suggest.

We talked a little bit about her recent move back south of the wall. Becky has a genuine zest for life that would terrify the average person thinking about uprooting themselves to new surroundings. While she deals with the same angst of “where the grocery store is, the post office… trying to figure out my place in this neighborhood,” she finds inspiration and new contributions to the projects she’s in the middle of during her journeys.


Reflecting back on the dystopian opera that was True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys, a process that’s been over five years in the making. The original story inspired the My Chemical Romance album Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys which then turned back into the comic book.  Killjoy’s end result being a Mad Max story with so much heart that it makes the tears shed in the opening of Up seem like a prick from a rose throne. On the subject of if the group would ever come back to tell more stories in the Killjoy’s world, all Cloonan would say is, “never say never.” It does sound as though it will be quite sometime before that would ever happen due to Shaun Simon’s upcoming projects, Gerard Way’s new album, and her own recently announced Image book Southern Cross.

Our conversation steered towards the comic book industry in general. After starting by self publishing her own books in 1999, she’s excited by how viable self-publishing has become over the last ten years. Not only has this been a coo for creators, but she’s noticed how much its changed the readership of comics. Cloonan and Way recently signed at Meltdown Comics in L.A. she was thrilled by the fact that “the line was like 90% girls and they all had their comics to be signed.” Her thoughts about the on going hot topic women in comics; Cloonan takes a very humble approach on the matter. In her words, “As much as I feel like I don’t represent women in comics, I don’t feel like I can carry that flag cause it’s too heavy (laughs). I represent myself, but at the same time I love to encourage young girls to get into drawing comics, get into reading comics.”

Her outlook on the future of comics is as upbeat as the artist’s demeanor. Cloonan talked about how all the conversations and strides we take today will pay off ten years from now. The artist emphasized, “It’s going to be healthier, it’s going to be bigger and we’re going to see even more amazing comics.”

Listen to our entire conversation below to hear just how fabulous Becky is:

Becky Cloonan isn’t just the story of a female creator in comics. After spending some time with her you start to see that she’s the tale of a girl who wants to tell stories through a lens of her ever-evolving perspective while along the way encouraging those of us with the same fears and anxieties to pursue their passions. The industry is a much better place for having her and you just can’t say that about everyone.

If you’re one of the five people on earth who haven’t read True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys check it out in stores and through Dark Horse Comics. Becky’s new Image book Southern Cross will be available in stores this Winter.

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21. Online Exclusive: The Facts of Fiction

In “The Facts of Fiction” compilation article in the September 2014 Writer’s Digest, physician, novelist and award-winning short story writer Jacob M. Appel schools writers on getting their facts straight when writing fictional doctors and patients. Here, in this special online exclusive sidebar we didn’t have space to print, he shares a quick cheat sheet to hospital wings and wards.

Time in the Hospital

Stat – Immediately

BID – Twice a day

TID – Three times a day

QHS – At bedtime

Places in the Hospital

PACU – Post-anesthesia care unit. Patients initially recover from surgery here, not in the operating room (OR) itself.

PICU – Pediatric intensive care unit

MICU – Medical intensive care unit

RICU – Respiratory intensive care unit

NICU – Neonatal intensive care unit, not to be confused with the Neuro ICU, the neurologic intensive care unit

ER or ED – Patients visit emergency rooms; these days, physicians prefer to think of themselves as working for emergency departments



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22. The History of Typography: VIDEO

Are you looking for a typeface for your book? Perhaps you’d like it to tie into the era that your novel is set in?

DesignMantic has created a video which illustrates the history of typography, tracing the history of type development through the ages. It is a great resource for those that want to learn the background on the various typefaces that have been popular throughout the ages.

We’ve embedded the video above for your enjoyment.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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23. Watch ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’ Trailer

The first trailer for the mixed-media SpongeBob movie "Sponge Out of Water" was released today, and it's a real winner.

0 Comments on Watch ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’ Trailer as of 7/31/2014 8:42:00 PM
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24. Harts Pass No. 211

The fact of the matter is that we're ALL watching the skies and surrounding hills just a little closer -- sniffing the air to decide if the wind has changed and the smoke is settling in or blowing less obviously but still ominously to the east. Its going to be a long hot summer still ahead, and while the eight recent days of highest concern seem somewhat now at bay (including, yes the disposal of many a spoiled food item) it can't hurt to remain vigilant. Oh, and wolverines (of the mustelid family after all) do tend to smell a bit -- musty.

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25. World Premieres of ‘Big Hero 6′ and ‘Parasyte’ Set for Tokyo International Film Festival

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) is putting a special emphasis on animation this year, and has announced that Disney's "Big Hero 6" will be the opening night film of their 27th edition.

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26. Manga Worth Reading July 2014

I mean, if we’re doing an anime worth watching each month, it only makes sense we do a manga worth reading as well right? So this is ultimately the feature of dreams. Manga is vast, and there’s certainly a lot of it to consume, whether it’s published in your country, or someone’s fan translating that one ... Read more

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27. Squeetus summer book club: Enna Burning, chapter 20

UKPBEBOriginal ending: Enna gives up her powers entirely. That was what I was writing toward in the first draft, but I eventually discovered it wasn't the best story. I also considered ending it in her death.

Found this note I apparently never incorporated in the story: "Mimicbeetles introduced, mimic sounds of men or Finn coming."

The ceremony: I was always curious about these verses from Isaiah in the Old Testament (which is generally poetic and full of strange and interesting images):

6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar;

7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

This ceremony seemed like something the fire worshippers might believe in.

Wind and fire: In an early draft, my editor was not on board with the wind/fire solution. She thought I should change it to rain/fire. I thought it was working until her comment, which made me look closer and work harder. I decided not to take her exact advice but it was still helpful because she pushed me to make work what I wanted to have happen. I deleted most of it and rewrote the whole thing. And then again. And again. I overwrote and then deleted liberally. And then wove strings throughout the entire book that helped lead up to the moment when Isi and Enna teach each other their languages. And now it's 10x stronger. Reminds me of what others have said, "If someone says something's not working in your manuscript, they're always right. If they tell you how to fix it, they're always wrong." I don't like "always" but mostly I think that advice is true.

Nicole asks, "I was wondering what your favorite book is, outside of those which you've written?" I don't have a favorite book. I don't have a favorite anything. I like choices! But the first book that popped into my mind when you asked that is I Capture the Castle, which is a book I completely adored until the last page, and then I was so upset by the abrupt, unclosed ending that I couldn't deal. That book taught me a lot about what I love as a reader and what I don't. Highly recommend it for both reasons.

Eliza asks, "Sorry to hijack the Enna discussion, but I have another EAH question. Are Apple and Daring siblings?" No, that would be weird! Apple inherits her mother's story, but her father (the previous Prince Charming) doesn't have a son to inherit his. I explain more in a short story about Dexter that's coming out this fall in the Once Upon a Time collection, but the Charming family is huge, lots of branches, and there are plenty of prince charmings to take up those roles so there's no incest!

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28. Happy birthday, Harry!

harry birthday cake Happy birthday, Harry! Happy birthday to one of kidlit’s most beloved and backlashed big-name characters, Harry Potter! (He’d be thirty-four this year. Holy hippogriff.)

The Horn Book has had a lot to say — good, bad, and damn, these books are long — about The Boy Who Lived over the years. Here’s a roundup of reviews, articles, and blog posts about the series, including Roger Sutton’s breakdown of how it’s changed publishing.


Book reviews

Movie reviews


mj12 Happy birthday, Harry!Articles

Blog posts

Recommended read-alikes list

share save 171 16 Happy birthday, Harry!

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29. Harry Potter read-alikes

These titles — all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine — offer a mix of magic, adventure, humor, and suspense that will enchant Harry Potter fans.

duane so you want to be a wizard Harry Potter read alikesSo You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane [Young Wizards series] (Delacorte, 1983; reissued by Harcourt, 2003)
A splendid, unusual fantasy tells of the efforts of two young wizards, Nita and Kit, to keep the world from being overcome by the Prince of Darkness. This twentieth-anniversary edition of the first book in the series contains a new afterword and a short story about Nita and Kit, originally published in Jane Yolen’s anthology Dragons and Dreams.

jones charmed life Harry Potter read alikesCharmed Life, The Magicians of Caprona, Witch Week, The Lives of Christopher Chant, Mixed Magics: Four Tales of Chrestomanci, Conrad’s Fate, and The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones [The Chrestomanci Chronicles] (reissued by Greenwillow, 2001)
This series is linked by the character Chrestomanci, a magician with nine lives, whose charge is to maintain the balance of magic among parallel universes.

jones merlin conspiracy Harry Potter read alikesThe Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow, 2003)
The story is narrated in alternating chapters by Roddy (a girl) and Nick. Roddy and a friend summon Nick, an unknown helper, when they discover that the Merlin (in charge of magic) has been murdered. Writing on an epic scale, the author deftly creates a fully realized fantasy universe with a series of worlds that resemble one another and our own but with distinct differences. This is a vastly absorbing story of good battling evil.

nix sabriel Harry Potter read alikesSabriel by Garth Nix (HarperCollins, 1995)
A compelling fantasy has for a heroine Sabriel, the daughter of the necromancer whose duty it is to protect the Old Kingdom: unlike other mages, he has the power to bind the dead as well as bring the dead back to life. The story is remarkable for the level of originality of the fantastic elements and for the subtle presentation, which leaves readers to explore for themselves the complex structure and significance of the magical elements. The story continues in sequels Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr and Abhorsen; a prequel, Clariel, will be published in October 2014.

prineas magic thief Harry Potter read alikesThe Magic Thief written by Sarah Prineas; illus. by Antonio Javier Caparo (HarperCollins, 2008)
Precocious pickpocket Conn becomes an apprentice to Nevery Flinglas, a wizard trying to stem the loss of magic from the city. Readers will find the familiar character types and straightforward plotting of this amiable tale (akin to that of another well-known boy wizard) easy to grasp, while the evolving conflicts and distinctive setting will draw them on.

rutkoski cabinet of wonders Harry Potter read alikesThe Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski [Kronos Chronicles series] (Farrar, 2008)
Petra Kronos’s father has magical abilities to construct creatures out of tin and to make a wondrous weather-controlling clock. When the prince of Bohemia blinds Kronos, cutting out his eyes and magicking them for his own use, Petra resolves to steal them back from the prince’s Cabinet of Wonders. Rutkoski’s bucolic old-world atmosphere keeps her workmanlike plotting feeling fresh and fortuitous. The story continues in sequels The Celestial Globe and The Jewel of the Kalderash.

stephens emerald atlas Harry Potter read alikesThe Emerald Atlas by John Stephens [Books of Beginning series] (Knopf, 2011)
Siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma discover a book that transports them back fifteen years in time. Thus begins their adventure with the Atlas, one of three Books of Beginning–powerful magical volumes whose secrets brought the universe to life. This imaginative and enjoyable series starter explores the bonds of family and magic while setting up an inevitable good-versus-evil showdown. The story continues in The Fire Chronicles.

share save 171 16 Harry Potter read alikes

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30. Elle Fanning to Star in ‘All the Bright Places’ Adaptation

Actress Elle Fanning will star in the film adaptation of Jennifer Niven’s debut YA novel All the Bright Places.

Producers Paula Mazur and Mitchell Kaplan acquired the screen rights to the Alfred A. Knopf novel, which is due out in January 2015.  The novel is the story of “a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.”

“We are thrilled to have Elle Fanning star in this profound tale of two teens who find themselves in the heart-stopping throes of love, life and death,” stated Mazur. “Remarkably, Jennifer Niven had pictured Elle when she was writing Violet’s character. She is such a perfect fit, and we look forward to watching her bring Violet to life on-screen.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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31. Follow us on Instagram!

Which librarian was taken hostage by Darth Vader?  Who (or what) wreaked havoc overnight in the library? Who is Mrs. Bee?  Which of our young patrons wrote and illustrated their own books?  Find out all this and more when you follow us on Instagram:

Username:  syossetlibrary

or scan our QR code for a direct link to our Instagram page where you will find out all about the programs and fun at Syosset Public Library including librarians just acting silly sometimes:

Posted by Sue Ann

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32. Imagine That! How One Girl’s Imaginary Pet Brought Books to Her Whole Class

Karen loves to draw. So when her teacher, Ms. Spezziali, told her class about the Purina® PAWty Challenge, this Garfield Elementary kindergartner was especially excited to participate.

ChicagoFBNBB 018The rules of the challenge were: Draw a pet (or an imaginary pet) for your classroom, name it and write a story describing the pet. Each child in the classroom also received an animal-related book.

Karen excitedly drew the cat she’s always wanted. Ms. Spezziali remembers Karen being thrilled with her picture. It was the writing element that challenged her.

Like 50% of the students in her South Boston school, Karen’s English was very limited. But she was determined to describe her dream pet perfectly, and worked with Ms. Spezziali to spell and sound out words that brought her drawing to life.

A few weeks later, Ms. Spezziali found out that Karen had won the Purina® Pawty Challenge and shared the good news with her students.

“Guess what? Someone from our class won the PAWty Challenge,” she said as she held up Karen’s picture for the class to see.IMG_4776

Her classmates cheered, and Karen, normally a very shy student, beamed. She was so proud to have won a special reading “PAWty” and new books for her classmates.

Karen’s teacher is amazed by how Karen blossomed through the Purina® PAWty Challenge. “She’s a lot more confident as a student now,” says Ms. Spezziali, “She knows she can do [her schoolwork] and tries really hard. My hope is that every child experiences a boost of confidence when they need it most and continue to work hard as a result.”

Karen PawtyFirst Book and Purina® recently teamed up to host the Purina® Reading PAWty Challenge – a celebration of reading and pets. Participating schools in Boston and Baltimore received new books and other creative activities to engage students in reading, writing and drawing.

The post Imagine That! How One Girl’s Imaginary Pet Brought Books to Her Whole Class appeared first on First Book Blog.

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33. I KNOW! Helene Fischer #1 Again! And Why Not?

Künstler Titel
Helene FischerMarathon

Nockalm QuintettDu warst der geilste Fehler meines Lebens

OlafIch gebe Dir mein Wort

Alexander KlawsMorgen explodiert die Welt


Nik P.Geboren um Dich zu lieben

FantasyR.I.O. - Es geht nach Rio De Janeiro

Uwe BusseApplaus für Dich

Patricia GabrielaSaudades

G.G. AndersonNie wieder Goodbye

Die AmigosSommerträume

Claudia JungNicht nur eine Nacht (Wings of Love)

Roland KaiserIch fege die Sterne zusammen

Linda HesseKnutschen (Ich kann nichts dafür)

Oliver FrankBriefe von Sarah

SchwesterherzLass Mich Noch 100.000 Mal

Wolfgang ZieglerLiebe ist Leben

Jörn SchlönvoigtAlle Deine Küsse

Anna-Carina WoitschackAuf einmal ist es wieder Sommer

Norman LangenIch wähl' Deine Nummer

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ANTONY JOHNSTON will be signing THE FUSE #1 and UMBRAL VOL. 1 OUT OF THE SHADOWS at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Saturday 30th August from 3 - 4pm


Working homicide on an orbiting energy platform, in a five mile long jury-rigged steel city stuffed with a half million people, and no help from your so-called colleagues back on earth, is more than tough...it's murder. A new crime series with serious attitude!

Exclusive mini-prints by Justin Greenwood and signed by Antony Johnston. Limited to 150.

The young thief called Rascal witnesses the horrific and brutal murder of the royal family-now the world's dark legends will be relived, and only Rascal even knows it's happening!

Exclusive mini-prints by Christopher Mitten and signed by Antony Johnston. Limited to 150.

Antony Johnston is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of graphic novels, video games, and books, with titles including WastelandThe FuseUmbral,Shadow of MordorDead SpaceThe Coldest CityZombiU, and more. He has adapted books by bestselling novelist Anthony Horowitz, collaborated with comics legend Alan Moore, and reinvented Marvel's flagship character Wolverine for manga. His titles have been translated throughout the world and optioned for film. Antony lives and works in England.


And "just in case" anyone from the company involved, or any of the companies who get free mentions here reads this: I am open to receiving prints, books or any other merchandise.  Just saying...

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35. Harry Potter Birthday Cake Bake-Off

Harry Potter StampVote for your favorite Harry Potter birthday cake.Harry Potter Birthday Cake

Which birthday cake do you vote for as the best fan-made Harry Potter birthday cake?! Leave your vote in the Comments.

Marisa, STACKS Intern

Birthday cake image credits: Daniel Drexler, woodleywonderworks, Two Kings Confections, TipsyCake Chicago

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36. National Book Foundation Partners With NYC For Summer Reading Program

The National Book Foundation (NBF)’s after school reading program for middle schoolers BookUp has partnered with  New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) to bring summer reading programs to kids in NYC.

The program serves 200 students at 10 locations throughout the city. The reading groups are led by published authors with the idea of connecting young readers with books outside of the classroom. Mitchell S. Jackson (The Residue Years) and Elisha Miranda (The Sista Hood) are among the writers involved in the program this year. Participating authors will be reading to kids as well as taking them on field trips to local bookstores and public libraries.

“At the end of the summer, each BookUp participant will have their own free personal library of 10 age-appropriate books,” stated Leslie Shipman, Assistant Director of the National Book Foundation. “Our students will cherish and benefit from that resource and their summer BookUp experience for years to come.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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37. New Themes: Edin and Espresso

Check out Edin and Espresso — today’s spiffy new additions to our massive family of themes.


Edin: Front Page

Edin is a brand-new, free business theme designed by yours truly. It’s a modern and fully responsive theme that will help you create a strong — yet beautiful — online presence for your business. Edin offers multiple theme options and supports the recently launched Site Logo feature.



Espresso is a responsive, content-centric premium theme designed by Justin Carroll that allows you to choose between two charming layouts. Go with a traditional post stream for your writing-based blog, or go grid-style for your photography blog. A fixed sidebar on the right keeps widgets, menus, and social links at the ready for visitors.

Edin is a free theme, and Espresso is a premium upgrade. Check out each theme’s showcase by clicking on its screenshot above, or preview it on your blog from Appearance → Themes.

Filed under: Themes

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38. July Reflections

In July I read 48 books.

Board books, picture books, early readers:

  1. Very Little Red Riding Hood. Teresa Heapy. Illustrated by Sue Heap. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Peppa Pig and the Vegetable Garden. 2014. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. Peppa Pig and the Great Vacation. Candlewick Press. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Help! We Need A Title! Herve Tullet. 2014. Candlewick Press. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]    
  5. I Pledge Allegiance. Pat Mora and Libby Martinez. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. Duck & Goose: Go To The Beach. Tad Hills. 2014. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  7. The School for Cats. Esther Averill. 1947/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. Jenny's Moonlight Adventure. Esther Averill. 1949/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Jenny's Birthday Book. Esther Averill. 1954/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. The Fire Cat. Esther Averill. 1960/1983. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Own]
  11. Jenny and the Cat Club: A Collection of Favorite Stories About Jenny Linsky. Esther Averill. 1973/2003. New York Review Children's Collection. 176 pages. [Source: Library]
Middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction:
  1. Hidden Like Anne Frank. Marcel Prins. Peter Henk Steenhuis. Translated by Laura Watkinson. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]   
  2. The Girl From the Tar Paper School. Teri Kanefield. 2014. Abrams. 56 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. What the Moon Said. Gayle Rosengren. 2014. Penguin. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
  4. Alice-Miranda At School. Jacqueline Harvey. 2010/2011. Random House. 257 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Dualed. Elsie Chapman. 2013. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. Enders. Lissa Price. 2014. Random House. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Swift Boys & Me. Kody Keplinger. 2014. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days. Michele Weber Hurwitz. 2014. Random House. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  9. Soldier Doll. Jennifer Gold. 2014. Second Story Press. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  10. Don't Even Think About It. Sarah Mlynowski. 2014. Random House. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. The Railway Children. E. Nesbit. 1906/2011. Penguin. 304 pages.  [Source: Bought]  
  12. You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does). Ruth White. 2011/2012. Random House. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  13. The Dust Girl (American Fairy #1) Sarah Zettel. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  14. The Hotel Cat. Esther Averill. 1969/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 180 pages. [Source: Library] 
  15. Captains of the City Streets. Esther Averill. 1972/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 164 pages. [Source: Library]  
  16. Jenny Goes to Sea. Esther Averill. 1957/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 140 pages. [Source: Library]
Adult fiction and nonfiction:
  1. North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany. Steven Pressman. 2014. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Library]  
  3. To Say Nothing of the Dog. Connie Willis. 1998. Bantam. 493 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  4. The Duke's Children. Anthony Trollope. 1880. 560 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]  
  5. Lost in Shangri-La. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2011. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. The Merry Monarch's Wife. (A Queens of England Novel). Jean Plaidy. 1991/2008. Crown. 352 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. To Love And Be Wise. (Inspector Grant #4) Josephine Tey. 1951. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. China Dolls. Lisa See. 2014. Random House. 376 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian fiction and nonfiction:
  1. Out of the Depths. Edgar Harrell, with David Harrell. 2014. Bethany House. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Mission at Nuremberg. Tim Townsend. 2014. HarperCollins. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Seeing the Unseen. Randy Alcorn. 2013. Eternal Perspective Ministries. 120 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  4. Luminary. Krista McGee. 2014. Thomas Nelson. 311 pages. [Source: Library]  
  5. Here Is Our God. Kathleen Buswell Nielson and D.A. Carson, editors. 2014. Crossway. 221 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. 1942. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. The Great Divorce. C.S. Lewis. 1945. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Library]  
  8. Burning Sky. Lori Benton. 2013. Waterbrook Press. 416 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. A Match Made in Texas: A Novella Collection. Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Carol Cox, and Mary Connealy. 2014. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Library]  
  10. A Sensible Arrangement. Tracie Peterson. 2014. Bethany House. 336 pages. [Source: Library] 
  11. A Captain for Laura Rose. Stephanie Grace Whitson. 2014. FaithWords. 336 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Full Steam Ahead. Karen Witemeyer. 2014. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
  13. 50 Days of Heaven: Reflections That Bring Eternity to Light. Randy Alcorn. 2006. Tyndale. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. Writing Middle-Grades

Make your middle-grade novel unputdownable.


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40. Neue Grafik Re-Release

Neue Grafik on grainedit.com

In 1958, the inaugural issue of the Neue Grafik – The International Review of graphic design and related subjects – was launched by four Zürich-based designers. Led by Josef Müller-Brockmann, Richard Paul Lohse, Hans Neuburg and Carlo Vivarelli (LMNV), the journal became a catalyst for an emerging movement in design known as the Swiss School or International Typographic Style. Marked by its asymmetrical layouts, sans-serif typeface and strong use of grids, the International Typographic Style placed heavy emphasis on clarity and precision. Throughout the journal’s history, this rigid yet versatile approach to design was employed and readily adopted by the design community at large.

Original copies of Neue Grafik are scarce and rarely surface on the open market with single issues fetching three hundred dollars or more. With this in mind, I’m excited to announce the re-release by Lars Muller of this significant and sought-after periodical, with all eighteen issues now available as a facsimile reprint. Contained within a stunning red slipcase, the set also includes a 64 page booklet with commentary by Steven Heller, Lars Muller and Richard Hollis.


Neue Grafik on grainedit.com

Neue Grafik on grainedit.com

Neue Grafik on grainedit.com


Neue Grafik on grainedit.com

Neue Grafik on grainedit.com

Neue Grafik on grainedit.com


Copies are available at Lars Muller.


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Thanks to this week's Sponsor // Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation

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41. Ask an Editor: Hooking the Reader Early

In this series, Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman shares advice for aspiring authors, especially those considering submitting to our New Visions Award

Last week on the blog, I talked about the importance of following submission guidelines and basic manuscript format. This week, I wanted to go into more detail about why a reader might stop reading if they’re not hooked right away. Here are some comments I’ve heard our readers make about manuscripts that didn’t hook them:

  • Story does not captivate in first few chapters
  • Boring
  • Writing not strong, or not strong enough to hold a young reader’s (or teen’s) interest
  • Parts of the writing are very strange (not in a good way)
  • Sounded too artificial
  • Reminds me too much of something that’s really popular
  • Too Tolkienesque or reliant upon Western European fantasy tropes
  • Concept cliche

How do you get your writing to have that “zing” that captivates from the very beginning? This is a little tougher than just following the directions—this is much more personal to each reader and each writer.

Is your writing boring readers?

There are a couple different issues in the list above. Some readers lost interest simply because they were bored. If you find yourself telling readers of your book, “Don’t worry! It gets really good in chapter five!” consider whether you’re starting your book at the right moment in time. The phrase “late in, early out” is one to remember—perhaps you don’t need all the information that leads to the “really good” part. Or perhaps you need to revise to make that information more interesting and faster paced.

I don’t recommend simply dumping this information into a prologue. Many young readers skip prologues entirely, and many more readers will lose interest if your prologue is long and boring—it’s the same principle as saying “just wait till chapter five!”

If the information in your first few chapters are crucial, yet readers are getting bored by it, consider spooling that information out little by little over the course of the book. You need to find the balance between giving enough information for the reader to be intrigued and wanting to know more, without overburdening the reader with so much information that they become overwhelmed or bored.

been there done thatFor example, take the first few pages of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. On page 1, Taylor sets up the scene: it’s an ordinary day in Prague (interesting point number one: how many books are set in Prague?) and Karou is walking down the street toward school, minding her own business. It’s an active scene—something is happening—but it’s more about Karou’s internal mundane thoughts. However, it doesn’t stay mundane for long. By page 2, she’s been attacked.

But it’s not your average “you have to have an action scene in the first scene!” attack. The author plays with expectations, intriguing the reader and making you want to know what happens next. We get some ex-boyfriend banter (also against expectations) and the promise of interesting, embarrassing things to come by the end of the chapter.

It helps that the book is well written. But it’s more than good prose that hooks the reader here—she spools out just enough to let you know that this is a unique book, and that you want to know more. The next two chapters do the same thing, and bit by bit, the reader comes to know Karou’s intriguing magical background.

What she doesn’t do is infodump in a prologue or the first few chapters about Karou’s history, the history of the world, and the history of the strange beings who raised her. Save those details for when they matter.

Look at your favorite books and read like a writer. For hooking a reader, look in particular at excellent examples of the first five pages of a wide variety of books. There are many ways to effectively open a book, and you need to find the way that works for your story. Reading other books like a writer will help you to zoom in on ways to perfect your craft.read like a writer

Another great resource for writers trying to figure out how to hook readers is editor Cheryl Klein’s essay “The Rules of Engagement” in her book Second Sight. It’s no longer available online (and I don’t believe the book is in e-book form), but it’s worth the price of the book for her discussion of various ways to hook readers via character, insight, action, and other methods. (Bonus: you also then get access to all her other thoughts on writing and revision.)

Over-reliance on common tropes

Several readers commented that several books relied too much upon Western European fantasy tropes (elves, fairies, etc.). There are ways of hooking readers with familiar story elements, but often most high fantasy tales boil down to “my elves are better than yours.”

The Coldest Girl in ColdtownLook for new inspiration. (We’ll cover worldbuilding more in full in a few weeks.) But especially in the first few chapters of your book, avoid leading with ideas that have been-there-done that.

If your story concept relies on tried-and-true tropes, it’s not the end of the world. Take a look at books coming out now that are successfully changing the mold—books like The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, who has revamped (haha) the vampire genre, for example. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown updates the genre, makes vampires scary again. In what ways can you update and revamp the concepts in your book to hook readers?

The solution to your writing being “not strong enough”: practice 

The number one complaint as to why a reader wasn’t hooked was that the writing wasn’t good. Once you get past obvious grammar and punctuation mistakes, this comes down to a greater need to practice your craft. Write regularly—it doesn’t have to be every day, but do it consistently. If your problem is time, you might find useful this advice from New Voices Award winner Pamela Tuck on how to carve out time to write on a regular basis. She has ELEVEN children, who require a lot of time and attention, especially because she home-schools them.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And next week, we’ll begin to drill down on elements that you can work on in the whole book, such as voice.

Stacy Whitman photoStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. 

Filed under: Awards, New Voices/New Visions Award, Publishing 101, Tu Books, Writer Resources Tagged: ask an editor, how to, Laini Taylor, New Visions Award, Science Fiction/Fantasy, stacy whitman, Tu Books, writing advice

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42. leonardodicrapio: Leonardo DiCaprio gets attacked by a penguin...


Leonardo DiCaprio gets attacked by a penguin during a trip to Antarctica in 2006

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43. Sylvester (Naxos Audio)

Author: Georgette Heyer
Read by: Nicholas Rowe
Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks
Genre: Romance
ISBN: 978-184-379-757-9
Length: 9 CDs (10:59:09)
Price: $59.95

Naxos AudioBooks website
Buy it at Amazon

Sylvester, Duke of Salford, has decided it’s time to marry. After consulting with his godmother, Lady Ingham, he reluctantly agrees to meet her granddaughter, Phoebe Marlow, to determine if she might be a suitable match. But Phoebe is horrified when she learns of his intentions, since she intensely dislikes him, and has cast him as the villain in her soon to be published novel.

When Sylvester and Phoebe suddenly find themselves stranded in a small country inn for a few days, they get to know each other better and question their initial impressions. But as circumstances unravel around them, their relationship goes from bad to worse. Is it possible that they both could be so wrong about the other?

Listening to Nicholas Rowe’s rendition of Sylvester is an absolute delight. Since the text is heavy on dialog, it reads more like a play than a book, and it is easy to immerse oneself fully in the story. Many scenes are laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are well-developed and even comical in their actions. I absolutely adored Sylvester, and Phoebe is a spunky girl with a good heart. Anyone who enjoys a good, clean romance will love this book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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44. The Scarecrows' Wedding: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Book: The Scarecrows' Wedding
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

The Scarecrows' Wedding is the latest picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axle Scheffler, the team that created the beloved book The Gruffalo. The Gruffalo is one of my husband's favorite books to read aloud to our four-year-old daughter. They like the rhythm of the text, combined with the every-so-slight scariness of "the deep dark woods." The Scarecrows' Wedding has a similar rhythmic feel. It is a book that begs to be read aloud. The subject matter is a bit lighter, though there is a risk of death near the end of the book.

In The Scarecrows' Wedding, scarecrows Betty O'Barley and Harry O'Hay decide to get married. Betty draws up a short list of her expectations for the wedding. Their farmyard friends help with some of these, but Harry ends up gong off on a quest to find "lots of pink flowers." While he's gone, a slick new scarecrow attempts to make time with Betty. But, of course, it all works out in the end. 

Here's an example of Donaldson's bouncy text:

"They hadn't gone far when some cows gathered round,
And the bells round their necks made a wonderful sound.
Ring-a-ding ding! Ring-a-ding ding!
"Oh, cows, will you please come and make your bells ring
For our wonderful wedding, the best wedding yet,
The wedding that no one will ever forget?"

That last bit, about the wonderful wedding that no one will ever forget, is repeated at intervals throughout the book, giving young readers a chance to chime in. There's subtle humor for adult readers, too, like the fact that the scarecrow who intervenes is called "Reginald Rake." He looks like a rake, too. 

Scheffler's illustrations are kid-friendly, with wide-eyed people and animals. The affection between the two scarecrows is conveyed via their companionable proximity and pink-cheeked smiles. The scarecrows move about as awkwardly as you would expect scarecrows to move, and there are tons of different types of animals to name and count sprinkled throughout the book. 

I believe that The Scarecrows' Wedding is going to make an immediate entry into my family's go-to bedtime reading list. It is a sure-fire hit, and must-purchase for libraries. This will be a great title to read to kids, alone or in groups, come fall. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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45. SDCC ’14: A Conversation with Vivek J. Tiwary, writer of ‘The Fifth Beatle’

Vivek_Tiwary_TEDxFultonStreet_600pxBy: Kyle Pinion

Vivek J. Tiwary is a multiple award winning Broadway Producer whose productions have netted 25 Tony Awards and 44 Tony nominations. The culmination of decades of research, The Fifth Beatle, his graphic novel telling the tale of Brian Epstein, the man who discovered and managed The Beatles was released in November of last year. As of this past Friday, Tiwary is also an Eisner Award Winner as The Fifth Beatle won the award for “Best Reality Based Work”.

Just prior to this win, I had a chance to sit down with Tiwary and discuss this stunning graphic novel and some of the background behind it.

When did you first hear the name Brian Epstein?

I’m a life-long Beatles fan. My parents introduced me to the Beatles. My parents always say that I was listening to the Beatles before I was born, because my mom was listening to them when she was pregnant. I’ve always been a bit of a nerdy guy, a bit of an academic…following history, and in terms of comics, I’d get into creators. Who were the artists? The inkers? And similarly with bands, I’d get very involved in who signed them and who their managers were. I probably heard his name 30 years ago, but it was 20 years ago when I was in business school in Philadelphia that I decided to learn something about the guy. I realized that The Beatles and Brian were the team that wrote and re-wrote the rules of the pop music business, but I didn’t know anything about him. So it was about 20 years ago that I really said “Who is this Brian Epstein character that I heard who managed and discovered the band?”

I understand you spent 20 years in research for the project. What did that research entail?

Starting this project 20 years ago, if you put that in perspective; during that time, there’s no Wikipedia, no YouTube, no Google. There are none of these online resources that we take for granted today, and there are no books about Brian Epstein. The Fifth Beatle is the only book in print, graphic novel or otherwise, about Brian. So 21 years ago, I didn’t have any choice but to do interviews. I had basically read all of the respected Beatles books and slowly I put together a portrait of the people that knew Brian best. And then I just cold-called these people, and they were not the celebrity names. Certainly there are people like (Paul) McCartney and Ringo Starr who obviously knew Brian, but Brian’s management style was to shield the band from his struggles. There’s a line in the book: “You focus on your music, and I will play the business like my instrument, and you will never have to hear it.” The people who knew Brian best, like Nat Weiss, who is in the book, was his best friend and the Beatles’ US attorney. Sid Bernstein, who is not in the book by character, but his spirit is in the book, was the Jewish concert promoter who brought the Beatles over to the United States for the first time. And he and Brian shared some of the same struggles of being Jewish men hustling in the music industry in the 1960’s. It’s a bit strange to think of this now, but in that time, there wasn’t an extensive number of Jewish people in that industry, especially not in the United Kingdom where the industry was run by Lou Gray and Sir Joseph Lockwood – these older, white Christian Knights of the British Empire. It wasn’t run by individuals with names like Epstein. So literally I just figured out who were the people who knew Brian best, and I cold-called them. I focused on the people who were within driving distance, like Nat and Sid who were both New Yorkers, and I just said “Hey, I’m a young person, looking for more inspiration and I got inspired by the little bit I know about Brian, would you talk to me?” And I will be honest, I was so excited about reaching out to these people that I forgot to be intimidated, and not one of them turned me down. That’s how I began my research. Obviously it expanded from just the people who were nearby. I wound up talking to Joanne Newfield, who is now Joanne Peterson. She was Brian Epstein’s personal assistant, and she was literally there with him the day he died. So, she was a great reference to me, while living in Australia now. That’s how I did my research, with people living all over the globe.

Did sources ever conflict in their accounts of Brian at all?

All the time. This is one of the challenges that any biographer faces, but certainly one for anyone that is working on a Beatles-related project and for someone who is as little known as Brian. There were people who said “Brian would never do that” and someone else would say “Brian totally did that.” Even little things, like when I presented the book to some people, they would say “Brian would never call his mother ‘Mommy,’” with others knowing him very well saying that he was very close with his mom and would absolutely do that. So who do you believe? As a biographer, you have to do all the research that you can, and you either go with the person that you think is the most reliable on that issue, or you interview five people and if three of them say it’s one way, you have to go with the majority. Those are the two decisions you make. But at the end of the day, that’s the role of the biographer. You have to go with what you think is the truth.

When did Andrew Robinson come into the picture?

Like I said, it was about 20 years ago that I started researching the subject. It was about ten years ago that I decided that I wanted to write a graphic novel, and that started with scripting and figuring out how I wanted to tell the book. It was about five or six years ago that I was looking for an artist. I was making the book independently at first, before Dark Horse was involved, and I hired a gentleman named Mark Irwin, who was the book’s first editor and a very accomplished inker in his own right. But in his role for me he was working as an independent editor, helping me with my script and helping me to find an artist. He was working with Andrew at the time, and Andrew was one of the very first people that Mark recommended. I knew Andrew as a comic geek. I knew he was an amazing artist, and I knew he could certainly do the job and do it beautifully. But it was really when I sat down with Andrew and started talking to him that I realized that he was perfect. It was important for me, because it was my first graphic novel, and partially because I come from theater, which is a collaborative field. So working very closely with the artist was something that I wanted. It was clear that Andrew and I were going to have that kind of relationship. He also was a huge Beatles fan but understood that this was Brian’s story, and it was the human element of Brian’s story that really appealed to Andrew. To me, that was critical in the storytelling of The Fifth Beatle.

In relation to your theater background, how would you liken your role and Andrew’s role to the traditional ones seen in film and on stage?

If you’re looking at as a film, then I suppose I am both the writer and the director, and Andrew is the cinematographer, and the art department, and a bit of the music director as well. Much like a film, we really collaborated on everything. There were pages of my script where I was very specific. I knew in my head that I want four panels here, and I want one panel to look like this and a camera angle to be this. There were entire sequences where I said here is what the characters are going through and here is how they feel, here is what is emotionally happening and here is the dialogue, but I have no idea how to do this. Andrew would then come back to me with it all laid out. We really did both. There are some comic writers who are very particular and want things exactly this way, and there are some that have no idea and just provide dialogue, and I guess I’m a bit of both. There were some scenes where I was very meticulous, down to photo references, and then there were others where I wanted Andrew to have mastery over it.

I can’t imagine the feeling you must have had when you saw the finished product.

Oh my gosh, I remember the experience I had when I saw Andrew’s first page, which was page one, the Liverpool panorama, and it was like my heart literally skipped a beat. It was watching my dreams visually come to life. It was amazing.

How would you define the relationship that Brian had with John vs. the one he had with Paul?

Obviously, Brian’s relationship with John is deep and complex. John was the leader of the group when Brian started working with The Beatles, and by the end of their career as a band, John and Paul were both taking leadership roles. But in the beginning, there was no question that it was John’s band. So, Brian really did start working closely with John, because he was making a lot of the big decisions. A lot has been made about Brian and John and whether they had a romantic relationship, and there’s no question in my mind that Brian was attracted to all of The Beatles, in particular to John. But as you’ll see, the way I handled that in the book – I think that John teased him somewhat mercilessly as John I think was wont to do. John was one of these guys that had a very acerbic wit, and he put his friends through the ringer. To hang with John Lennon, you had to earn your stripes. So I really think there was a lot of love between the two of them, a lot of genuine love, but I don’t think it was a romantic love. If anything for Brian, it bordered on the love a father has for a child, in a lot of ways. I think Brian viewed the Beatles as the children, as a gay man, he would never have. A gay man in the 1960’s where it was illegal to be gay, forget about getting married and adopting. Brian was very paternal with The Beatles. There was a friendship there that was emotional and familial. I think Brian’s relationship with Paul was a little more business-oriented. Paul was more about the numbers, the image and the marketing than John was, and certainly at the end of the book there’s a scene where a number of people visit Brian on his death bed and he had these hallucinatory moments, Paul is one of the people that shows up. Obviously that’s a fantasy, that’s my creative license as an author, but you’ll see in that sequence they talk a lot about the business. Brian says “you’re the one that’s going to be in charge of the legacy,” because he knew that Paul was going to be the person that was going to take charge of the legacy most seriously from a business perspective. Not that John wasn’t proud of the legacy as the founder of The Beatles, and as a key member, but Paul is really the one that understood it from a business stand-point: The books, the greatest hits records, the preserving of the band historically, that’s a Paul thing and was also a Brian thing as well. Brian’s relationship with Paul had a more archival aspect if that makes sense, the caring about and the creation of history.
John also had other interests brewing at that time as well, with Yoko coming into the picture or about to do so.
Lennon once said “there were only two people in his entire life that he would listen to and do whatever they told him and that was Brian and Yoko.” And Yoko really comes into the picture where Brian left off, and John even says this, she filled an almost paternal void that he felt when Brian left. John sometimes needed somebody to tell him what the fuck to do. That’s not to say Yoko and Brian were similar. There was just a part of their relationship with John that was.

For those who have read the book, this has been a question that’s bantered back and forth a bit, how open to interpretation is the existence of Moxie?

Very! I will go on and let you decide how much to print because I do like the fact that you walk out of the book with the ability to debate that subject. That was the point. I want readers to not be sure about this. That being said, there was no real person named Moxie, however everything Moxie does was done by four assistants. She is most closely based on Joanne Peterson, who I mentioned earlier, who was Brian’s personal assistant, she was there when Brian died. She will readily say she had an innocent crush on Brian. She didn’t romantically chase him, but he was older, intelligent, well-dressed and debonair. He was everything that a man should be in her teenage eyes. She loved Brian in that sense in the way that Moxie does. Moxie is also one-part Wendy Hanson, who was another female assistant Brian had. She’s also one part Alistair Taylor, who was the assistant that first took Brian to The Cavern Club in 1961, which Moxie does in the book. She’s also one part Peter Brown, who worked very closely with Brian and very closely with The Beatles afterwards. So if I had to answer the question very specifically, she’s a conflation of four real-life people. I also wanted Moxie to be a little bit of Brian’s head. She’s Brian’s “moxie”, his ambition, his drive. She’s a lot of different things, so I hope her existence does cause some debate amongst fans of The Fifth Beatle and Beatles fans. While it doesn’t take more than a Google search to know that there was no real-life Moxie, everything she did is based on history. Brian took Joanne Peterson to a ball and ballroom danced with her. She said it was one of the best nights of her life. But JoAnne is not Moxie…at the end of the day, she’s my creation and I think she represents Brian’s ambition in life.

But Dizz is real though?

Dizz is very real unfortunately. There was a gentleman in real life named John Gillespie, people nicknamed him “Dizz”. He blackmailed Brian; he was a hustler. He flew to the UK and blackmailed Brian in public. Since we’re getting specific, I will say I made up the television interview. He did blackmail Brian in public, but it was at a party, not on television. Dizz was unfortunately a very real person.

Any future projects that we can get excited about?

There’s a few things that I have cooking that I can’t quite talk about, but I’m working with Alanis Morrisette, and we’re adapting her album Jagged Little Pill for the stage. We’re turning it into that into a Broadway Musical. I’m incredibly excited about that. I expect we’ll be able to announce our writer within the next few months. Tom Kitt is already attached to compose orchestrations and arrangements, which Tom did for me on American Idiot, of which I was a producer, and he’s a genius. He’s a Pulitzer and Tony winner for Next to Normal, so he’s amazing. That’s probably the key thing that people can get excited about. Right here at San Diego Comic Con, I wrote a short story for Harbinger Issue 25, their anniversary issue. It’s out and here at the convention. Gilbert Hernandez, the wonderful Gilbert Hernandez drew an exclusive cover for Harbinger and it’s a benefit for the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund), and we’ll be doing a signing here at the show. This is a dream come true, the man is a genius, to say that Julio’s Day was one of my inspirations for The Fifth Beatle would be an understatement, and I’m thrilled to be working with him. Harbinger 25 is out now, it’s in stores, and I’m very proud of the story I wrote for that. There’s certainly The Fifth Beatle film as well, which we’re in active development on. We’re in the casting process, and we’re on track to shoot next year.

Is Peyton Reed still attached to direct?

Now that Peyton is attached to Ant-Man, scheduling has become a bit of a tricky thing. Peyton loves The Fifth Beatle, we love Peyton, but we’ll have to see how the schedule plays itself out.

2 Comments on SDCC ’14: A Conversation with Vivek J. Tiwary, writer of ‘The Fifth Beatle’, last added: 7/31/2014
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46. George W. Bush is Writing a Book About His Father

Former president George W. Bush is working on a book about his father George H. W. Bush.

The book has yet to be titled but is slated for a November 11, 2014 release in the U.S. and Canada by Crown Publishers. The hardcover edition’s first printing will include one million copies.

Here is more about the book from the press release: “…the book covers the entire scope of the elder President Bush’s life and career, including his service in the Pacific during World War II, his pioneering work in the Texas oil business, and his political rise as a Congressman, U.S. Representative to China and the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President.”


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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47. Carlsbad Beach People

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48. Every Year a Wilder Year!

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is given to an author or illustrator “whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”

During the 2014 ALA Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, the ALSC board voted to change the frequency of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from every other year to every year.

There is such richness and depth among the field of children’s literature creators. Making the Wilder Award an annual honor gives ALSC increased opportunity to honor the significant contributions individual authors and illustrators have made over the course of their careers. It will also decrease confusion among ALSC members and others regarding when the award is given. No longer will the question, “Is this a Wilder year?” need to be asked or answered. Every year will be a Wilder year!


The Wilder Award was first given in 1954 to its namesake, Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was awarded every five years through 1980. The frequency was then changed to every three years, which began with the 1983 award and continued through 2001. It became a biannual award starting in 2003 and this schedule will continue through the upcoming 2015 award.


The transition to the Wilder becoming an annual award will begin with a 2016 Wilder Committee. The 2017 committee that was just elected by the ALSC membership in May will be renamed the 2016 Wilder Award Committee. They will begin their work at the close of the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting just as all the other 2016 ALSC award committees, and they will work within the newly established Wilder Award one-year timeframe to name a 2016 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award recipient. (Under the biannual schedule, which the current 2015 Wilder committee is following, Wilder Award committees have done their work over two years.)

The Wilder Award will continue to be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting award press conference, and to be given at the ALSC Sunday night award banquet at the ALA Annual Meeting, which will be known from now on as the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet.

For more information on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, including a list of past recipients, go to: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/wildermedal

The board decision was in response to the report of the board-appointed Wilder Award Frequency Task Force chaired by JoAnn Jonas and including members Amy Kellman, Martha Parravano and myself.

As always, the board welcomes your thoughts.

Megan Schliesman for the ALSC Board

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49. You write, "It’s like I keep figuring this shit out, and then forgetting it immediately." That's not your strange little personal problem. That's not what makes you uniquely fucked. That's a universal truth, a fundamental dimension of the human conditio

— From an ‘Ask Polly' a couple weeks back that I keep thinking about because a. it's true and b. enjoyment of imagining Oprah zonking out across from Deepak.

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50. Don't Even Think About It (2014)

Don't Even Think About It. Sarah Mlynowski. 2014. Random House. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The good news? I thought the first chapter or two was interesting and good. If not actually good, potentially good.

The bad news? With each chapter I read, well, let's just say I ended up not liking it very much. It did not finish as well as it started. Of course that is all subjective.

Don't Even Think About It is a premise-driven novel. 22 students, practically a whole homeroom in a school, receive a faulty batch of flu shots. The side effect of this bad batch is ESP. Overnight, twenty-two students suddenly gain the ability to read minds. Obviously, they can read the minds of those closest to them in proximity. What they find is that people of all ages typically think disturbing and inappropriate things. That thoughts tend to be rude and unfiltered. They learn secrets: some trivial secrets, some deep, dark secrets. Knowing things they shouldn't know proves more bothersome to some characters than others. Still, oddly enough, most characters come to feel it is an incredible gift that they've been blessed with. Even if it complicates their lives and relationships.

The premise itself wasn't an awful one. It's just I didn't like how it was developed throughout the book. The collective we narrator representing all twenty-two voices was a bit messy. On the one hand, it gave us glimpses into many lives. And some of the characters introduced were likable. (I think I counted three or four characters--children, teens, adults included--that I actually liked. Some of the characters I liked we only spent a couple of paragraphs with.) On the other hand, it was hard to care about ANY of the characters. Assuming that to care about a character you either have to love them or like them or at the very least understand why they are like they are. The characters I came closest to liking were Cooper and Olivia and Olivia's mom. This is not a character-driven novel.

The book is definitely a light romance. I did not necessarily like how "mature" the content was, I could have done without all the bad language, for example.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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