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1. Electro-Sculptures! Cool Photos of the Week

Here’s a new word - PYLON. A pylon is the name for those huge towers that support the wires that carry electricity to our towns and cities. They are generally considered to be pretty ugly…a necessary, but unattractive feature of modern life. In Europe, they have been holding competitions, asking architects to rethink the homely pylon. Is there a way to make this necessary utility more attractive? To think about it more like a sculpture, or a piece of art? The answer is a definitive Yes! A British company came up with this design, which they call the Flower Tower. And in Russia, a company submitted this design for the Sochi Olympics. Isn’t it magnificent?

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2. Coloring Page Tuesdays - Honey Biscuits

     Where's your favorite reading spot? This bear likes to munch on honey biscuits while reading a good book. Do you have a reading ritual?
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!! And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, coming out next week! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
**A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
**A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**
**The 2014 National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia!**
**eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environmental/Ecology/Nature Category**

0 Comments on Coloring Page Tuesdays - Honey Biscuits as of 9/23/2014 9:54:00 AM
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3. Pamela Schott’s The Passion of Minerva Mullen

The Passion of Minerva Mullen, a screenplay by Pamela Schott, is the Grand Prize winner of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. You can read an extended interview with Pamela here, and view a full list of winners here. For complete coverage of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, please check out the November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest.


Whatever you do, please don’t tell my mom about this screenplay. Because if she knew… If she knew that I was laying bare the story of a young girl, circa 1979, on the verge of womanhood, a smart ass middle child who has the unhappy distinction of being the product of 1) Catholic schools; 2) the military; and 3) a family that really knows how to take the “fun” out of dysfunctional, well… Let’s just say that she would wrongly assume that this is about her.

In truth, this story belongs purely, solely, and absolutely to the aforementioned school girl, one so-called Minerva Mullen (named for the Goddess of War; her father had big ideas) who has just about had it up to here with all the things she can’t control. Like nuns with rules (and rulers); a dad with orders that send him to sea with every turn of the tide; a posse of brothers who are left to navigate the road to manhood on their own; and a pill-popping, perpetually pregnant mother with a manic-depressive disorder that makes family life anything but livable. And this is the story of how, having stirred the wrath and ridicule of Holy Name school principal Sister Mary “Battle Axe” Bernard one time too many, Minerva lands in hot holy water and finds herself charged with the impossible task of mounting the school’s annual Christmas pageant to Sister’s satisfaction—complete with a real, live Baby Jesus—or face expulsion. But can Minerva keep the peace at home, the family in Holy Name’s good graces, and her own cool when a secret crush becomes her first true love?

For all the latch-key kids who remember what the world felt like when Iran took American hostages; who found the fun in a Slinky and Pet Rocks and Pong; who yearned for the first kisses, first cars and first place in the Spelling Bee; and who witnessed the advent of the self-help movement—watched, helpless, as their families fell apart, Minerva’s story is a story about what it’s like to go kicking and screaming into an uncertain future.

But it’s definitely, absolutely, and positively not about my mom. So, please. Whatever you do? Don’t tell her about this screenplay.



A bright, early fall morning. Wind rustles EUCALYPTUS TREES and tall, colorless grasses that line the drive to the GUARD GATE.

Too fast, A DATSUN STATION WAGON approaches the GATE, braking at the last moment, tires crunching pavement.

As it stops, the GATE SERGEANT (early 20s) leans out of the guard shack, smartly salutes the COAST GUARD STICKER on the car’s silver bumper.


The driver, a very pregnant BRENDA MULLEN, early 30s, a pretty bottle blonde just this side of washed up, stubs her cigarette in the ash tray, rolls down her window.

Next to her is MINERVA MULLEN (15). Awkward, gangly, she’s got the bold-faced confidence of girls three times prettier, and a rebellious streak to match.

On Minerva’s lap is blonde, curly-haired PATSY KLINE (2). Patsy Kline munches Zweiback toast, works it through the web of her hands, into her hair. None wear a seat belt.

Good morning, Sergeant.

Sergeant rubs his gloved hands together, blows into them.


Looking good today, Sergeant. Very smart.

Ma’am, yes ma’am, Mrs. Mullen.

Please, Sergeant. Mrs. Mullen is my mother-in-law, the old battle ax.

Sergeant eyes the BAGS of bread in the back of the car.

Commissary out of bread this morning, Ma’am?

Can’t beat the day-old prices at the bakery. Girls, say good morning to the Sergeant.

Good morning, Sergeant.

Patsy Kline extends the mushy cookie, grins.

No cookie for me, Patsy Kline. Still on duty.

(grinding the gears)
Always by the book, eh, Sergeant? That’s what I like about you. Stay

Goodbye, Mrs. Mullen.

Brenda floors it, wipes Patsy Kline’s mouth with the corner of her sleeve, reaches to the dash to shove the CIGARETTE LIGHTER into place.

It’s a well-rehearsed orchestration of movements.

Grab me a cigarette, will you Minerva?

Minerva moves Patsy Kline off of her lap, straddles the seat to reach into the back.

Balance is precarious as Brenda takes the right angles of the base streets, rolling through each stop.

Why doesn’t the Sergeant ever say good morning to me?

You know how it is. The young ones always steal the show.

Brenda slows for another stop, pitching Patsy Kline forward towards the gear shift.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Whoa, there, Patsy Kline!

Minerva finds the SALEMS, climbs back to her seat.

BRENDA (cont’d)
You grow into those knobby knees of yours, that Sergeant’ll be
noticing you soon enough. Mark my words. And ‘Nerve?

Minerva peels the plastic from the pack, expertly smacks it against the heel of her hand, pulls a cigarette out.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Didn’t we have an agreement about those bangs?

Patsy Kline reaches for the cigarette.

No, Patsy Kline.

(to Patsy Kline)
Not till you’re 18, darlin’. 16, if you don’t let your daddy know you’re

doing it.

The LIGHTER disengages with a crisp, metallic POP! Minerva lights the cigarette, avoids Patsy Kline’s grab.

No, Patsy Kline.
(to Brenda)
I like my bangs.

The cigarette lit, Brenda takes a long drag, down shifts.

They bounce onto the driveway and into the carport of a one-level, nondescript cinder block medley of grey and greyer, just like every other house on the block.

Brenda exhales as she studies Minerva.

In your eyes, you like them?

Minerva adjusts the rear-view mirror, studies herself.

I’m trying to grow them so they can feather. Laura Cooper? At school?
She has the perfect feather.

She’s got the right hair for it, ‘Nerve. Blonde and thick. Gorgeous hair.

Brenda brushes the bangs from Minerva’s eyes.

BRENDA (cont’d)
We’ll cut these this weekend. Remind me, okay?

Not gonna happen.


Brenda hoists herself out of the car, leaving Minerva to scrutinize in the mirror.

She’s not happy with what she sees, but this isn’t the first time.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Bring those groceries inside, I’ve got a surprise for you.

As Brenda waddles to the kitchen door, Patsy Kline in tow, Minerva dutifully begins unpacking the car.

BRENDA (cont’d)
(calling into the house)
Boys, you better be up and ready. Frankie? Sammy? Let’s go.
Reveille, reveille!

Minerva struggles with the bags, kicks the car door closed, moves to the other side where she shoves her hip into Brenda’s door to close it, heads towards the kitchen door.

Remembering something, she moves back to the car, peers into the back passenger window, taps on the glass.

Come on, Sammy.

Momentarily, SAMMY MULLEN (6), HEARING AIDS IN BOTH EARS, emerges from the car, obediently follows Minerva inside.



CLOSE ON three squirming PAIR OF FEET, each sporting identical pairs of DAY-GLO ORANGE AND BLUE ADIDAS TRACK SHOES. Atrocious.

Brenda double-ties Sammy’s shoes, sits back on her heels, scratches her distended belly.

As she does, we get a look at the living room: the tattered FURNITURE, B&W T.V. SET, old UPRIGHT PIANO, PHOTOS crooked on the wall.

ON ONE PHOTO, a recent family portrait, where we see COAST GUARD LIEUTENANT COMMANDER BECK MULLEN, mid-30, surrounded by Brenda and the children, dressed in military WHITES. He is handsome, and proud.

Hey? What do you think?

From her angle, we see Minerva and Sammy, plus FRANKIE (16), all dressed in Catholic school uniforms, and humiliated beyond belief.

Fair like his father, movie star good looks, Frankie is Brenda’s favorite. He’s also a closeted homosexual who’s trying desperately to be straight.

Next to Brenda, Patsy Kline chews on a sponge that has yet to clean the mess on her face.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Got those on close out at Big Five. Adidas, guys! Brand name, right?

No one wears Adidas.

No one?

Frankie drops to one knee, cuffs his pants.

They’re not so bad if you know how to wear them.

Isn’t that a little, you know…?

Brenda makes her wrist go limp.

BRENDA (cont’d)
…queer, Frankie?

No. Ma, it’s “Grease”!

Anyway. It’s Nikes now.

Brenda takes the sponge from Patsy Kline, wipes faces as Frank wordlessly undoes his cuffs.

When it’s her turn for the sponge, Minerva moves so her face is out of reach. No way.

Then the Mullens get to start a new trend

God, you are so wrong about so many things. Did you even go to
school, Mom?

Don’t push my buttons. I’m having a good day so far and I don’t want
you ruining it.

What about my day? Do you know what’s going to happen to me the
minute we set foot on campus?

Leave it, Minerva.

You watch. You wear those Adidas today, everyone’ll be wearing them
tomorrow. Nikes’ll be a thing of the past.

Fat chance.

Grab your lunches, let’s go. You know how Sister Mary Joseph
Bernard gets when we’re late.

(to the others)
Do not, under any circumstances, call attention to yourselves. Or
your feet. Especially your feet.




SR. MARY JOSEPH BERNARD, 50s, full black and white robes—
RULER strapped to her belt, ROSARY hanging at her side—stands at the foot of the school stairs, hands warming under her robes.

Above her is a mammoth-sized STATUE OF JESUS.

Eagle eying all commers, he extends one hand out before him, points the other to his heart. Long hair flows in two plates over each shoulder, as if waiting to be braided.

The Datsun slides to a stop as the LAST BELL RINGS. Brenda gets out, opening car doors to release her brood.

Mullens tumble out, race up the steps past Sister.

Morning, Sister! Looking lovely today! That black and white on you?

Then, spotting his best friend, HENRY (16), handsome in his Clark Kent glasses, Frank hurries up the steps.

FRANKIE (cont’d)
Henry! Wait up.

The day-glo ADIDAS catch Sister’s eye as he goes.

Sammy is next to tumble out of the car. When Sister sees the ADIDAS on Sammy’s feet, she has to smother a smile.

Sammy hurries past Sister without a word, but she grabs him by the collar, literally sweeping him off his feet.

“Good morning, Sister Mary Joseph Bernard.” Say it. Say it!
(under her breath)
I know you can talk, you little brat.

Blushing furiously, Sammy MUMBLES something incoherent, breaks free of Sister’s grasp, tears up the stairs.

Back at the car, Brenda licks her fingers, wets Minerva’s bangs, slicks them back away from her eyes. Minerva brushes her off.

Now, ‘Nerve, remember…

Brenda thrusts her chest out, wiggles her shoulders.

BRENDA (cont’d)

Oh my God.

Minerva hurries past Sister, who notes Minerva’s day glo ADIDAS.

Just… try. Please? We’ll go bra shopping at the Commissary this
weekend, just so we’re ready. Okay?

Beyond humiliated, Minerva disappears into the CROWD of STUDENTS.

Sister arches an eyebrow at Brenda

BRENDA (cont’d)
Not all of us are called to be Brides of Christ, Sister. Landing a man’s
the next best thing.

Brenda gets in the car, moves Patsy Kline from the window.

ON SISTER as the Datsun pulls away, an idea brewing before she marches up the stairs, garments billowing.



The restless STUDENT BODY, a mass of K through 12 STUDENTS, is assembled outside the Mission-style school for morning prayers. They stamp and paw at the ground against the cold.

At the front of the assembly is a PODIUM on which stands a small AMERICAN FLAG.

Behind this is a LARGE WOODEN CROSS.

Momentarily, Sister emerges from her office, strides up the center aisle as if assessing troops.

Francis Mullen, please.

Frankie moves to the podium, takes the FLAG from its stand. This is a familiar routine.

Samuel Mullen?

Moving noiselessly to avoid attention, Sammy complies.

A PUZZLED WHISPER ripples through the student body as the Mullens line up at the front.

Who are we missing? Oh, yes. Minerva Mary? Will you join us?

Minerva emerges from line, reluctantly joins her brothers. She throws Frankie a questioning look, but he shrugs it off.

Nothing from Sister, who watches the assembled students, waiting for what she prays is coming.

Finally, a STIR in the crowd, then SNICKERS and GIGGLES as the students get Sister’s unspoken message.

It’s the shoes.

In the morning grey, with the Mullens shoulder to shoulder, the day glo awfulness of the three pair of ADIDAS is glaringly obvious.

Sister lets the commotion ride, poker faced, a few delicious moments longer, then:

Excuse me, Holy Name students, is this how we behave at morning

SILENCE once again. Sister closes her eyes, is the epitome of reverence.

On this, the first day of Advent, we pray… In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

ALL but Minerva bless themselves.


Today we begin the season of waiting. Waiting for the Baby Jesus to
be born, in our hearts, and in our world. As we take that first step on
the road to Bethlehem to meet Jesus in the manger, will we walk, sure-
footed in our fine, shiny shoes…


I’m gonna kill her.

…or stumble, pitifully, over our own egos. Our inequities. Our shame.
As we ready ourselves for the birth of our Savior, wash us clean of all
our sins, clean as bright, unsoiled new shoes…

So help me God, I’m gonna kill her.

…that we may so walk forever in your Grace. In Jesus’ name.


Now, Minerva, if you would lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance?

Minerva slices Sister a look of pure hatred, steps forward, raises the FLAG.

I pledge allegiance to the flag…

CLOSE ON SISTER as a small smile plays around her lips.





The clock tower BELL CHIMES three times.

Minerva and Frankie huddle on the wall for warmth in front of the school, Sammy on Minerva’s lap.

The last to be picked up, they wait for Brenda, who’s very late. Minerva eyes the CLOCK TOWER, the STATUE of Jesus.

I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.


What’re you gonna do, tell Mom on me? What does she have against
us, anyway?

Sister? She knows we can’t afford to be here. Not really. She knows
we’re vulnerable.

Sammy gets Minerva’s attention, SIGNS a question.

What Frankie means is, Sister isn’t a good person.

Minerva sees Sammy isn’t understanding.

MINERVA (cont’d)
She’s mean, Sammy.

Minerva eyes the STATUE again, an idea dawning.

Then, she lifts Sammy off her lap, places him on the wall, jumps down, begins untying her shoes.

MINERVA (cont’d)
Mean, and nasty, and so much fun to mess with.

What are you doing?

Minerva takes her shoes off, grins from ear to ear, ties them together with the shoelaces.

Do you remember what the Three Wise Men brought Jesus for his

Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

Totally useless gifts. Like, he’s a baby. In a manger. What’s he gonna
do with Myrrh?

I don’t even know what Myrrh is.

Exactly my point.

Frankie and Sammy watch in disbelief as Minerva approaches the STATUE, swings the shoes in a high arc… and lets go.

ON THE SHOES as they fly through the air, catching on Jesus’ outstretched hand, winding around his fingers.

The blue and orange DAY GLO stripes are a bright contrast against the marble statue.

Sammy laughs, thrilled at what Minerva’s done as Frankie stares, wide-eyed.

You are so busted.


She’s gonna know it’s you.


Frankie slips his backpack over his shoulder, grabs Sammy’s, too, gives Minerva a wary shake of the head.

Let’s go, Sammy.

Frankie takes Sammy’s hand, begins walking.

Hey, Frank?


When’re you going to get your own wheels?

Soon as I can, ‘Nerve. Soon as I can

Minerva hangs back, suddenly aware she’s got to walk home without shoes.

Hey, guys? Guys?

Minerva hoists her backpack, gives one last look to Jesus, beams as she considers her handiwork.

Then, hobbling in her stocking feet, she hurries to catch up.

MINERVA (cont’d)
Ow. Ow. Ow.



Minerva enters the kitchen, drops her backpack on the floor below the row of HOOKS where the family’s book bags hang.

From somewhere in the house, Patsy Kline CRIES.

MINERVA (cont’d)

Frankie enters, a SOBBING Patsy Kline on his hip, gives Minerva a dark look.

MINERVA (cont’d)
What—no. Again?

Minerva looks past Frankie to the hallway.

MINERVA’S POV: THE CLOSED DOOR at the end of the hall.

ON THE KITCHEN, where BOWLS, CEREAL BOXES, MILK from breakfast crowd the counter. This is not a good sign.

Minerva sighs, moves to take the baby from Frankie.

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4. Extended Q&A With Annual Winner Pamela Schott

The Passion of Minerva Mullen, by Pamela Schott, is the grand-prize winning manuscript (available here) in the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, besting more than 6,300 entries across the 10 categories. For complete coverage of this year’s awards, check out the November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest. Click here for a complete list of winners from the competition.

Pamela Schott is an award-winning screenwriter and a contributing author to the Amazon.com #1 Bestseller, Speaking Your Truth. A creative executive who got her start in marketing and advertising as a copywriter in San Francisco, Pamela has written for Creative Screenwriting Magazine and was featured in Writer’s Market 2009, the annual New York Times bestseller for aspiring writers. A wife (of one) and mother (of two), Pamela is currently at work on her seventh screenplay and in pre-production on her first major motion picture, Music From a Scorched Earth.

Can you give us a summary of The Passion of Minerva Mullen?

This is the story of a young girl, circa 1979, on the verge of womanhood, a smart-ass middle child who has the unhappy distinction of being the product of 1) Catholic schools; 2) the military; and 3) a family that really knows how to take the “fun” out of dysfunctional.

Although laden with authority figures, this story belongs purely, solely, and absolutely to the aforementioned school girl, one so-called Minerva Mullen (named for the Goddess of War; her father had big ideas) who has just about had it up to here with all the things she can’t control. Like nuns with rules (and rulers); a dad with orders that send him to sea with every turn of the tide; a posse of brothers who are left to navigate the road to manhood on their own; and a pill-popping, perpetually pregnant mother with a manic-depressive disorder that makes family life anything but livable.

And this is the story of how, having stirred the wrath and ridicule of Holy Name school principal Sister Mary “Battle Axe” Bernard one time too many, Minerva lands in hot holy water and finds herself charged with the impossible task of mounting the school’s annual Christmas pageant to Sister’s satisfaction—complete with a real, live Baby Jesus—or face expulsion.

But can Minerva keep the peace at home, the family in Holy Name’s good graces, and her own cool when a secret crush becomes her first true love?

For all the latch-key kids who remember what the world felt like when Iran took American hostages; who found the fun in a Slinky and Pet Rocks and Pong; who yearned for first kisses, first cars and first place in the spelling bee; and who witnessed the advent of the self help movement—watched, helpless, as their families fell apart—Minerva’s is a story about what it’s like to go kicking and screaming into an uncertain future.

Describe your writing process for this piece.

While it’s not accurate to say that Mineva is autobiographical, there are many aspects of the story that were lifted directly from my childhood. I grew up in a very conservative Catholic family with a dad who served as an officer in the Coast Guard, so my life was a constant cycle of confession and upheaval as we followed him around the world from one assignment to the next. I am also one of nine children (insert Catholic joke here), so naturally, our household was a hive of activity—“controlled chaos” might be the best term for it. What resulted was often loud and messy and unsettling, but there was a lot of love there, too.

My husband had long been on my case to write down my experiences, and so when I finally decided to do just that, the pages came quickly. A normal first draft of a screenplay takes about six months for me to complete, but the first act of Minerva was done in about two weeks.

After that, I put it away for a few years (I went through a rough patch in which I considered giving up on a writing career altogether), but then, in the fall of 2013, I decided to see if I could knock out a completed draft by the end of Christmas. I jumped in where I had left off and again, the words just poured out of me. Before long—and in record time—the script was done.

What do you think are the biggest benefits and challenges of writing screenplays?

The biggest benefits of writing screenplays are actually the same benefits that come with any creative endeavor: you get to play, have fun, and let your imagination run free. On this level, you are powerful and unlimited, and there’s nothing more satisfying than experiencing that.

The biggest challenge to screenwriting that I find is getting out of the way of the characters and what they want to say and how they want to behave. I’ve gotten better at this with time, but I remember in the beginning being overly concerned with how my characters behaved or the language they used because I cared about what people I knew would think of me for making those choices. When I finally realized that a good writer knows how to let the characters come in as they are—flaws and f-bombs and all—I started to care less about what people thought about the end product and more about letting my characters be wholly who they are.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

I started writing screenplays at night after my two babies were in bed (my daughter, Julia, was a newborn at the time, and she would sleep in her bassinet next to my desk in between feedings). With a toddler, a newbie, and a business to run, nights were best because it was quiet and I could think without interruption. That was 16 years ago. But my desire to work in show business dates back to when I was little and dreamed of being a member of the Mickey Mouse Club. In truth, I was more drawn to their cowboys outfits—white leather boots, vests, hats, etc.—than actually being in front of the camera. But writing was always there, and I was always receiving encouragement from teachers to pursue it on a professional level.

After my husband and I got married, I bought a copy of Syd Field’s book, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting and started playing with the idea of writing movies, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I sat down and actually tried it.

Have you published any stories? Won any other competitions?

Since I work in the film industry, I’m not seeking publication. I do have another script that is being made into a major motion picture as we speak, plus an additional screenplay that is being shopped around.

I have placed twice in the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition in the screenwriting category, receiving Honorable Mention for the two scripts I just spoke about.

Who and what has inspired you as a writer?

Nora Ephron has been a big influence in my writing life. I also admire Christopher Nolan (Inception, Memento). I wish I could think like he does so that I could write stories that bend the brain as his do, but my mind just doesn’t work like that. Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg are also up there, and I am inspired every day to write something that either of them would want to direct.

For the “what” category, it’s got to be music that inspires me the most. My life has been informed by the music of U2. It’s layered and poetic and original and sexy, and if I can create something on the page that halfway resembles any of that, I will be that much closer to becoming the writer I want to be.

Do you write in any other genres?

I have tried writing dramatic fiction—short and long form—but it’s too hard. Too much work. In novels, you have to paint with a larger brush to communicate to the reader what you see in your mind’s eye. Screenwriting is more dialogue driven—both in terms of what a character says and doesn’t say—which means you get to leave the heavy lifting on all the other stuff to the actors and director and director of photography and set designers and all the other host of professionals who make a script come to life.

As a screenwriter, while I tend towards dramas, I have also written several romantic comedies and coming-of-age stories. Minerva is a coming-of-age script that is both sad and funny all at once, so I guess this one spans what I’m capable of at this point.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without in your writing life?

My laptop and screenwriting software. Wait, that’s two things.

Where do you get ideas for your writing?

Minerva came from my growing up experiences. My other project, Music From a Scorched Earth, which is now being made into a film, came from an experience I had that sparked a question. Back in high school, I had been inseparable from a friend of mine. We spent every waking hour together, and I loved her and admired her. After we graduated, we took a trip together, and the wheels just fell off the whole relationship. It was very painful for me, and I took the memory of that experience into adulthood and wrestled with it for some time. Finally, when I sat down to write MUSIC, it was with my friend in mind and the question, What is the worst thing that could happen to a friendship that tears it apart, and what would it take to mend that relationship? The script just unfolded from there.

What are some aspects of writing you’ve struggled with? How have you worked to strengthen yourself in these areas?

As I mentioned before, self censoring has been a little bit of a struggle. But, c’mon. Catholic school and the military will do that to the best of us.

Overcoming that censorship has been a process, but when you stop caring what other people think about you, writing gets a whole lot easier. (That’s a good tip for life in general, too.)

What’s your proudest moment as a writer?

Finishing a script is always a proud moment. There’s no feeling like it. But setting up my first motion picture and then winning the Grand Prize in this competition—all within a matter of a few weeks—has topped everything so far. It actually took about two days for the shock to wear off.

What are your goals as a writer?

I’m looking forward to seeing my name on the big screen, to seeing the script embodied by actors, and experiencing the creative collaboration with all of the talented people that will come together to realize that vision. I’m just getting a taste of that right now with MUSIC, and it is an intoxicating cocktail!

Any final thoughts or advice?

Yes. Make up your own mind about the industry that you’ve chosen to create in, and ignore everything that doesn’t fit with that vision. I started writing 16 years ago, and for the majority of that time, I had bought into the whole notion of being a starving artist in a brutal field that’s run by crazy people. And guess what? I made no money, fell flat on my face, and had my share of encounters with lots of questionable individuals.

Over time, I came to realize that the most successful people (successful in all aspects of their lives, not just their careers) don’t think about obstacles or struggle. They keep their eye on what they want, and they refuse to listen to anything that doesn’t match the story that they are telling themselves. They shut out the peanut gallery and go about their business, and we read about them in the trades and hear about them on the news as a result.

If you want to be successful in your field, think like people who have that success. There is a way to get from where you are to where you want to be. Hold firm to your vision, love what you do, and see who turns up to light the path as a result.

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5. My tweets

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6. My tweets

  • Mon, 14:05: Sitting on the hotel floor, trying to think if it's worth it to stay another night just because I don't want to deal with Boston traffic.
  • Mon, 14:06: Also, it's Banned Books Week, so read something others don't want you to read.
  • Mon, 14:11: The art in my hotel room makes me wonder about all the Dougs who randomly stay here. What do they… http://t.co/2xPP3ans1Q
  • Tue, 01:02: I'm trying hard not to live tweet #TheVoice because... because...? Oh forget it.
  • Tue, 01:03: I kind of want to be a contestant on #TheVoice because I think they'd do my hair. I really need someone to do my hair. That's wrong, right?
  • Tue, 01:06: "You should stay in your lane but let me drive a little bit" sounds so naughty. #TheVoice It's all inneundos @adamlevine
  • Tue, 01:24: Taylor John Williams really should be a character in one of my books. #TheVoice Is it sad that I'm sad he's real? He's such a protagonist.
  • Tue, 01:25: "I was so in the moment. I was so moved." Also sounds pervy. #thevoice needs a pervy blog.
  • Tue, 01:34: I love when men sing Beyonce. #thevoice I have no idea why. I'm not big on men singing Madonna or Britney or Rihanna. Just Beyonce.
  • Tue, 01:36: If I were to make #thevoice a drinking game, I'd make people drink every time someone cries. Everyone would be super drunk by now.
  • Tue, 01:39: And the U.S. airstrikes happen in Syria.
  • Tue, 01:46: When the chairs don't turn 💔 #Pharrell is possibly the best human ever. #TheVoice
  • Tue, 01:54: Because something is obviously wrong with my brain, I only just realized that #TheVoice chairs say "I WANT YOU!" It really is all innuendo.

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7. 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Winners

Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the 101 winners of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition! For full coverage of the awards, please check out the November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest.

Grand Prize

Pamela Schott, “The Passion of Minerva Mullen” (Television/Movie Script) Read Pamela’s winning entry here. An extended Q&A with our winner is also available.

Children’s/Young Adult Fiction

  1. Jayne Jenner, “Berty and CL”
  2. Holly L. Niner, “Chicken Little’s Grade A Idea”
  3. Peter Gibb, “Big Tom, Little Dog”
  4. Mary E. Furlong, “The Far Side of Ryan’s Knock”
  5. Rita Arens, “Bella Eats the Monsters”
  6. Gay Kamber Seltzer, “The Second Day of School”
  7. Mary Edith Cerny, “Picasso and Spike (A Cat Tail in Haiku)”
  8. Laurie Weeks, “Battle on the Home Front”
  9. James A. Schindler, “One Hell of a Sale”
  10. Lara O’Brien, “Chesca and Rogue”

Genre Short Story

  1. Elizabeth English, “Rainbow’s End”
  2. Stephanie Dockery, “Devil in Disguise”
  3. Thomas J. Humprhey, “A Hankerin’ for Justice”
  4. Scotty Williams, “Hitching Devils”
  5. Kara Pauley, “Min’s Promise”
  6. Janella Lee, “Swelling with Love”
  7. N.E. Silver, “The Demerits of Missing Toes”
  8. Courtney Sikora, “When Young Blood Boils”
  9. Max Thorgeirson, “Withdrawn”
  10. Connie Kay Harris, “Redemptive Silver”

Inspirational Writing

  1. Cassandra Rankin, “Life is Messy and Things Aren’t Always So Little on this Crazy Farm”
  2. Roy Martin, “The Day That Changed My Life”
  3. Mandeep Matharu, “Living with Inspiration”
  4. Elvie Bennett and Lois Grzzard, “Major Illness”
  5. Jennifer Reinharz, “A Pleasant Passover”
  6. Samuel Zane Farrell, “Living the Dream with Multiple Sclerosis”
  7. Christine Gray, “Adding Bleach to Water”
  8. Bebe Faas Rice, “Grandma and the Angel”
  9. Soraya Nelson, “A Family Kept”
  10. Barbara Daniel, “The Miracle of Tough Love”

Magazine Feature Article

  1. Julie Loar, “Nemesis or Tyche: Does Our Sun Have a Sister?”
  2. David Sachs, “A Guided Tour of the Spirit World”
  3. Leslie Hsu Oh, “We Paddle Together, Imitating Our Ancestors. Whoosh teen ayxa’a! Daa naaytee!”
  4. Cathy Cassinos-Carr, “When Grief Gets Complicated”
  5. Rebecca L. Rhoades, “The Colors of Bravery”
  6. Edie A. Clark, “Kachidoki Maru”
  7. Angela Waldron, “Coffee Comes to the West”
  8. Marina DelVecchio, “If You Want It, Come and Get It: How Pop Culture Defines Female Sexual Identity”
  9. Rebecca L. Rhoades, “Swimming with Giants”
  10. Elaine K. Howley, “Ageless Wonder”

Mainstream/Literary Short Story

  1. Kara Donadt, “10:03”
  2. Anthony T. Lagler, “Stalingrad”
  3. Andy Zembles, “Safe at Home”
  4. Daniella McGowan, “Forgiven”
  5. Guy Claudy, “Match Play”
  6. Z.J. Czupor, “Down in Disappointment Valley”
  7. Beverly A. Rogers, “Release”
  8. Jean Blasiar, “A Matter of Who”
  9. Robert Granader, “Brothers”
  10. David Meyers, “Derelict: The Curious Voyage of Redemption for a Doubting Thomas”

Nonrhyming Poetry

  1. Caroline Reichard, “Visiting Henry”
  2. Emily Byers, “To my grandfather, while eating”
  3. Kim Garcia, “Tilth of snow”
  4. Susan Kinney-Riordan, “Ocarina”
  5. Jayson C. Lynn, “No One Told Me We Could Float Away”
  6. Johne Richardson, “Generations”
  7. John E. Simonds, “Friendly Intervention”
  8. Linda Neal Reising, “Every Little Being”
  9. Nancy Alvarado, “The Kiss of the Homeless Man”
  10. Johne Richardson, “Drowning”

Personal Essay

  1. Nancy Freund Bills, “The Myth”
  2. Tracy Mancuso, “Perfect Husband”
  3. Flavia Brunetti Proietti, “On sugared ginger, the merits of coffee, and thunderous hoofs over the plaints of the desert”
  4. Lyz Lenz, “How the World Was Supposed to End”
  5. Brandon Loran Maxwell, “Notes From an American Superpower”
  6. Sarah Houssayni, “707 N. Emporia”
  7. Marguerite Lambrinos, “The Decision”
  8. Carol Siyahi Hicks, “Wild Things All”
  9. Colleen K. Penor, “Fearsome Men”
  10. Bobbye DePaul, “I Bought a Banana”

Rhyming Poetry

  1. George Amabile, “Design After Herakleitos”
  2. Melissa Cannon, “Mercury Poises On the Pinnacle of Nashville’s Bygone Union Station”
  3. Clay Fulghum, “The Keening of the Swallows”
  4. Scott Cyre, “True to Joy”
  5. Melissa Cannon, “The Returning Dead”
  6. Robert Daseler, “The Bridesmaids”
  7. Susan Huppert, “The Wool of the Lamb”
  8. Erin T. Gunti, “Simply Put”
  9. Dylan Guy, “It’s a Charade”
  10. Ronald Miller, “Moses”

Stage Play

  1. Jennifer E. Pergola, “Change or Death”
  2. C.M. Webb, “Driver’s Ed”
  3. Pamela Jamruszka Mencher, “Escape from Eden”
  4. Michael Reimann, “American Farce”
  5. Richard Fewell, “Cancer Dreams”
  6. Michael Balin, “Conversion”
  7. Augustus Cileone, “Handicapped”
  8. T.M. Reel, “How I Became an Atheist”
  9. Lisa Snider, “Motel 101”
  10. Gerard Marconi, “Absolution”

Television/Movie Script

  1. Nicholas Kats, “Sweet”
  2. Tess Clark, “Supernatural: The Webs We Weave”
  3. Mark Schroeder, “TrainHoppers”
  4. Sula Miller, “Born Into Hate”
  5. Sonya Davis-Roberts, “Motivation”
  6. Alex Knudsen, “Principles of the Past”
  7. Lynne M. Smelser, “Traunik”
  8. David Ennocenti, “Sniper Queen”
  9. Tess Clark, “Hel”
  10. Michelle Donnelly, “A Golden Moment”

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8. BilBolbul NEWSLETTER 23/9/2014

NEWSLETTER 23/9/2014

È online il nuovo sito di BilBOlbul!

Scoprite come cambia pelle il festival, gli ospiti italiani e internazionali, le mostre e i workshop. Ammirate la nuova immagine realizzata per il festival da Sarah Mazzetti e la grafica di Paper Resistance.

Il 24 settembre parte il Treviso Comic Book Festival.
Visitate le loro mostre, incontri ed eventi, e salutateci gli autori che poi ritroverete anche a BilBOlbul 2014: Bianca Bagnarelli, Matteo Farinella, Cristina Portolano, Lucia Biagi, Niccolò Pellizzon, Cristina Spanò, Andrea Settimo, Massimo Giacon e Tiziano Scarpa.

Noi porteremo a Treviso le nostre nuove cartoline!

Sabato 27 Settembre dalle ore 15 al Circolo KINO (via Gramsci 71, Pieve di Cento) si terrà il laboratorio di Xilografia "Illustrare e Incidere" con Silvia Rocchi.

Il laboratorio si terrà in un pomeriggio e sarà dedicato ai processi della xilografia: l'obiettivo è capire la tecnica e le varie possibilità dei segni a intaglio e come questi influenzino la resa finale della stampa. Non occorre avere esperienze specifiche nel campo del disegno o dell’intaglio.

Il corso è gratuito e aperto a tutti coloro che sono interessati alla xilografia e che non hanno paura di sporcarsi le mani d'inchiostro.

Flashfumetto, il portale del Comune di Bologna dedicato alla nona arte, rinnova l’appuntamento con il concorso per giovani autori.

Per partecipare, non c'è un tema da seguire, ma un limite...non utilizzare nessuna forma scritta, raccogliendo la sfida di raccontare una storia, un concetto, un fatto di attualità, o qualsiasi altra cosa esclusivamente attraverso un'espressione grafica.

La scadenza per l’invio degli elaborati è il 15 ottobre 2014

BilBOlbul Festival internazionale di fumetto fa parte della
Rete dei Festival del Contemporaneo di Bologna
Future Film Festival: 1 > 6 aprile 2014 - futurefilmfestival.org :: Live Arts Week: 8 > 13 aprile 2014 - liveartsweek.it :: Angelica- Festival Internazionale di musica: 2 > 31 maggio 2014 - aaa-angelica.com :: Biografilm: 6 > 16 giugno 2014 - biografilm.it :: Gender Bender: www.genderbender.it :: BilBOlBul: 21 > 23 novembre 2014 - bilbolbulnet

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9. A Sad Farewell, a Happy Introduction, and a Giveaway of AFTERWORLDS by Scott Westerfeld

Saying Goodbye to Clara Kensie

Today is a sad day for me. I have to announce that Clara Kensie is leaving the blog, at least temporarily, for personal reasons. As many of you know, Clara has been doing the Question of the Week for us for the past year and a half or so. You may also remember that even before that, she used to help out with the This Week for Writers Round-up segments. All in all, she's been involved with the blog off and on since almost the beginning.

I first met Clara on the blog. She was working on the query letter for a book that sounded so good, I eventually asked to read it. We became critique partners, both inside the fantastic online group she introduced me to, and on our own. I was thrilled when her book landed her an agent, the awesome Laura Bradford, and then again when the book sold to the brand new digital imprint of Harlequin Teen. I knew she and the book both deserved every bit of success.

Harlequin decided to make RUN TO YOU their flagship serial release, which meant they split it into three pieces and released each piece separately. Clara's book is perfect for that, because each of the three parts has the kind of surprise twists we should all have at major turing points. And the girl knows how to write suspense, great romance, and dreamy guys.

Haven't read it yet? WHAT are you waiting for?

Part 1: First Sight
RUN TO YOU PART ONE: FIRST SIGHT (available February 1, 2014)
Part One in the riveting romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Sarah Spencer has a secret: her real name is Tessa Carson, and to stay alive, she can tell no one the truth about her psychically gifted family and the danger they are running from. As the new girl in the latest of countless schools, she also runs from her attraction to Tristan Walker—after all, she can’t even tell him her real name. But Tristan won’t be put off by a few secrets. Not even dangerous ones that might rip Tessa from his arms before they even kiss…

Part 2: Second Glance
RUN TO YOU PART TWO: SECOND GLANCE (available February 8, 2014)
Part Two in the riveting romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Tessa Carson has unlocked her heart and her secrets to Tristan Walker—but Tristan has secrets of his own, and his might just mean the end of Tessa’s family. Unaware, Tessa embraces falling in love and being herself for the first time since she was attacked when she was only eight years old. But secrets can’t be run from forever, and sometimes love is too good to be true…

Part 3: Third Charm
RUN TO YOU PART THREE: THIRD CHARM (available February 15, 2014)Part Three in the riveting romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Betrayed, heartbroken, and determined to save her family, Tessa Carson refuses to give in to Tristan Walker’s pleas for forgiveness. But her own awakening psychic gift won’t let her rest until she uncovers the truth about her family and her past. And Tristan is the only one who can help her sift through the secrets to find the truth hidden in all the lies…

Add RUN TO YOU to your Goodreads Want To Read shelf,

and order from your favorite e-tailer:
Amazon   B&N    Google Play    BAM    Harlequin

A second volume in the series is also available, so feel free to start a fabulous binge!

I want to thank Clara for all her contributions to the blog, but mostly for the friendship and all her support and kindness over the years. It's an honor to follow in her path and to get the chance to share experiences together. We've got one last Question of the Week from Clara that will be posting soon, but in the meantime, please say your good-byes and thank her for her contribution!

And now for some happier news.

A Warm Welcome to Becca Fowler

We've been wanting to do something fun for readers for some time now--but still with a slant toward things that writers want to know. And whether writers realize it or not, what we need is to have some idea of what readers are thinking and talking about.


We've been super lucky to snag the awesome Becca Fowler from Pivot Book Reviews to come in and help us out with some book blogger round-ups every month. She'll be asking some questions that bloggers can answer, and she'll also be doing a blogger check in so you can scan it and quickly catch up with the most interesting stuff going on around the blogosphere. Look for some fantastic bloggers to be joining us on a regular basis, but we'll also be opening it up to new bloggers as guests so that we can help create some exposure for up and coming bloggers.

Now, a little bit about our newest indomitable AYAPer:

My name is Rebecca, but I think that sounds like an old lady name, so I go by Becca :)

I am 22 going on 23
(that doesn't have quite the ring to it as it does on The Sound of Music)

I live in the great state of Oklahoma
(where the wind REALLY does come sweeping down the plain)

I live with who I've dubbed The Parentals
(who are, not-so-secretly, the BEST)

I have one older sister who is married, and has two girls
(which means I get to play the Coolest Aunt Ever)

I am convinced I will be the old cat lady
(minus the cats, because I heart dogs)

Speaking of dogs, I have two!
An Aussie named Dixie, and a Sheltie named Gentry!

I work for my family's business. We rent out inflatables, aka Bouncy Houses, and MORE!

I aspire to be a Young Adult author! It is my dream!!

My favorite hobbies include:
Reading (duh)

Rebecca blogs at Pivot Book Reviews and appears regularly on the Reading Teen blog. Please give her a lovely welcome.

This Week's Giveaway

by Scott Westerfield
Hardcover Giveaway
Simon Pulse
Released 9/23/2014

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Afterworlds?

Afterworlds is two interleaved books, really. The odd-numbered chapters tell the story of Darcy Patel, a young writer moving away from home; the even chapters are the entirety of Darcy's first novel, which she's rewriting throughout that same year. The most exciting part of writing a dual novel was linking the two narratives, having things spill over from Darcy's day-today reality into her fiction. All writers steal from reality, so what Darcy experiences in her life always bubbles up in her novel, whether it's a setting, a realization about true love, or just a new word.

Collectively, the two books are my really long answer to the question that all writers dread, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Purchase Afterworlds at Amazon
Purchase Afterworlds at IndieBound
View Afterworlds on Goodreads

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10. Guest Post & Giveaway: Mari Mancusi on When the Problem Is The Market, Not the Manuscript

By Mari Mancusi
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Ten years ago, when I began my publishing journey, I was under the assumption that if you wrote it (and it was good) it would sell.

Sell to a New York publisher.

Be stocked at Barnes and Noble and (sniff!) Borders.

Be discovered by readers.

Happily ever after, the end.

And it certainly seemed that way when my tween YA time travel novel, The Camelot Code, sold to Dutton/Penguin at auction in 2007. It was a sweet two-book deal and the editor was very excited about the project.

The gist was this: a teen King Arthur ends up in our world, Googles himself and finds out his true destiny, then decides he’d rather play football than pull the sword from the stone. And it’s up to our intrepid 21st century heroine, Sophie, to get him back in time before history is changed forever.

All was going well, until through a series of events, a change was made. The editor asked if I would do the second book in the contract first—as it seemed more “timely” – (and, of course, a time travel novel is supposedly timeless).

So I did—writing Gamer Girl instead. And when that was finished I went back to my precious Camelot Code, excited to finally finish it and get it out there at last.

But at that point, a year and a half after the original deal was made, the YA market had changed. Publishers had realized there were profits to be made on the so-called crossover audience (i.e. the adult readers) and YA started growing up—growing edgier and darker and deeper. And when my editor read my version of The Camelot Code, she realized she could not publish this book as it was and asked for a major revision.

To make matters worse, as I was revising, my editor moved houses. Then Dutton was reorganized into a boutique imprint that put out only a few titles a year. Many of the current authors were sent to Dial to finish out their contracts.

Me and my ill-fitting book, however, were dumped.

“No problem!” I said at the time. “I’ll just sell it to someone else!” Certainly a novel that sold at auction the first time would have some takers the second time around.

But I was wrong. No one wanted it. Everyone said, “It’s not middle grade, it’s not young adult. We don’t have a place for this book in our line.”

With Cory Putnam Oakes & Christina Soontornvat at Lindsey Lane's launch.
I refused to give up at first—scouring the Internet for YA publishers I might not have heard of and forwarding their names to my agent. To her credit, she was intrepid, sending out manuscript after manuscript, long after I’m sure she gave up on the book.

But the rejections still came in. Each one a knife, twisting in my gut. The worst part, I think, was that I knew it was a good book.

The problem was the market. No one was buying light, funny, tween. They wanted the next Hunger Games. And I was not going to sell this book by sheer force of will.

I felt like a failure. I felt like I’d wasted years of my life. I lost faith in the publishing world and I felt adrift in my career. If a book I felt so strongly about couldn’t sell, what made me think I could ever master this publishing thing? Yes, in the meantime, I was selling other books to other publishers, but The Camelot Code remained a big Excalibur in my side.

Then one day my husband took me aside. He brushed away my tears and reminded me of all the good The Camelot Code had brought me. The original advance money had allowed me to move to New York City, a lifelong dream, and the place I met him.

When the manuscript was rejected by my editor and I realized I wasn’t getting paid, I ended up moving in with him to save money, bringing us closer than ever.

And eventually, out of this cursed book, came the most precious blessing of all. My three-year-old daughter Avalon. Imagine—an entire human being—on this planet—all because of a publishing deal gone south. Of course I had to give her an Arthurian-inspired name, right?

Publishing can be a brutal industry. But roses can still grow in the cracks in the pavement. And it’s important for authors to look at the big picture. To remember that sometimes it’s just timing or trends or an editor having a bad day—not a reflection of the quality of your book.

Sometimes good books just don’t fit the mold.

And we can’t let that break us or cause us to lose faith in our work and ourselves.

Now, seven years after the original sale, I’ve decided to self publish The Camelot Code. To make it available to readers for the very first time. And who knows, maybe New York is right—maybe there’s no market for this tween book and I won’t sell a single copy.

But maybe they’re wrong. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to find out. That, in and of itself, feels like a bit of a happy ending.

Deanna Roy, Mari & Sam Bond chat Alternative Publishing Options with Austin SCBWI.

About The Camelot Code

The Camelot Code is available in print or digital formats on all major platforms, including Overdrive for libraries and Ingram. It is age-appropriate for 10+.

To purchase, see paperback at Amazon, paperback at Barnes and Noble, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iTunes, and Overdrive

All fourteen-year-old gamer girl Sophie Sawyer wants to do is defeat Morgan Le Fay in her favorite Arthurian videogame. She has no idea the secret code sent via text message is actually a magical spell that will send her back in time to meet up with a real life King Arthur instead.

Of course Arthur's not king yet--he hasn't pulled the sword from the stone--and he has no idea of his illustrious destiny.

And when a twist of fate sends him forward in time--to modern day high school--history is suddenly in jeopardy.

Even more so when Arthur Googles himself and realizes what lies in store for him if he returns to his own time--and decides he'd rather try out for the football team instead.

Now Sophie and her best friend Stuart find themselves in a race against time--forced to use their 21st century wits to keep history on track, battle a real-life version of their favorite videogame villain, and get the once and future king back where he belongs. Or the world, as they know it, may no longer exist.

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11. Question: digital backlist

As a reader, is there anything I can do to advocate an author's backlist being made available digitally? There are several authors I love (such as Brian Jacques and Robin McKinley) who had some well-known books a decade or two before ebooks were a thing--and these books aren't available digitally. Who's best to talk to--authors, agents, editors, or publishers? Will my begging do any good?

The best person to talk to is the author. Generally the author controls any unexploited rights (which is what you're talking about.)  If you and many others clamor for an ebook, the author is the one who can show the demand to a publisher, or see there's a enough market to publish themselves.

Even if the author is sadly dead (as in the case of Brian Jacques) there's generally a way to get in touch via the webpage.

Fire off an email!

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12. ‘The Huffington Post’ Examines Banned Books in 5 Infographics

The Huffington PostThe Huffington Post has created five infographics (embedded below) in honor of Banned Books Week; these images examine frequently challenged titles, reasons for challenges, authors whose books have received the most challenges, and book challenge activities by state. The team sourced the data for these projects from the American Library Association (ALA).

Why do people feel such outrage against certain books? The ALA website offers the following explanation: “books usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information.”


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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13. Guest Post: Lessons Learned from Hong Kong Movies

Writing Life Banner


Grady Hendrix


Note from Sooz: I am so delighted to share a guest post from author Grady Hendrix today. Personally, I am desperate to soak up any writing wisdom he might be so kind as to share.

Because guys, his new book Horrostör is incredible. Like, I got a copy of this in the mail, opened the package and snickered at the cover (and how the entire book is laid out like an Ikea catalog). Then I started reading…

…and two hours later, I finished the book. I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN. It was laugh-out-loud funny and also thoroughly terrifying. Plus, there was incredible character development, a thoroughly twisty plot, and OH MY GOSH, what an ending!!

Since I’m sure y’all are dying to read this book too now (seriously: everyone should read it.), then make sure you fill out the Rafflecopter form below! We’re giving away 2 copies (hooray!).

Now, I’ll hand over the mic to Sir Grady, writer extraordinaire.

When I was in college, I lived near the Music Palace and that gave me the better education by far. A vast, rotting hulk of a movie palace it showed Hong Kong double features for $6 and, being broke, that was a deal I couldn’t resist. The Music Palace led to me co-founding the New York Asian Film Festival, it led to me moving to Hong Kong, my wife and I bonded over our shared love for Stephen Chow’s Love on Delivery and the hand amputations in Always Be the Winners, and it taught me how to write. Because everything I learned about writing, I learned at the Music Palace.

Everything I learned about language, I learned from subtitles.

“Say if you find him lousy!” Uncle Bill shouts. “Thanks for elephant, it’ll be worse if it’s dinosaur,” mutters Lam Ching-ying. “Are you an archeologist or a sucker!” a cop screams in frustration. Hong Kong movies have to be subtitled in English, but that doesn’t mean the subtitles have to make sense. Recruiting random strangers off the street, or sometimes just making a production assistant stay up late with an out-of-date Cantonese-to-English dictionary, Hong Kong subtitles emerge looking like William Burroughs cut-ups. And I love them. Every time they stretch, push, bend, or otherwise mutate the English language I feel like a door is opening inside my brain. At this point in my life I’ve watched thousands of Hong Kong movies, and not a day goes by when I don’t find subtitles popping into my head. Stuck on a packed elevator? “It’s getting crowdy,” I think. Cut off by an annoying driver? “Damn you, stink man, try my melon!” rolls off my tongue. As I learned from Hong Kong movies, it’s not the actual words that are important. It’s the feeling.

Everything I learned about character, I learned from John Woo.

You may think that John Woo is all about the gunfights, but his secret weapon is his mastery of crafting iconic characters. He doesn’t need plots, he just drops his characters into the ring and lets their conflicting motives drive the story. Whether it’s happy-go-lucky Mark (Chow Yun-fat) in A Better Tomorrow who finally gets sick of being treated like an errand boy and decides to demand respect, or Jeff (Chow Yun-fat, again) in The Killer who’s wracked with guilt over blinding a bystander in an assassination and tries to earn enough money to get her a cornea transplant, or Ben, Frank, and Paul, trapped in Vietnam, one of them wanting to rescue a woman, one of them wanting to steal a crate of gold, and one of them just wanting to go home. In Woo’s movies there are simply characters who want things, and what they want and how they get it drives the story into some of the most insane action sequences ever put onscreen. Because character is action. Quite literally.

Everything I learned about plot, I learned from Comrades, Almost a Love Story

Plot means you throw everything horrible you can think of at your characters and watch them squirm, and by the end they need to be in a different place than where they began. No movie is better at this than Peter Chan’s Comrades, Almost a Love Story. When the movie begins, Leon Lai is a Mainlander who comes to Hong Kong to make money. He falls for local girl, Maggie Cheung, and then…complications. Chan (and screenwriter Ivy Ho) throw every conceivable twist at their two romantic leads and by the time the movie’s over these two characters may seem to be right back where they began, but the viewer isn’t. You’ll find yourself crying buckets of tears not over the main characters but over the people they’ve hurt on their way to “happiness.” Comrades is a movie where every time you think you know the story, you suddenly realize that it’s about something else entirely. Like a great magician, the creators distract your attention over there, and then take you by surprise from over here.

Everything I learned about writing scenes, I learned from Peking Opera Blues

I firmly believe that Peking Opera Blues is the greatest motion picture ever made. Period. Full stop. Movies don’t get any better than Tsui Hark’s tale of three women trying to keep their heads above water during the early 20th century when China was torn into factions by greedy warlords. And one thing he does better than anyone else is stage big fat setpieces that keep going, and going, and going. Just when you think a scene has gone as far as it can, it goes even further. Writers often skip from scene to scene, but great directors know that if you’re going to go through the trouble of lighting a scene, dressing a set, and placing your camera, then you better wring every last ounce of drama out of it. And so, for Tsui, even a scene of a character waking up becomes a slapstick ballet as her father enters her bedroom and she has to keep him from detecting any of the four other people hidden on her bed, armed with nothing more than a blanket. Rather than starting a new scene every ten minutes, Tsui digs deep and plays every spin, variation, and complication on every scene that he can possibly find, turning each one into a setpiece that’s packed with emotional and dramatic information.

Everything I learned about writing women, I learned from The Heroic Trio.

Hollywood has two models for women: mothers and whores. Sometimes they dish up a motherly whore, or a whorish mother, but that’s just about the entire emotional spectrum. I was lucky enough to see The Heroic Trio back in 1993 when it first came out, and in Johnnie To’s movie an evil undead Chinese eunuch from the past is living in an underground lair in a dystopian future, stealing babies to turn them into an army of feral monsters. Opposing him are Wonder Woman (Anita Mui), Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung), and Invisible Girl (Michelle Yeoh). Wonder Woman is a devoted mother who doesn’t get to spend as much time as she wants with her family because she’s constantly saving the world from evil. Thief Catcher is only in it for the money, but she’ll ultimately do the right thing. And Invisible Girl starts out purely evil, but changes sides when Wonder Woman and Thief Catcher offer her what she’s been missing: friendship. I came out of that movie theater understanding that inside every woman is a Thief Catcher, an Invisible Girl, and a Wonder Woman. I do my best to write them that way.

Well, you have succeeded, my friend. I ADORED Amy in Horrorstör. Thank you so much for joining us, Grady! And for all you readers interested in absorbing more of his wisdom, he’ll be touring all week across the interwebs:

Finally, here’s the giveaway we promised!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grady Hendrix writes fiction, also called “lies,” and he writes non-fiction, which people sometimes mistakenly pay him for. There is a science fiction book called Occupy Space that he is the author of, and also a fantasy book called Satan Loves You which he wrote as well. Along with his BFF from high school, Katie Crouch, he is the co-author of the YA series, The Magnolia League. With Ryan Dunlavey he was co-authored the Li’l Classix series, which are cartoon degradations of classic literature, and with his wife, and Ryan, he wrote Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, the first graphic novel cookbook in America. His fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, and the anthology, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.

He is very, very beautiful, but if you ever meet him, please do not let this make you uncomfortable. He does not judge.

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14. My Thoughts: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

4 soft and spicy frosted gingersnaps.

Cover Love:  It's pretty good but a pretty typical contemporary romance cover.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I had an egalley of this that expired last spring but I was in the mood for a contemporary romance.  So I checked it out from my public library before I went on a weekend vacation and whipped right through it.  Here's they synopsis from GoodReads:
After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.
Romance?: Yes.

My Thoughts:
This was not a deep romance, but not too light and fluffy either.  Reagan had a lot to figure out in her life.  She was a very likeable protagonist, until the typical misunderstanding late in the book.  Then she reverted too much into the whiny, "he did me wrong" type of YA romantic lead that drives me nuts.  Luckily the author didn't keep her that way for long.

I adored Matt and Dee (that is what Reagan calls Lilah).  Reagan has a lot of support in her life and the drama that she is trying to escape from is very much of her own making.  But, she does recognize that for what it is and knows she needs to fix that part of her life.  Dee is a great best friend and never pushes Reagan to the side for her fame.  She always there to help out or just be someone to lean on.  She is practically perfect.

And Matt is an amazing book boyfriend.  So sweet and earnest, but with a few of his own demons he is struggling with overcoming.  Reagan and Matt are very good for each other.

One of my favorite scenes, the kind that brought tears to my eyes, is one between Reagan and her step-mother at the end of the book.  I think it was just what Reagan needed to put her past finally behind and take steps towards her future.

To Sum Up:  I am going to buy this for my library.  There are a few mature things for middle school readers, but there is a lot that can be learned by a protagonist like Reagan.  Mostly that you can overcome your past.  It doesn't have to always define you!

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15. Quoteable Freud

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16. College Introduction

It’s your first day of college and, in your first class, your professor does something unusual—she has you all sit on the floor in a big circle and introduce yourself, as if you were in kindergarten. When it gets to be your turn, you say, “My name is _____. Every day I like to _____ in purple and yellow______.” Amused, the professor asks you to explain. So you do.

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.






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17. A Super September Special for our Super Special Readers! A Year in The Secret Garden

A Super September Special for our Super Special Readers!

A Year in the Secret Garden

It’s time! It’s time for us to reveal a magical guide that was not only inspired by the classic children’s novel, but one that is helping readers young and old get back to the magic and wonder of nature.


Award-winning authors and co-creators Valarie Budayr and Marilyn Scott-Waters have come together to create A Year in the Secret Garden as an opportunity to introduce a new generation of families to the magic that is The Secret Garden. With over 144 pages, 200 original color illustrations and 48 activities, your family and friends will be crafting, cooking, enjoying, learning and playing together with monthly activities inspired by the characters and events of the original children’s classic. Every month readers will get to meet another Secret Garden character, as well as experiencing original crafts and activities based on the book.

A year in the Secret Garden

We are excited to announce that our valued readers will now have the opportunity to pre-order the print version A Year in the Secret Garden and get 10 Bonus downloads from the book as our gift to you.

A Year in the Secret Garden

Can’t wait? No problem! Our full-color PDF of A Year in the Secret Garden can be downloaded to your eReader immediately, AND as an Added Bonus for both our tree and e-readers, we will include A Year in the Secret Garden 8.5 x 10 printable PDF poster of original artwork from A Year in the Secret Garden by the Toymaker herself, Marilyn Scott-Waters.


Click HERE to visit our extended information page and begin your journey into the magic of The Secret Garden!

The post A Super September Special for our Super Special Readers! A Year in The Secret Garden appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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18. Bonjour Tristesse

Bonjour Tristesse Francoise Sagan, translated from the French by Irene Ash

Cecile loves the carefree and glittering lifestyle she and her father live in Paris. The summer is shaping up to be perfect--her father, his current mistress, and Cecile are spending the summer in a rented beach house. There’s even Cyril-- a nearby university student that Cecile tastes first love with. But then her father invites Anne, a friend of his late wife, to join them and it turns sour. Anne’s understand elegance forces out the mistress Elsa and the lifestyle that Cecile loves. When her father and Anne get engaged, Cecile, Cyril and Elsa hatch a plot to break them up, with tragic consequences.

While Sagan has some interesting and insightful comments about the type of people in Cecile’s life, especially her father, her age when writing this really shows. It’s written as Cecile looking back, mostly regretful for her actions, but then you realize that only a year has passed, and Sagan herself was only 18 when the book came out (younger when she wrote it) so while it well captures the emotions and logic behind Cecile, the older-and-wiser gets a bit tiresome as readers that actually are older and wiser will realize she still doesn’t get it, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s the author who still doesn’t get it, not the character.

THAT SAID, I did like a lot about it and I think it would lend itself really well to a modern YA-reworking, and it would work really well when aimed at an age-contemporary audience instead of adults. It’s a short book (without back matter, it’s only 130 pages in a small trim size) and she captures the languid summer beach atmosphere really well.

Not sure if I recommend it, but I am glad I read it.

Book Provided by... my local library

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19. nerosunero @ Fusion Tribal

Fusion Tribal (Mexico City, Mexico, 22 IX 2014)

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20. Book Review: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & The Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, 2014)

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Candace Fleming is a master at writing narrative nonfiction that is entertaining as well as informative, and her newest book on the tragic and doomed Romanovs is a worthy successor to her last foray into nonfiction, the highly acclaimed Amelia Lost

Fleming expertly weaves together the intimate life of Russia's last czar and his family with the saga of the revolution brewing underneath their royal noses, beginning with workers' strikes in 1905 and leading up to Lenin's seizing power in 1917.  Interspersed with her compelling narrative are original documents from the time that tell the stories of ordinary men and women swept up in the dramatic events in Russia. 

Unlike many books for young people, which seem to romanticize the Romanovs, Fleming doesn't try to make the family into martyrs.  Indeed, it is hard to have a lot of sympathy for the Russian royal family after reading Fleming's account.  Fleming describes Nicholas as a young boy as "shy and gentle," unable to stand up to his "Russian bear of a father."  His wife, the Empress Alexandra, a German princess raised to be a proper Englishwoman under the wing of Queen Victoria, never felt comfortable with the excesses of the bejeweled, partying Russian aristocracy, and encouraged her husband to retreat to Tsarskoe Selo, a park 15 miles and a world apart from St. Petersburg.  Fleming brings us inside of their privileged--but also strangely spartan--life (for example the children were bathed with cold water in the mornings and slept on army cots in their palace!), one in which they had almost no contact with outsiders. 

Fleming manages to integrate her narrative history of the Romanov family with the larger history of the turbulent times in Russia, as the czar is forced to resign and he and his family are exiled to Siberia, fleeing in a train disguised as a "Japanese Red Cross Mission" so that the royal family would not be captured by angry peasants.  She skips back and forth from the family's saga to what is happening in the capital, with plenty of original documents such as an excerpt from journalist John Reed's first-hand account of the swarming of the Winter Palace as well as excerpts from many other diaries.

In my favorite quote in the book, Fleming discusses how Lenin nationalized the mansions and private homes throughout the country, while the owners were forced to live in the servants' quarters.  She quotes one ex-servant as saying:
"I've spent all my life in the stables while they live in their beautiful flats and lie on soft couches playing with their poodles...no more of that, I say!  It's my turn to play with poodles now."  

Whatever one's feelings about the Romanovs, one cannot help but be moved by the account of their cruel assassination in the basement of their quarters in Siberia.  Particularly ironic is the fate of the royal children, who did not die immediately because they were hiding the family jewels in their camisoles and other undergarments.  This layer of jewels unwittingly created a bullet proof vest that protected them initially, until they were finally murdered with bayonets and then with gunshots.  The bodies were immediately hidden in the woods, where the remains were not found until 1979 and then kept secret until the fall of communism in Russia.  Ironically, the Romanovs have since been canonized by the Orthodox Church in Russia.

The book is abundantly illustrated with archival photographs.  An extensive bibliography is included, as well as a discussion of primary and secondary sources.  Fleming also includes suggestions of websites on the Romanovs, as well as source notes for each chapter and an index.

Highly recommended for middle school and high school students.

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21. The kid-friendly, kid-maintainable classroom library

If you’re a teacher reading this blog, you likely devote significant attention to carefully selecting literature to add to your classroom library. And, if you’re like me, you want your students to have access to these books, but also to not spend hours after school reorganizing and looking for titles that have mysteriously disappeared. Last year, I found a solution to keeping my classroom library well-stocked and maintainable, but before I share it, let me explain the rationale behind it.

When I was in elementary school, there were always books out on display in my classrooms, but there were also many, many titles hidden away in cupboards and closets that my teachers would search through after exclaiming, “Have I got just the book for you!” This practice always struck me as odd and restrictive — I loved going to the library precisely because the number of titles was overwhelming and it seemed that there were treasures to discover as I explored the shelves.

In my own classroom, I am committed to making sure that my students have constant access to as many titles as possible. However, it is essential to me that the books can remain organized without much effort from me — which is something of a challenge when you work with second graders.

The solution that I’ve come up with for my own classroom library is pretty simple. I started by drawing up a list of categories into which I could sort all of the books in my classroom library. Current categories include biographies, world cultures, biology and chemistry, and, my favorite, “Books Miss Hewes loves.” Next, I assigned each category a specific color-code, using dot and star stickers. For example, biographies have a yellow dot with a green star, while easy readers have just a silver star. Then, I bought bins and clearly labeled them with the proper codes and category names.

photo 1 e1409716191871 500x375 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

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The next step was the most labor-intensive — putting the proper labels on each and every book in my library. While I was doing this, I also used the free tools available at Book Source to create a digital catalog of my library, which came in handy during the year as I wondered whether or not I actually had a certain book. (You can check out the organizer at  http://classroom.booksource.com/). Finally, after labeling the books, I put them into the appropriate bins and then put all of the bins on display in my classroom.

photo 3 e1409715975770 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

photo 4 e1409716039837 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

This system proved to be an overwhelming success last year. It allowed me to saturate my students in books without needing to go find a perfect book that I have tucked away somewhere in my room. Additionally, when I looked through the bins over the summer to check on them — something I faced with trepidation after having seen my students’ cubby area — I only found four books out of place. Most importantly, I am confident that my students found books to treasure as they independently navigated the bins — something I hope helped steer them towards becoming lifelong readers.

photo5 500x375 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

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The post The kid-friendly, kid-maintainable classroom library appeared first on The Horn Book.

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22. Hiring an Editor

Is it necessary for you to have your manuscript professionally edited before submitting? 


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23. Book Review: Sketching from Square One to Trafalgar Square

Richard Scott's new book, "Sketching - from Square One to Trafalgar Square" is a comprehensive introduction to drawing from observation.

The book presents practical advice for achieving accuracy, including measuring angles and organizing value shapes. One tip is that you can size up an appropriate cone of vision by holding your arms out at the width of your shoulders in front of you.

Scott includes a variety of excellent examples of sketch techniques, including pen and ink, marker, pencil, and wash drawing, all in black and white.

He discusses not only linear perspective, but also the simplification of a subject into tonal shapes, with fresh ideas that will appeal to painters, too. He acknowledges not only objective features of the scene, but also subjective aspects of visual perception, such as how certain edges go in and out of focus when you squint.

Scott's background is in architectural rendering, so he approaches subjects from the built environment with particular authority.

Although his approach is clear and analytical, it's not just technical. He has an artist's eye throughout. One of the inspiring qualities of the book is the focus on conveying feeling, and the emphasis on digging into why a subject appeals to you in the first place and how to play up that emotional quality.

The book lays out useful methods that anyone can use to see better, think better, and draw better. The result is a practical drawing manual that is a worthy successor of classic sketching books by Betty Edwards and Arthur Guptill, one that will improve the drawing skills of the beginner and master sketcher alike.
Details: 192 pages, 8" x 10" (horizontal format), softcover (with covers that are a bit too thin, unfortunately). The book is organized into three parts, with 10 chapters and 419 illustrations. It is priced at $29.95.-----
Available on Amazon: Sketching - from Square One to Trafalgar Square
Official website: Sketching from Square One

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24. Back to School

There's just something about new stationary. Going back to school used to mean all those fun new things - new peachy folders (with that eternal sports design in a yellowy tone), new pencils and a new blue canvas snap-ring binder. Now it mostly just means a new computer class for my kids. But these critters are having fun regardless. They probably like that new school smell as much as I did.

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25. Underpainting Review of "How I Paint Dinosaurs"

Thanks to Matthew Innis of the "Underpaintings" blog for his extensive review of my instructional video "How I Paint Dinosaurs." Here's an excerpt:

"The overall feeling and presentation of the film is “old school,” but “old school” at its best. It does not have all of the bells and whistles of computer graphics and 3-D object renderings, but that is not missed here, nor would it have been welcome (and I usually like the bells and whistles too). Gurney speaks throughout the film, is always clear, and the information he shares is always spot-on. The filming is good, and the delivery, in many ways, is reminiscent of 1950′s educational films mixed with old episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, which I found interesting. And of course, the artwork itself is excellent, and shows how much, both intellectually and technically, Gurney is the progeny of the greatest of the Golden Age Illustrators.
"Gurney’s talent at finding a balance, as I alluded to earlier, is really what makes the backbone of this film. Never is the film too heady, nor too simple. Every topic is explored well, but not in unwanted detail. The music is good, but not over-played. It is as if Gurney can instinctively find the perfect fulcrum point for any topic, and just balance there effortlessly.

"My favorite parts of the film were when Gurney was painting the background in the first segment, for which he relied heavily upon his experience painting plein air landscapes, the demonstration of the color gamut model in action in the second half, his use of maquettes to determine composition and value arrangements, and the fact that I was able to watch the full movie on a cross-country flight with my six-year-old, and that he was engaged the entire time (again, this is part of Gurney’s skill – even though some of the topics were over the head of my young son, certain elements, like the quirky appearances of Mr. Kooks, were able to re-draw his attention when he was at risk of being overwhelmed with information).
"The running time of How I Paint Dinosaurs is 52 minutes, and is available as both a DVD for $32.00 USD, or as a digital download for $15.00 USD. Although best suited for beginner to intermediate painters, there is much in it to be appreciated by all levels, from young amateurs with an interest in dinosaurs to experienced Academic artists wishing to experiment with painting more imaginative subjects and making them look real. It should also be of particular interest to young persons interested in the field of illustration as the film gives a clear breakdown of completing an illustration commission.

"For more information on the video, or to place an order, please visit James Gurney’s website: www.jamesgurney.com. And while you are there, make sure to look at Gurney’s books, Color and Light and Imaginative Realism, two indispensable guides which cover in more depth everything discussed in the film, and so much more. All are highly recommended.

Matthew Innis's blog Underpaintings is a subscription resource for the field of representational painting, past and present. More info at the Underpaintings home page.

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