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1. Leaving Your Agent

Sometimes the best of matches doesn't work out, and it becomes time to divorce your agent.


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2. SCBWI Exclusive with . . . Jennifer Rofé, Senior Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency


Jennifer Rofé is a senior agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency where she represents picture books through young adult. Middle grade is her soft spot and she's open to all genres in this category, especially the tender, hilarious, or zany. She is always looking for fresh and distinct voices; stories that simultaneously tug at her heartstrings and make her laugh out loud; "adorkable" heroes; and big, developed worlds. In picture books, she enjoys character-driven projects and smart, exceptional writing. Jennifer also represents illustrators and author/illustrators. Some of Jennifer's clients include Meg Medina, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Crystal Allen, Barry Wolverton, Eliza Wheeler, and Mike Boldt.


What in a query letter catches your eye and makes you request a manuscript?

First and foremost, a query letter that is professional always catches my eye—you might be surprised to know that I (and my colleagues) receive many query letters that aren’t professional. What do I mean by professional? Your query letter includes a proper greeting, a concise and clear description of the work, and a brief and relevant bio. Writers and illustrators should consider the query letter a cover letter for a job application, or even a first job interview. What will make an employer take notice… and what won’t? A big component to being professional is following the agency submission guidelines (if you don’t, I delete). Finally, a query catches my eye when it’s clear that the writer or illustrator is prepared—she has done research about me, my list, and the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.


Beyond that, much of the process is subjective—do I connect with the illustration style or writing? Does the story pique my interest? The summaries on jacket covers (or on bookstore websites) are a good guide for writing the kind of summary you use in a query. When you read a jacket cover, what makes you want to start the first chapter?


Once you’ve read a manuscript that you really gravitate towards, what makes you offer representation? How long of a process is that?

It’s exciting for an agent when they want to offer representation to a writer or illustrator. It’s thrilling, really. For me to reach that point, I have to love the story and the writing, and I also have to believe that I can sell the project. For illustration, it’s about falling in love with the art and having the vision for how the art works in the children’s market. From there, I will have a conversation or two with the author or illustrator and see if we connect. In this conversation, I gauge how knowledgeable a writer or illustrator is of the publishing industry and if her expectations of the industry are reasonable and realistic. Also, I try to determine if we have a similar vision for the specific manuscript or illustration style. I also always ask if the author or illustrator is willing to revise. If someone is hesitant to go through the process with me, then how can I trust that they will be open to the process with an editor?  So it’s really not enough that I love your story, I also have to connect with the creator in some way and trust that we can develop a strong working relationship.


In terms of how long of a process that is, there is no exact time to share. It depends on how busy an agent is and how open they are at the time to finding new clients. In some cases, an author or illustrator can secure an agent very quickly, especially when more than one agent is interested in the work. Other times, there might be radio silence, and then several weeks later, an agent comes across your query and deeply connects with your work. For me, once I get the conversation going with the author or illustrator, I can know within a conversation whether or not I want, must, work with the creator.


When you represent an author or illustrator, what role do you play in their career both long and short term?

Your agent is like your GPS system—where are you trying to go and how can we get you there? In the short term, an agent opens publishing doors that are typically closed—agents get your work in front of editors and your art in front of art directors. The long term is more advanced and nuanced, of course, but in a nutshell, it’s about career planning. Some of the matters we discuss include: What is the right next idea for the client to pursue? Which idea is aligned with their artistic perspective or other books, or which idea will lead them down a new path? Should an illustrator accept an offered job or is this not the style of book she wants to be focusing on? Should the illustrator pursue a new style she is developing? Do we need to find a client a new editor or a different publisher to help him move in a new or better direction?  Again, where does the client want to go, and how can we lead him there?


What advice would you give authors and illustrators as they go through the submission process? 

First and foremost, do your research on agents. Pick a handful, maybe up to ten, that you think would be a good fit for you and your work, and submit accordingly. If you get no bites during that time, then revisit your query and your opening pages. Do they require revision? When you’re ready, submit to the next batch of agents. If there are still no bites, then revisit your materials again. Keep in mind that agents are busy, and the more established ones are likely to have full and active lists and don’t necessarily have the room for more clients. This is a reason to keep in mind newer agents at reputable agencies — they are looking for clients. Attending SCBWI conferences is also an excellent way to make a personal connection with an agent. Consider conferences if feasible. Secondly, be as patient as you can and as kind to yourself as you can be during this process (even if that means a social media hiatus). Submitting can be a taxing and rattling time. And finally, keep pushing forward and honing your craft. It might not be the first manuscript that lands you an agent—it might be the third or fourth or seventh—so keep working. 


Three things an author or illustrator should do when querying you?

1. *Follow the agency’s submission guidelines.* I can’t stress this enough.

2. Personalize your query letter. Make it clear that you’re querying me for a reason— you’re familiar with my interests and list, you saw me speak at a conference, you’re fond of the authors and illustrators the Andrea Brown Literary Agency represents, etc.

3. Be professional and confident (even if you don’t feel this way). There’s no need to mention that this is your first submission or query letter ever, that you’re brand new at this and aren’t entirely sure what you’re doing. Would you walk into a job interview and tell your interviewer that this is your first one ever and boy are you nervous! When you’re prepared, you get to be confident, even if on the inside you’re shakin’ in your boots.


If you have a manuscript you think might be a fit for Jennifer, all SCBWI members can query her during the month of December at Jennifer@andreabrownlit.com. Please follow the Andrea Brown Literary Agency submission guidelines. You can follow her on Twitter @JenRofe


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3. Hillary Clinton Paper Dolls - Yes, This Is Real Life

This may just be the single most exciting review experience I had this year.  I couldn't believe it was even a question when I got the email from Quirk asking me to review the Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset.  It's got pantsuits, it's got White House ghosts, it's got Republican Adversaries, it's got Supreme Court Justices, it's got it all.  You can click here to get all the details and specs, but basically all you should need to hear is Presidential Paperdolls.

The idea for the book tour was to set a scene and give it a creative caption, which I have done below.

Feminist dance party in the Oval Office with RBG, Oprah, the ghost of Nancy Reagan, lady secret service, and Bono (who we all know is a friend to the ladies).  Jeb Bush only wishes he were invited.

So I've been playing with this dolls all weekend and marveling at their hilarity, but Luke really kicked it up a notch last night when he ran into my room and said "Come see what Bill did!"

Bill knew I was stressed so he took it upon himself to clean and vacuum my living room.

Hill, Jeb, the ghost of George Washington, and Clarence Thomas made sure he didn't miss any spots.

Of course it's only fair that I make the dolls do something for Luke now, so while he was at work this morning, they got out all the Christmas decorations.

The Ghost of George Washington hanging our stockings by the chimney with care.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg putting some lights on the tree.

Hillary supervising the unpacking of the ornaments.

And good old Bill, providing some jazz carols to keep them all in the holiday spirit.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Quirk for sending me this playset and please go get one of your own.  Regardless of your political persuasion, this is just a blast to have on hand.

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4. NEED by Joelle Charbonneau

Review by Leydy NEEDby Joelle CharbonneauAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 352 pagesPublisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (November 3, 2015) Goodreads | Amazon “No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.” Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . .

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5. Be Real: A Social Media Strategy That Works

By Martha Brockenbrough


People are always on the lookout for the silver bullet of social media: that one foolproof thing that effectively promotes a book. There isn’t one, and the fact is, you’re far more likely to shoot yourself on the foot than strike it lucky. Unfortunately, 2015 has been the year of the gaffe, the pile-on, the career-toasting debate. High-profile writers such as John Green, Andrew Smith, and Meg Rosoff have found themselves in the social media red zone, and it’s been awful.


Part of the frenzy—which started with content in books, comments to a newspaper, and a reply to a detractor’s Tumblr post—is due to the fame of these writers. But another part is the nature of the beast. Social media is a terrible place for complex, nuanced discussions. Twitter is especially bad, because character count is limited and angry tweets pile up like astonishingly fast. For controversial stuff, Facebook and Tumblr are better, as long you take the same care you’d use in a face-to-face discussion.


What’s more, as social media has evolved into a sometimes-rude marketplace of ideas, it has diminished as a marketplace for stuff, and probably for the best. No one wants thinly veiled book ads, spammy direct messages, or repetitive self-promotion. No one wants to be friended by anyone on Facebook only to receive an immediate request to “like” their author or illustrator page.


What does work? Cultivating relationships the same way you do in real life: Be interesting, be interested, be useful, be positive.Be smart, too. It’s not just readers you’re reaching out to. It’s booksellers, teachers, librarians, bloggers, and other people who connect to many people at once. Think of these as your power connections. Over the years, key ones can put your books into a lot of young readers’ hands.


Some effective things to do:

- Establish a clear, concise identity. Mention your work and your website in your profile, and use your book cover or a good photo. Make it easy for people to know who you are and what you do.

- Be useful.I’ve created common core-focused guides for two of my books, and I share these both on social media and on my website so teachers can easily use my books to support classroom work. Offer Skype visits of varying lengths to round this out.

- Be visual. Use a service like picmonkey.com to turn favorite book quotes (from your work the work of others) into graphics. Did a reader make fan art for your book? Share it and praise that talented soul.

- Be interesting—and be interested. Talk with other writers and with your power connectors about books you’re loving, your pets, or even fascinating articles you’ve read. Make yourself a source of support and cheer, and people will be glad to cheer you on when it’s time.


Martha Brockenbrough’s latest young adult novel, The Game of Love And Death, was a finalist for the 2015 Kirkus Prize, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015, and an American Library Association Booklist Top 10 YA Romance. She is on SCBWI’s Team Blog, is the founder of National Grammar Day, is the former editor of MSN.com, and has been a media strategist for fifteen years. More at www.marthabrockenbrough.com

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6. November Reflections

In November I read 58 books.

Board books:

  1. Board Book: Jingle Bells. James Lord Pierpont. Illustrated by Pauline Siewert. 2015. Candlewick. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Board Book: Jingle! Jingle! Sebastien Braun. 2015. Candlewick. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Picture books:
  1. Two Mice. Sergio Ruzzier. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie the Pooh. Sally M. Walker. Illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. 2015. Henry Holt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. The Only Child. Guojing. 2015. Random House. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition. Chris Barton. Illustrated by Cathy Gendron. 2015. Millbrook Press. 36 pages. [Source: Library] 
  5.  All I Want For Christmas Is You. Mariah Carey. Illustrated by Colleen Madden. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. The Nutcracker. Retold by Stephanie Spinner. Illustrated by Peter Malone. 2008. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. Tallulah's Tutu. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  8. Tallulah's Solo. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. Tallulah's Nutcracker. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages.
  10. Tallulah's Toe Shoes. Marilyn Singer. Alexandra Boiger. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Tallulah's Tap Shoes. Mairlyn Singer. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going to School. Bill Martin Jr., and Michael Sampson. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2013. 13 pages? [Source: Library]
  13. Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Waking Up. Bill Martin Jr., and Michael Sampson. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2008. 24 pages. [Source: Library] 
  14. Old MacDonald Had A Woodshop. 2002. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Library]  
  15. Katie's London Christmas. James Mayhew. 2014. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  16. Harold and the Purple Crayon. Crockett Johnson. 1955. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]  
  17. Harold at the North Pole. Crockett Johnson. 1958. HarperCollins. 48 pages. [Source: Library] 
  18. Waddle! Waddle! James Proimos. 2015. [November] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  19. The Night Before Christmas. Clement Clarke Moore. Illustrated by David Ercolini. 2015. [September] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  20. Hunches in Bunches. Dr. Seuss. 1982. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  21. The Butter Battle Book. Dr. Seuss. 1984. Random House. 42 pages. [Source: Library]
  22. You're Only Old Once! Dr. Seuss. 1986. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]
  23. I Am Not Going To Get Up Today. Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by James Stevenson. 1987. Random House. 48 pages. [Source: Library]
  24. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter. 1902. [Source: Bought]
  25. The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. Beatrix Potter. 1904. [Source: Bought] 
  26. Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box. David McPhail. 2015. Henry Holt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  27. Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues. James and Kimberly Dean. 2015. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  28. Too Many Toys! Heidi Deedman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Early readers and chapter books:
  1. I Really Like Slop! Mo Willems. 2015. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
Middle grade:
  1. The Great Turkey Walk. Kathleen Karr. 1998. 208 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. Kelly Jones. 2015. Random House. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root. Christopher Pennell. Illustrated by Rebecca Bond. 2011/2013. HMH. 215 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Breakthrough: How Three People Saved "Blue Babies" and Changed Medicine Forever. Jim Murphy. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  5. Eight Cousins. Louisa May Alcott. 1874. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Eat Your U.S. History Homework. Ann McCallum. 2015. Charlesbridge. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Young Adult: 
  1. The Night Gardener. Jonathan Auxier. 2014. Abrams. 350 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  2. The Wise Girl's Guide to Life. Robin Brande. 2015. Ryer Publishing. 109 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. MARTians. Blythe Woolston. 2015. Candlewick. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Adult books:
  1. All Things Murder. Jeanne Quigley. 2014. 411 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Let the Hurricane Roar. Rose Wilder Lane. 1932. 118 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  3. Goblin Market and Other Poems. Christina Rossetti. 1862. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See. Megan Dowd Lambert. 2015. Charlesbridge. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian Fiction:
  1. Verses, 1847. Christina Rossetti. [Source: Bought] 
  2. The Christmas Joy Ride. Melody Carlson. 2015. Revell. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Huckleberry Hearts. Jennifer Beckstrand. 2015. Kensington. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Keeping Christmas. Dan Walsh. 2015. Revell. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christian Nonfiction:  
  1. Family Worship. Donald S. Whitney. 2016. Crossway. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. B&H. 336 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  3. Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season. Heidi Haverkamp. 2015. Westminster John Knox Press. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. The 30 Day Praise Challenge For Parents. Becky Harling. 2014. David Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Like Jesus: Shattering Our False Images of the Real Christ. Jamie Snyder. 2016. [February 2016] 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century. Christopher Catherwood. 2015. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Delighting in God. A.W. Tozer. 2015. Bethany House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Jesus On Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament. David. P. Murray. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 246 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. Owen on the Christian Life. Matthew Barrett and Michael A.G. Haykin. 2015. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  10. Silent Night. Joseph Mohr. Illustrated by Susan Jeffers. 1984/2003. Penguin. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Pick of the Week for CITY and This Week’s Topic



Happy Illustration Friday!

Please enjoy the wonderful illustration above by Anna Gavrilyuk, our Pick of the Week for last week’s topic of CITY. Thanks to everyone who participated with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more. We love seeing it all!

You can see a gallery of ALL the entries here.

And of course, you can now participate in this week’s topic:


Here’s how:

Step 1: Illustrate your interpretation of the current week’s topic (always viewable on the homepage).

Step 2: Post your image onto your blog / flickr / facebook, etc.

Step 3: Come back to Illustration Friday and submit your illustration (see big “Submit your illustration” button on the homepage).

Step 4: Your illustration will then be added to the public Gallery where it will be viewable along with everyone else’s from the IF community!

Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to keep up with our exciting community updates!


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8. Browsings

cover artI have enjoyed Michale Dirda’s writing for a very long time. I even got to see him speak once and left liking him even more than I did before. He is one of those book reviewers who really do love reading and even better, he loves reading all kinds of books. The man is not a snob and enjoys the classics as much as pulp science fiction and is not ashamed of it. Add to this a relaxed writing style that comes across as friendly and smart and, well, what’s not to like about the guy?

In his newest collection, Browsings, we are treated to a year’s worth of online columns he wrote for The American Scholar from February 2012 to February 2013. These pieces are not reviews at all, more like blog posts in which Dirda shares about books he’s reading, conventions and book festivals he attends, the used bookstores he haunts and his reader’s dilemma of where to keep the piles he can’t help but bring home. He comes across as being a nerdy reader just like all of us, except he also happens to be the editor of the Washington Post’s Bookworld.

In one of his essays he mentions that the older he gets, the more he loves to read old, obscure stuff, adventure novels, science fiction and fantasy from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Problem is, he doesn’t get to write about these things very often. Now and then he gets to write an introduction to an anthology or to a reissue, but writing something in the Washington Post or other book review venue, not so much. They all want the new stuff. Which leaves him with a kind of lost feeling because he says he has

come to feel that if I don’t write about a book in a review or essay, then I haven’t actually read it. Gathering my thoughts, outlining an author’s argument, framing a few apt quotations, trying to make inchoate impressions coherent — all these activities give substance to my experience of a work, make it real in a way that ‘reading’ alone doesn’t.

Oh yes, Mr. Dirda, I know that feeling well!

He also made me wonder whether we all didn’t dream of having the same library and whether we might all go in together and do a time-share thing so that I can have the library for two weeks in December and a week in June and you can have it for a couple weeks in January and another week in August, that kind of thing. You know the library I am talking about, the same one Dirda dreams of having:

I yearn for one of those country house libraries, lined on three walls with mahogany bookshelves, their serried splendor interrupted only by enough space to display, above the fireplace, a pair of crossed swords or sculling oars and perhaps portraits of some great English worthy. The fourth wall would, of course open onto my gardens, designed and kept up by Christopher Lloyd, with the help of Robin Lane Fox, who would also be sure that there were occasional Roman antiquities — statutes of nymphs and cupidons — along the graveled walks.

Of course, if you all want to go in on this we could save some cash by letting me be the gardener. Sure, I’d get to live there year-round but I’d only need a little house tucked away on the grounds and I’d stay away from the library during your visits unless you ask me to stop by for a cuppa. At which time I would also bring you some fresh-picked flowers for the library and vegetables for your dinner. What do you say?

Since Browsings is not specifically book reviews I feel as though I have gotten off lightly and didn’t add too many books to my TBR. I must admit though that Dirda did make me want very badly a book I had no idea even existed until he raved about it: The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. I have never gotten excited about a thesaurus before but after Dirda finished with me I was a drooling mess. And then in my email came a Black Friday 30% off Barnes and Noble coupon. And I happened to have to a gift card burning a hole in my pocket.

I succumbed.

My new thesaurus should be here by Wednesday or Thursday. So if my vocabulary begins to veer out of the usual ruts, you will know why! If it gets out of hand, send letters of complaint to Michael Dirda.

So, Browsings. An enjoyable little book to read in spare moments or before bed. Not a book to spend lengths of time with but to dip into, to browse. It whirls by faster than you expect it to and leaves you wanting more. Can’t get much better than that.

Filed under: Books, Essays, Nonfiction, Reviews Tagged: Michael Dirda

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9. ‘Waking Life’ Animation Director Bob Sabiston: It’s OK To Not Work in the Animation Industry

Bob Sabiston was offered a job three times by Steve Jobs, including two gigs at Pixar. Here's what he did.

The post ‘Waking Life’ Animation Director Bob Sabiston: It’s OK To Not Work in the Animation Industry appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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10. Russian Music Producer Max Fadeev Unveils His Feature ‘Savva: Heart of the Warrior’

The film opened in second place at Russia's box office earlier this month.

The post Russian Music Producer Max Fadeev Unveils His Feature ‘Savva: Heart of the Warrior’ appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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11. Author Guest Post with J.R. Stewart



Hello YABCers! It’s a pleasure to “meet” you.


Last week, my publisher sent me an email inquiring if I would write a guest post for YA Books Central and promote my new YA/dystopian book, Nirvana.


One problem: I hate promoting stuff so I’m going to get that out of the way first so I can talk about what’s really on my mind:

The Hunger Games.


Until the end the day, Nirvanawill be just $3.99 on Amazon for Cyber Monday.


I’m also supposed to let you know that I will be doing an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Friday, December 4, 2015, from 2‐4 pm on the r/books subreddit. So, if you have any questions on topics related to the consequences of virtual reality, the decline of the bee population, or anything I write about in Nirvana, please join me there.


Okay, let's get back to The Hunger Games.


Yes, that’s right. Despite all of my corporate and government projects that keep me quite busy, the only thing I'm thinking about lately is The Hunger Games. Is it because the final film, Mockingjay Part II, came out last Friday?



Absolutely not!


With Nirvana receiving four and five star reviews, some reviewers have compared it to

George Orwell’s 1984 (I'm flattered!)



The Matrix (great films),



and, perhaps most quizzically, The Hunger Games.


I get it. There's a dystopian element to The Hunger Games and Nirvana.


Now, I’ll admit my knowledge of The Hunger Games isn't as extensive as yours might be. I have never read the books, nor seen the movies. I spend a lot of time in front of my computer! However, it is my understanding that the books and films depict a world run by a monarchical government that requires each “district” to choose a female and male youth to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games event. The last person standing is crowned the victor (and gets to live).


Could events described in The Hunger Games happen in our lifetime? I hope not. The majority of us live in a modern society, where violence isn't the only answer. In Nirvana, however, I write about very real issues ‐ ones that we will need to confront in our lifetime. The Hunger Games is completely fictional while Nirvana, through a fictional cast of characters, is grounded in modern day truths.


How do I know this? Well, I research these "modern truths" every day. The technology described in Nirvana does exist. I've seen it and I've used it ‐ that "floating sensation" didn't just come from anywhere! And, most importantly, I've seen the damage that it can cause, both psychologically and socially. Hexagon, the government institution featured in Nirvana, is intended to shed light on what may happen once this virtual reality technology falls into the wrong hands.page1image21968 page1image22128 page1image22288

The second modern truth I touch on in Nirvana is the decline of the bee population. It's very likely that this epidemic could lead to an Extinction event in our lifetime. Bees and other pollinating insects have an essential role in our ecosystem. In fact, at least a third of our food depends on their pollination. A world without these wonderful little creatures would simply be devastating for food production.


The best thing that we can do right now is be aware of the issues. If more of us are informed, and we're spreading the word, maybe we can protect ourselves. For this reason, I invite you to pick up a copy
of Nirvana and tell people about it.


Do you believe in these "modern truths" like I do? Comment below ‐ I'll read every single one.


Your Friend, J.R.


PS ‐ My publisher would also be very happy if you entered the Nirvana GIVEAWAY attached to this blog. Now, if you win, you have to promise to tell people about these issues. Okay? 




  1. By: J.R. Stewart

  2. About: When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?

    Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized ‐ even visits with Andrew.

    Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.

    Nirvana is a fast‐paced, page‐turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so. 

  3. Release Date: November 10, 2015




One winner will receive a copy of Nirvana, US and Canada only.


Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. During this giveaway, J.R. Stewart has a question for you to answer in the comments below for more chances to win his book! When J.R. Stewart is not writing, which field does the author work in?


*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*

a Rafflecopter giveaway


 has worked on many corporate projects throughout a prolific IT academic and consulting career, and is involved with many confidential virtual reality projects. After working on advanced "VR" technologies for over a decade, Stewart grew concerned about the implications of this work and the possible psychological effects that it may have on its users. 


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12. Happy Birthday Jan Brett!


Happy Birthday to Jan Brett who was born on December 1, 1949.
She's a best selling children's author who writes and illustrates her books.

Here are a few of her books:

 You can check out her website for more information about the Author and other fun activities:

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13. 4 Questions for…Lilly Malcom


Lilly Malcom is the Executive Art Director and Associate Publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. As an art director, she has had the privilege to work with many talented illustrators, among them David Small, Jon Agee, Jerry Pinkney, Judy Schachner, Tao Nyeu, Zachariah O’Hora, Erin EitterKono and Jen Corace to name a few. Lily enjoys working with longtime professionals as well as first time illustrators. She is always on the lookout for unique memorable characters and stories with a strong visual narrative.


When an illustrator has more than one style, do you like seeing them in one portfolio or does that throw you off?


I’m fine with multiple styles as long as they are executed well. But it’s not something you have to have in your portfolio. It’s better to master one style and keep working at it. That said, if you are excellent at realistic painterly work as well as a loose free line—then go for it! We’re looking for all sorts of styles and if I stumble upon something unexpected, that’s great.


But really the focus should be on making your portfolio strong and captivating. You need about 15 or so pieces that are compelling and geared towards children’s publishing. Sometimes you only have one chance to show your work, so it must be your best. If your strength is animals, then start with those pieces and move on later to people. Be sure to show characters with expressive faces, engaged in different activities. Show that you understand settings, moods and that you’re capable of continuity between scenes. 


And if you have a favorite character you’ve created, definitely put that in too. We’ve created books based on one image that we’ve loved and have asked for a story to be created around them. Also, I like sketches when they are included. It shows how artists handle their line and you get to see a bit of their process. This can always go online if you don’t want to put it in your portfolio. 


Do you ever ask illustrators you are considering for a project to do samples before hiring them? If so, do you pay for those samples or are they done for free?


At Dial we usually don’t ask for samples. If we’ve gotten in touch with you, it’s because we love your work and think you can create a wonderful world for the characters in the manuscript. We’ve already looked at a bunch of your art and have confidence that you will do a terrific job. That said, on the rare occasion we do ask for a sample, I feel we should pay you for your efforts. If you get the project, then the advance would cover it, and if we go with someone else then we can pay a small fee. Sometimes an agent or illustrator will offer to do a free sample. And in that case, we see if that’s the right thing to do for that project. 


Do you like receiving postcards from illustrators you’ve never met? If so, how often do you think one illustrator should send out new postcards?


I love receiving postcards. I get tons of samples every day and postcards allow me to flip through quickly and sort. If I’m interested to see more, I will go to your site. Remember to print work on both sides of your postcards and make your contact info easy to find. And in terms of how often people should send samples out? You could send out a big blast once a year and then follow up with smaller targeted mailings once or twice more. 


When you are looking at illustrators online, what is the best way to grab your attention and make you look at more of their work? 


This is a little intangible but I’m looking for something unique. I’m not looking for someone to reinvent the wheel and create a whole new style using toothpicks. I’m just looking for someone who can infuse life and heart into the characters and the world around them. It can be as simple as how they work the eyebrows or the bits and pieces around the character that tell you something about them. It’s the artist’s job to illustrate the full story. The story beyond the words. It’s a big thing and a hard thing to do well. I’m looking for hints that you can take a text and make it your own. 


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14. Happy Monday, Guerrilla Girls Style

I don't have a new review for you yet, but I do have this photo that I took while in Australia, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. Enjoy your wry yet biting art-world commentary:For more great stuff by the Guerrilla Girls, check out... Read the rest of this post

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15. On the Shelves Little Shop of Stories

Kimberly Jones of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia, tells us what's on the shelves.
What trends do you notice in children’s book sales? What are the current hot reads?
Graphic novels have always been exciting to kids, but more parents are starting to be okay with their kids selecting a graphic novel over a traditional chapter book. Also, with graphic novels like El Deafo, Sisters, Boxers and Saints, and Roller Girl it's easier to show the parents that these books have merit. 
How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?
We are advised by our publishing reps, but we also use edelweiss, customer recommendations and we try to keep a pulse on exciting new titles. Listening to NPR is another great source to hear about upcoming new books. 
What would you like to see more of from authors/illustrators in terms of community involvement?
I'm very proud of our community of authors. I see lots of authors being heavily involved in the community, taking on important issues and launching their own campaigns and platforms. They are a group of artist who are naturally embedded in the community and don't require a nudge to do the right thing. 
How do you handle author/illustrator visits? Can authors/illustrators contact you directly?
Normally our author/illustrator visits are set-up via their publicist or publisher. If an author is self-published or with a small press they should go to our blog: http://www.littleblogofstories.com/ for instructions on setting up a visit. 
What is your favorite part of being a bookseller/manager/librarian?
My favorite part of being a bookseller is getting the right book in the right person's hand, nothing is more rewarding than that. My favorite part about being the Store Manager is listening to all the creative ideas our booksellers have and seeing them come to life. 
Personal book recommendation?
Right now I'm in love with Written In the Stars by Aisha Saeed. I love diverse books that introduce me to a new culture in an interesting way. 

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16. Pottermore at the MinaLima Exhibit

As we reported previously, MinaLima has a special exhibition currently in London. The Pottermore Correspondent took a trip to the exhibition (and hinted that a Harry Potter actor or two may show up to see the exhibition themselves sometime). The PMC was also able to conduct an exclusive interview with Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima.

Pottermore uploaded high resolution scans of some of the artwork that will be displayed at the exhibition. Of the PMC’s chat with Mina and Lima, Pottermore reports:


Edwardo tells me there are nearly 90 prints in this exhibition. ‘We are doing it chronologically, by book. So we start with the letter and the ticket…’

‘It gets very busy by the sixth book. It’s just all over the place,’ says Mira.

‘And we have a selection of authentic props, too,’ Eduardo adds.

‘It was so nice of them to let us do that,’ says Mira, meaning the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, who has lent them some of the props they designed for the films, to show at the exhibition. They’ll be carefully placed on display in cabinets throughout the gallery space.


Pottermore got the two talking about collaboration and what it was like working together on such big projects. The pair have been working in tandem for so long, they think of themselves as one unit.


One of the charming things about Mira and Eduardo is how they finish each other’s sentences. They never properly interrupt one another though; it’s more that they’re on the same train of thought. That’s how they work together, too, they tell me. It’s so collaborative they can never really tell who did what and when.

Eduardo says, ‘We are basically two bodies and one brain.’

‘Er, gross,’ says Mira.

‘No, well we can’t really say now that one person designed one thing and one did the other, can we?’

‘That’s true,’ Mira adds. We might say ‘oh, can you do this bit for me?’ or I might draw on something he’s started. But yes, you’re right. That’s how we are.’


To see photos of parts of the exhibit, Pottermore has uploaded a small collections of photos onto their Twitter. The exhibition opened today, November 30, and will remain open until December 19th. MinaLima’s last exhibition saw over 10,000 visitors, including special guests. The exhibition resides at The Coningsby Gallery, London, and is free admission. Please see the Gallery website for times and other important information.

Leaky will be present at the MinaLima exhibit and Dinner in the Great Hall later this week. Please stay tuned for articles of these fan attractions first hand!

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17. Last day of the biggest sale of the year!

Hi Friends,

This is the last day for Phyllis Harris Designs biggest sale of the year! Sale expires at midnight on Monday, November 30, 2015 CST. 30% off($30 min.) using code: 3030SALE. Everything in the shop on sale! Jewelry, Books, Canvases and Prints! Discount available in either shop.


Be sure to take a peek at my newest 2 minute video, too! My talented husband provided the background music. It is his original song title, "Thanksgiving".

You my friends, are the reason for the joy and success of
Phyllis Harris Designs and I cherish you and your support.  I so appreciate you sharing our website with your friends and family; and I wish you all a blessed Christmas season!


Gifts that give back

Phyllis Harris Designs & You – Giving the gift of love and healing
Every purchase of a heart-warming Phyllis Harris Designs illustration print donates 5 percent of every illustration print sold from our website to Children's Mercy Hospital.  

Be sure and follow my social media networks to keep up with all that is going on. Here are the links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhyllisHarrisDesigns
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhyllisHarris
Instagram: http://instagram.com/phyllisharrisdesigns
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/phyllisha/

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18. Native Son

When cities lay claim
To those who gain fame,
They hope they'll attract lots of tourists;
But often their game
Gets flak or gets blame
From historians (most of them purists).

For no way everyone
Is a true native son
Though it's briefly where he once resided;
But when hype has begun,
Fans will certainly run
To the places the guidebooks have guided.

Still, of course I will bite
And I'll visit the site
Where a writer or artist created
And I'll smile in delight
Though it doesn't seem right
Since his other homes' fame might have faded.

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19. भारतीय महिलाए और समाज

  भारतीय महिलाए और समाज  महाराष्ट्र के शनि शिंगणापुर मंदिर में एक महिला ने शनि महाराज को तेल चढा दिया. इसके बाद बवाल खडा हो गया क्योकि ट्रस्ट का कहना है कि 400 साल की परंपरा में पहली बार किसी महिला ने मंदिर के चबूतरे पर चढकर शनि महाराज को तेल चढाया, यहां ऎसा नहीं […]

The post भारतीय महिलाए और समाज appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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20. विचलित मन

विचलित मन ये तस्वीर आपको विचलित कर सकती है. बेशक, सोशल मीडिया यानि गूगल प्लस, फेसबुक, टवीटर पर लिखने , वीडियों अपलोड करने और अपनी बात रखने के अपने फायदे हैं ये एक खुला मंच है जहां हम अपने दिल की भडास या गुब्बार निकाल सकते हैं या अपने विचार सांझा कर सकते हैं पर […]

The post विचलित मन appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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21. TAYSHAS and Cleaver: a kind One Thing Stolen combination

I don't take one darned thing for granted.

Every book is hard, and every bit of luck really is sheer luck, and goodness comes at you from unforeseen places, or a friend steps in, or something.

So I'm saying thank you today to the unforseen:

To Cleaver Magazine and Melissa Sarno, for naming One Thing Stolen to its Best of 2015: YA Staff Picks. To the Texas Library Association for slipping the book onto its 2016 TAYSHAS Reading List (among so many other powerful novels and nonfiction selections).

One Thing Stolen really was a book I hoped into being—hoped and fervently re-visioned. Then stood back and hoped some more. To all of those who read the book, encouraged the book, were there for the book, thank you. You might now know how much that matters, but it matters. Much. And so, again, I thank you Cleaver, Melissa Sarno, and the Texas Library Association.

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22. Fan Mail Wednesday #218: Sharing This Ridiculously Beautiful Letter from Calloway in Illinois.

I’ve neglected the blog of late, but to quote Vito Corleone, “I don’t apologize, that’s my life!”
“I refuse to be a fool dancing on a string!”
Just kidding about that. I am sorry. And I do apologize, Dear Reader. I’m horrible, frankly. The letters have been piling up, but I’ve been hunkering down with a deadline. And yes, that’s right, I nailed it! Thank you, thank you very much.
This letter came with a fabulous note from Calloway’s mother, who seems lovely and kind. She asked for my address, and I’ll give that to everyone here, even you crazy stalkers: James Preller, 12 Brookside Drive, Delmar, NY 12054.
Now, here’ s Calloway, unedited, from Illinois:
“Hi mr james preller. I love jigsaw Jones books. I read them all the time. Would you send me more? I drew a pictue of the ones i already have. I need the rest. I am a brownie girl scout. Did you know that i have diabetees to? i was born with it when iwas 2 years old. IT Meansxmy pancreeas doentst work. And then my brother stabbed me with a pencil last week and my mom got mad at us and made us collect food for hungry people and give away our halloeeen candy. and my mom got cancer this year snd she lets me use her new pink blankets and pillows. They are so fun to lay on. And i love the movie annie. But jigsaw Jones are my favorite books.. my teacher mrs. Garretson told me to read them. And my brother plays baseball and my dad teaches gym! He makes us do push ups and sit ups when we are bad. And i am in love with ______, a 5th grade boy. But you cant tell anyone that.
Ok. So send me my books. Hope you have a happy day!!! Lalalalala. Oh and i was elvis Presley for Halloween. He is my favorite.
Ok bye, love Calloway”
I replied:
Dear Calloway,
My goodness, your letter just made my heart explode a little bit. Now it’s all over the floor and in my hair and yuck, gross. You have such an exciting life! I’m so sorry about the pencil stabbing, but it sounds like your good mother handled it “astutely,” which means, in this case, with wisdom and grace.
No offense to your father, who I am sure is a great guy, but the thought of a tough gym teacher as a dad would have terrified me as a kid. “What, ten thousand more push-ups? YIKES!”
Don’t worry about your crush. Your secret is safe with me. (See how I removed his name?)
I am not always able to send books in the mail to every fabulous kid who writes to me. It would get expensive. But in your case — the most fabulous kid of 2015 — well, keep checking your mailbox.
True story about cancer: My oldest son, Nick, is a two-time cancer survivor. He got sick when he was 2 years old, then again when he was 10. Hard times. But you know what? He’s 22 now and perfectly, wonderfully, terrifically healthy! I wrote about it, in a sly way, in the book SIX INNINGS, which your brother and father might like. Anyway, Mom, I’ll keep you in my thoughts.
My best to your whole big beautiful family!
James Preller
P.S. Is there any chance you could send me a photo of you dressed up as Elvis Presley? Somehow my life feels incomplete without it.
P.P.S. Tell Mrs. Garretson that I love her (but don’t tell my wife)!
P.P.P.S. Lalalalala!

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23. Flog a BookBubber 3

Many of the folks who utilize BookBub are self-published, and because we hear over and over the need for self-published authors to have their work edited, It seemed to me that it could be educational to take a hard look at their first pages. If you don’t know about BookBub, it’s a pretty nifty way to try to build interest in your work. The website is here.

I’m sampling just the books that are offered for free. Following are the first page and a poll. Then my comments are after the fold along with the book cover, the author’s name, and a link so you can take a look for yourself if you wish. At Amazon you can click on the Read More feature to get more of the chapter if you’re interested. There’s a second poll concerning the need for an editor.

Let me know how this works for you. Here’s a book titled Death's Hand.

James spotted a splatter of blood through the tree boughs. It marked the snow like an ink stain on paper.

He pushed through the pine needles, and her bare feet appeared, blue-toed and limp. He saw the curve of a calf and a knobby, bruised knee. He saw the jut of ribs under her skin and an arm thrown over her face. And the next thing he saw was the twelve other bodies.

Nausea gripped James, but he covered his mouth and maintained composure. His guide was not so lucky. The other man dove behind a bush, gagged twice, and vomited across the frozen earth.

Elise was already dead. He was so certain of it that he almost walked away at that moment. But what would Isaac think of James abandoning his daughter’s body? The indignity of leaving her naked on the ice for the birds to devour was too much, and he came so far to find her remains.

Yet he couldn’t bring himself to step foot in the clearing. Elise looked peaceful, but the others were twisted in agony. Blood marked their fingernails. They had gone out fighting.

Each of the twelve other bodies could have been siblings. They had pale skin, slender forms draped in white linen, and white-blue eyes— he could tell, because they were frozen open. The snow around them looked fluffy, as though it were freshly fallen. Something about that (snip)

Have a vote, then go to my editorial notes and vote again after the break.

And don’t forget to let me know if you like this new feature. Thanks.

Were you compelled to turn the page?


Descent SeriesThe book is part of a trilogy, The Descent Series, by SM Reine. The entire trilogy is offered for free here. My thoughts, and then my notes.

The voice is strong and the writing clear. There are a couple of little editorial notes that I would make, but this opening page does a good job of raising story questions, mostly "what happened here?" Who were these people? Who is Elise? While those latter two are close to being “information” questions and not story questions, the question of who were they fighting and why turns them into story questions as well. And, subtly, there’s a hint that Elise could be alive. For me, I think the line about the guide throwing up could be much shorter. But, still, I turned the page.

Should this writer have hired an editor?

Your thoughts?


© 2015 Ray Rhamey

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24. I’ve been saturating my mind with...

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25. Basketball books for young fans: Stephen Curry and beyond (ages 6-12)

It's an exciting start to the basketball season for Warriors fans here in the Bay Area, and I love helping students find great books to fuel their love of the game. Below are some new basketball books geared for 2nd through 5th grade reading. But really, I've found that they all appeal to a wide range of ages.

Full disclosure--I am not a huge sports fan. While I can look at these books in terms of their readability and design, only a real fan will be able to tell you if they are accurate and interesting.

All About Basketball
by Matt Doeden
Capstone, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 6-9
Doeden is one of my favorite sports writers for young readers. Here he introduces the sport of basketball using short sentences, dynamic photographs and clear diagrams. "Defenders try to stop the other team from scoring. They knock the ball away. They steal passes." Throughout, Doeden uses nonfiction features like headings, captions and vocabulary to direct kids' reading. I especially noticed how diverse the photographs are, with plenty of examples of women players as well as kid and amateur players too. A terrific book for new readers who are interested in learning more about the game.
Stephen Curry
Amazing Athletes series
by Jon M. Fishman
Lerner, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 7-10
The Amazing Athletes series is one of our favorite new series for sports biographies. Geared for third grade readers, this series balances straightforward, simple writing with interesting details. As any of our basketball fans can tell you, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry has racked up impressive stats, winning 2014-15 Most Valuable Player for the NBA. With this biography, readers will learn about his family life, high school and college years, and then look at his first few years playing for the Warriors. While there is not any mention of winning the 2015 NBA championship, most of my students will know all about that already.
Basketball Legends in the Making
by Matt Doeden
Sports Illustrated Kids / Capstone, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 8-12
Instead of focusing on the classic players you may remember, this book looks at the new stars--wondering who will be the superstars of tomorrow. Young fans will like the trading card like layout which features one large action photo, a short description of the player's playing history and achievements, and a quick "Did You Know?" fact in bold print. Pair this with Side by Side Basketball Stars, also from Sports Illustrated Kids but with more challenging text, and encourage students to debate which stars are the greatest players--backing up their arguments with facts and reasons. On the easier side, I've just ordered Basketball's Greatest Stars, by S.A. Kramer, which is a new book in the Step Into Reading series.

The review copies came from our school and public libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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