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1. Oh My Gouache!

Cindi Foreman asks on her blog: "Oh My Gouache! What colours should I use for GurneyJourney's Graveyard Painting Challenge?"

Hmmm. Close your eyes and pick three at random. Or do a seance and ask Sargent.

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2. THE SWORD OF SUMMER: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1 by Rick Riordon \\ OMG OMG OMG!

Review by Reagan  THE SWORD OF SUMMER Age Range: 10 - 14 years Grade Level: 5 - 9 Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (Book 1) Hardcover: 512 pages Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (October 6, 2015) Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the

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3. Interview on Savvy Painter

I was honored to be interviewed recently by Antrese Wood on her art podcast Savvy Painter. She just released my interview podcast yesterday.

You can listen on Stitcher here or on iTunes here. Here's the introductory page.

You might also enjoy hearing the Savvy Painter interviews of Nathan FowkesAlvaro CastagnetCharlie Hunter, and Peggy Kroll-Roberts.

GurneyJourney YouTube channel
My Public Facebook page
GurneyJourney on Pinterest
JamesGurney Art on Instagram
@GurneyJourney on Twitter

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4. The Introvert’s Guide to Conferences

woman hiding behind bookOkay, so you notice there’s no shortage of advice out there about how to make the most of a conference. But what about those of us who are introverts? It can be even more difficult for us to navigate these social situations. Oh, how we envy our extrovert friends! Are there any special tips for people like us?

Well, yes, there are. Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. Change your mindset from “me” to “them.” You’re at the conference to learn and to network, but paradoxically, the best way to do that is to focus on the needs of others. Set your own discomfort aside, and look for others who may also be uncomfortable, and see how you can make things easier for them. Even if you’re talking with an agent or editor, focus on them instead of yourself. Ask questions about their experience. See if there’s anything they need. This is one of the best ways for an introvert to get out of their shell.

2. Research before the conference. If there are authors, editors, or agents you’re interested in talking with, Google them ahead of time to get some ideas for possible topics of conversation. They won’t seem like total strangers, and you won’t feel like an idiot in trying to have a conversation.

3. Reach out before the conference. There may be some people to whom you can send a quick email or Facebook message, inviting them to coffee, asking if they’d like to sit with you at a meal, or otherwise planning ahead for some of your social interactions. This is especially important if you’ve had online communication with people but don’t know them offline. You’ll feel more comfortable if you have some planned meetings with others.

4. Have some questions or opening lines ready. Think through the range of people you will likely meet, and write down a number of conversation openers that will help you overcome any awkwardness when meeting someone. Try to avoid yes/no questions, and make sure you listen carefully to the answers, which will give you clues for continuing the conversation. Some possible conversation-starters:

  • What’s your favorite part of the conference so far? (Or, what are you most looking forward to at the conference?)
  • What brings you to this conference?
  • What do you find most valuable about these conferences?
  • What did you think of today’s keynote speaker?
  • Can you tell me a little about your work?

5. Also, have some answers of your own ready. Plan some concise and fascinating answers to questions like, “So, what do you write?” and “Tell me about yourself.” You don’t want to be tongue-tied at those moments!

6. Prepare your book pitch. Make sure you’ve organized your thoughts about the book(s) you’re pitching, so you can easily give a 1 or 2 minute spiel when asked.

7. Approach it with a friend. Make sure you and your friend encourage each other to talk to new people. Be each other’s wingman and moral support—DON’T use each other as a crutch and don’t just talk to each other. You each may know different people, so plan to introduce your friend to people you know, and she can do the same for you. You can also highlight each other’s accomplishments in a conversation.

8. Be a part of the conference. Volunteer to help! A great way to overcome introvert tendencies is to put yourself in a place where people are coming to you for help or answers to questions. When you’re volunteering, be as friendly and outgoing as you can, allowing for serendipitous connections.

9. Rejuvenate yourself as needed. If, as an introvert, you need solitude to get re-energized, plan time for this. Whether it’s quiet time in your hotel room, a half-hour in the hotel gym or a walk outside, make self-care a priority in your schedule.

Readers, anything to add? Any questions about conferences?



Are you an introvert? Going to a conference? This post is for you! Click to Tweet.

Advance preparation is the key to successfully navigating a conference. Click to Tweet.

[Image copyright: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo]

The post The Introvert’s Guide to Conferences appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

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5. 10 Reasons to Read Diversely

10 Reasons to Read Diversely

I love this article by Lee and Low Books. The list of 10 reasons makes me smile like the child in the image because I always loved picture books. But the only kids of color in those books were cartoon figures or animal representations of multicultural kids. My family grew to be large and diverse, with many young voracious readers. Finding books with children that look like them has been a challenge. I’m happy to see the the trend changing over the past few years — thanks in part to publishers like Lee and Low.

“When we talk about reading diversely, the conversation often focuses on representation and social justice: making sure that our books don’t reinforce inequality by stereotyping, marginalizing, or erasing groups of people. 

Continue reading 10 Reasons to Read Diversely at Story Quest.

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6. Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Shadra Strickland and Sally Derby Discuss Their New Book & Diversity in Publishing from Lee & Low. Peek: "I know many people think no one should write outside their own culture. But I think I have the right to write any way I want about anything I want. After I’ve written it, if I didn’t get the voice 'right,' people are free to say so and explain what is lacking or wrong."

Characters Who Surprise by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "Make a Buffy a vampire slayer instead of the heroic warrior or make a detective have some personality trait that seems like it would make it hard for them to do the job but, in fact, also helps them to do it. For example, Monk."

Seven Jewish Authors Get Personal About Anti-Semitism from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: "Here’s the question I asked these seven authors: How have you seen anti-Semitism expressed, either in the media, on the internet, or in your personal lives? And this is how they answered."

Three Agents on How Soon Is Too Soon to Query? from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "...most agents and editors are looking to clear desks in time for the New Year rather than take on more. So, it’s to an author’s interests to take the time to revise rather than rush."

Why Book PR Needs Lead Time & Lots of It by Sharon Bially from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "I know it sounds counterintuitive: at long last a book has hit the market, it’s time to tell the world! But in fact, this is a far cry from how things work on the back end."

Who Knows More About Story: Writers or the Pentagon? by Lisa Cron from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Story as a way to maintain dominance over the world? How could a technology that’s as old as our brain do that?"

Cynsational Giveaways

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

My glorious house guest of the week, Kekla Magoon!
I'm celebrating the spooky season, from head to toes!
Congratulations to Nova Ren Suma on joining the the faculty of the MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults at VCFA!

Congratulations to Mitali Perkins on the news that her book, Rickshaw Girl, is being made into a movie!

Reminder! Want to read something spooky? The electronic editions of Diabolical and Feral Curse (both Candlewick), are on sale this month for $1.99!

Another Reminder! I will be featured at the 20th Anniversary Texas Book Festival on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18 in Austin. I look forward to joining Ann Angel and Varian Johnson in discussing the anthology Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves (Candlewick, 2015).

Personal Links

Princess Leia's "Slave Bikini" Sold for $96,000 at Auction
10 New Books by Established Latino Authors (Joy Castro!) 

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7. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1250 would like your thoughts on the version below:

Oliver Bradshaw is an eleven-year-old boy living in a small town in Rhode Island, hoping that this new place will be his permanent home, where he can finally feel safe and a sense of belonging. But when he accidentally opens a portal to the monsters’ world in his new apartment, Oliver must gather up who he can to help him, [To help him . . . close the portal? Or what?] even if it’s only his new quick-to-scare best friend, the meanest bully in his new school who hates him with a passion, and a friendly monster that looks like a wad of chewing gum. Oliver must enter the monsters’ world to stop the mysterious leader of an evil faction of monsters [How does he know that he must do this?] in order to not only save his own home but the fate of the town and possibly the entire human race.

Oliver and the Underlings is a 50,000-word work of middle grade fantasy. I am the author of a number of short stories in markets such as Spider, Stories for Children, knowonder! magazine, and Kids'Magination, and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


I don't think this is an improvement. The sentences are too long and they aren't telling the story. S1 tells us who the main character is. S2 sets up the situation and lists three other characters. S3 is pretty vague. What does the mysterious leader want? How is the entire human race threatened? How can this team of misfits save us all?  It seems to me the father and grandfather would be more important in the query than Oliver's three allies, but I haven't read the book.

I reiterate my suggestion that you go with something like this:

When monsters cross into our world and kidnap all of Oliver Bradshaw's classmates, he decides to recruit a hostage rescue team. Unfortunately, he can find only three allies: his quick-to-scare best friend, a devil-may-care bully, and a friendly monster that looks like a wad of chewing gum.

Getting to the monsters' home world is the easy part: there's a portal in Oliver's closet. But now that they're here, how are they supposed to tell the friendly monsters from the evil ones? And . . . wait, what's Oliver's grandfather doing here? Turns out he's searching for Oliver's father, who went missing years ago.

Gramps has his own team of monsters and is mounting an attack on the leader of a faction of evil monsters who kidnapped Oliver's dad. Could they also have Oliver's classmates? Only one way to find out, and if our heroes fail, the monster war will spill into our world. And nowhere will ever be safe again.

That probably isn't your story, as you don't even mention Oliver's father and grandfather in this version, but at least this might be a template for a good query. This version at least uses the pronoun "they" to show Oliver isn't completely alone, while your version lists the allies and then drops them.

Does each ally have a special talent vital to the mission? Oliver's original mission is to rescue his classmates. But you drop that in favor of stopping the mysterious leader of an evil faction of monsters, to save the human race. The original mission seems noble enough, and far more doable for characters who have no special powers.

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8. NYCC ’15: Thursday report…so many people

Dear diary, today New York Comic Con was really really crowded. 

The end. 

Seriously this was THURSDAY?? I guess every year we forgot how crowded it was last year or else it really was insane today because today was insane for a Thursday. I got there in the morning and there was a long line […]

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9. Bricksy - a bookwrap


Unauthorized Underground Brick Street Art

by Jeff Friesen

Unwrapping the buzz about the book...

"What happens when you put LEGO bricks and some of street artist Bankey's most iconic works together?  The answer is a whole lot of awesome."   - Huffington Post

"Freisen cleverly reimagines Banksy's world-renowned images...For Friesen, it's all about getting a good laugh."  -Mashable

"Friesen and his seven-year-old daughter June build recreations of Banksy's playful paintings out of the (LEGO) toys, take pictures of their versions which have caught the attention of art lovers across the internet.   - TODAY.com

About Bansky...

When Time magazine selected the British artist Banksy—graffiti master, painter, activist, filmmaker and all-purpose provocateur—for its list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010, he found himself in the company of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga. He supplied a picture of himself with a paper bag (recyclable, naturally) over his head. Most of his fans don’t really want to know who he is (and have loudly protested Fleet Street attempts to unmask him). But they do want to follow his upward tra­jectory from the outlaw spraying—or, as the argot has it, “bombing”—walls in Bristol, England, during the 1990s to the artist whose work commands hundreds of thousands of dollars in the auction houses of Britain and America. Today, he has bombed cities from Vienna to San Francisco, Barcelona to Paris and Detroit. And he has moved from graffiti on gritty urban walls to paint on canvas.

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10. Ink on Kinder

Hello, it's me and I'm blogging and I'm still doing daily inky things for #inktober. Yesterday I did inky things up a mountain. Or a Peak. On Kinder Scout to be precise. 
Landscape probably wouldn't be my subject matter of choice, but I'd never rule any subject out. These days I love to tackle something I wouldn't normally tackle. 
But I don't really know how to approach landscapes, that's the problem. Or the challenge. 
So, I approached these rocks and this landscapes in the way I know how, by seeing them as a 1950s textile design. Did it work? I dunno. 
To be honest, I don't care. I had fun trying. And that's what #inktober is about for me. That's what drawing is about. 

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11. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e October 2nd, 2015

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Why Book PR Needs Lead Time. Lots of it. (Sharon Bially)

Four Tips on Adding a New Twist to an Old Plot (Janice Hardy)

Writing the Cozy Mystery–Common Pitfalls (Elizabeth Spann Craig)

Polishing the All-Important First Fives (Riki Cleveland)

The Unspoken Pinch Point: Your Climax (David Villalva)

NaNoWriMo is Coming: 5 Tips for Preparing to Write Your Novel (Anita Evensen)

Do It Right, Write Plotless Reviews (Peter Derk)

It’s All About People (Wendy Lawton)

Why Skipping Writing Conventions Hurts Your Career (Nicole Dieker)

Pressure, Perception, and Probability: The Holy Trinity That Stymies the New Writer (Grace Wynter)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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12. Avoid The Reaction Plot Hole

If a bomb goes off in your plot and no one reacts, what's the point?

A friend of mine uses the term “push back," in her critiques. What it means is something of merit happens or is said and none of the characters respond. The action or dialogue goes unchallenged and the scene contains no conflict: huge plot hole.

During a recent encounter with a stubborn two-year-old, I knew exactly what she meant. The conversation went something like this:

“Ava, Granny has to go into her room for a minute.”


“Yes, I do. You can hold my hand or I can pick you up, which would you prefer?” (I like to give toddlers options. It makes them feel like they have a modicum of control.)


“Take my hand.”


“Okay, the hard way.” I picked her up. She pushed back by whining the entire time we were in the room. Little Ava didn’t get her way and she was not happy about it. She let me know it, for five minutes straight, while banging her Barbie doll’s head on everything she came in contact with.

Don’t make things too easy for Sally, Dick, and Jane. Make sure other characters balk, impede, cop an attitude, and show their displeasure. Make them react. Get inside each character's head. What are they thinking and feeling in the scene? 

Too often secondary characters' motivations are lost when writing from one character's POV. Just because they aren't the focus, doesn't mean they don't have thoughts, feelings, wants, needs, schedules, and goals of their own.

If Dick forces Jane to go somewhere she doesn’t want to go, talk to someone she does not want to talk to, or perform an act she’d rather not, have her refuse or retaliate.

What will Jane do to make him regret forcing her hand? It may not happen right away. Dick might not feel the push for an hour, a day, or a week. Dick makes Jane do something. She forces him to pay for it later by making him do or say something or go somewhere he doesn’t want to. If Jane complies and fulfills Dick’s request, she might push back right away then emphasize her point again later.

They start off having the above sort of conversation:

“Jane, we’ve been invited to Sally and Ted’s for a party.”

“No freaking way.”

"Ted is my boss.”

“I’d rather crawl in a sewer and collect Bubonic-plagued rats.”

“Attendance isn't optional.”

“Your problem, not mine.”

"He expects you to come with me.”

“Fine, I’ll go, but I’ll need a new Coach purse and new heels and a new dress.”

This is the immediate push back. Jane hits Dick in his credit card.

The night arrives, dinner ensues, and Jane ruins the evening by discussing Bubonic-plagued rat hairs found in a caterer’s food at a previous party. That is push back. She might give Dick a break and tell the hideous hostess that it wasn’t her caterer – of course 
 but one can never be too careful.

Dick forces her to leave the party early, which makes Jane very happy. In retribution, he will offer a little push back of his own. When Jane asks him to go to her mother’s house for dinner, he can reply, “I’d rather crawl in a sewer and eat Bubonic-plagued rats.”

The game is on.

To learn more about using obstacles to create conflict in your fiction, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, available in paperback and E-book.

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13. 2016 Clallam Bay Comicon

2016 Souvenir Sticker/Badge
July 9-10: During and after Clallam Bay/Sekiu Fun Days 10:00 am - 5 pm both Saturday and Sunday. 

EVERYONE WELCOMEIf it's pretty or they can eat it, bring it.

ADMISSION for public: free. 

Facebook Events Link HERE. Use to organize events and exchange information.

DEALER TABLES:  $25 (27.00 through Paypal). Contact at: donnabarr01 at gmail dot com.


Dealer and panelist contracts: THIS PAGE. Payment cancellation deadline is May 1, 2016. You are expected to know your professional and licensing obligations for food sales or use of fire. Parents, please note your obligations. Panels held at front of the hall in round-table format. Participants will clean and straighten hall after show closes Sunday; keep the Lion's club happy.

Special Guest Leanne Franson 

EXHIBITORS at the convention for 2016:

1: Donna Barr's A Fine Line Press AND Clallam Bay Comicon Central.

2. Page Birmingham

The newly renovated building - nice job, Lions!
90 Bogachiel Street
Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, Washington State, United States 

AWARDS: Your fans are your award. We don't get to say.

Special guests: all we can offer you is a deductible be

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14. Comics Friday: Batman Mini-Reviews

From Goodreads:
When catastrophe strikes Arkham Asylum, where will Gotham City house the world's most dangerous criminals, and when inmates are found murdered, what is Batman prepared to do in search of justice? Arkham's madness comes home in ARKHAM MANOR! 
What I learned this week in reading these two comics is that the Batman universe is intensely complex and I was totally right to be afraid that I'd be lost trying to get started in it.  Apparently there are all kinds of Batman off-shoots that are hard to understand for a Batman newbie like myself.  In this particular Batman world, Bruce Wayne has lost his family fortune and the city turns Wayne Manor into the new Arkham Asylum.  Someone starts killing inmates and Batman goes undercover as a patient in order to try to find the killer.

This one wasn't bad at all.  I had to look it up on some comics wikis to try to figure out the backstory (I never did figure out how or why Bruce Wayne had been kicked out of Wayne Manor), but I found enough information to get me started on this new series.  A lot of familiar Batman faces that I expected to see, including some surprise appearances that I wasn't expecting.  The story itself was well done and I wanted to finish to see where the characters would wind up.  From what I can tell this is a complete series, although it looks like there's another book set in this same Batverse (I made that one up myself) but written by a different author.  I didn't like it enough to really pursue reading more of the same, but it was a good enough diversion and I didn't have any complaints.

From Goodreads:
The Joker is dead. Arkham City is closed. As a new day begins, Bruce Wayne finds himself in devastating pain, recovering from his injuries and questioning whether his role as Batman is still necessary to the city's survival. But as the sun rises in Gotham City, dangerous new threats emerge from the shadows...and the Arkham Knight is just beginning.
This one, on the other hand - I have complaints aplenty and they are forthcoming.  First of all, this is written in conjunction with a video game.  Had I been paying attention and realized that, I never would have requested it for review.  Full blame goes to me for not realizing that this is not something that I'm going to enjoy.  I have zero interest in most video games and anything that is a novelized video game is just...ugh.  So Arkham Knight and I got off on the wrong foot when I looked it up on a Batman wiki and learned that it's a video game novelization.

I could have forgiven it for its video game ties, however, if it had been any good.  Unfortunately I didn't like the art or the writing.  The art looked sloppy to me, but it's possible that it was due to the fact that I was viewing it in ebook format (although I haven't had similar issues with other DC ebooks).  Even if the art wasn't an issue, the writing was just awful.  Terrible one-liners abound on pretty much every page.  Some of the dialogue is so bad it wouldn't be out of place in a spoof or parody.  The story itself isn't that interesting and felt like it jumped all over the place - probably fun for a video game, but disconcerting in a storyline that only lasts a bit over 100 pages.

My overall recommendation to those like me who are just getting started with serialized comics is to stick with the basics.  While I enjoyed Arkham Manor enough, I still went into it feeling lost and confused.  And the video game spinoff is just not at all my thing.  I think I need to go back to the classic collections and work my way through those before getting in over my head and starting off confused.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with copies to review.

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15. Poetry Friday: Make Them Gold by Chvrches

We are made of our longest days
We are falling but not alone
We will take the best parts of ourselves
And make them gold

We are made of our smallest thoughts
We are breathing and letting go
We will take the best parts of ourselves
And make them gold

- from the song Make Them Gold by Chvrches

If you can't see the video player embedded above, click here to listen to the song on YouTube.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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16. NYCC ’15: DC Super Hero Girls annonuces publishing program and more

DC Super Hero Girls has a splashy display at the entrance to the exhibit hall and today’s panel revealed more about the toys and publishing as part of the program, including a new animated short, a new theme songs “Get Your Cape On” (which was accompanied by the panelists wearing blye capes), Mattel’s action figures, […]

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17. While the Sun Shines

If you’re anywhere near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, look for me this weekend at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival. The celebration, October 9-11, features free programming for children, teens, and adults with 16 authors and illustrators presenting at three venues.

I’ll be presenting a program for children on Saturday at 11:30 at Bookworm Gardens. I’ll read Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move, and we’ll do a milkweed seed activity and talk about monarch butterflies.  I can hardly wait!

On Sunday at 1:30 at the Mead Public Library, I’ll present a workshop for adults about writing lively nonfiction and share examples from exciting nonfiction books for kids. I found such wonderful resources!

The following weekend is our SCBWI-Wisconsin Fall Conference, where I’ll present a breakout session on Activating Passive Language. I’m also doing critiques. Here, Im interviewed on the new SCBWI-Wisconsin Blog. You can read interviews with some of the other presenters here

Just in time for my conference planning, I finished revising a test passage for an educational publisher. Sometime before I take off for Sheboygan, I intend to send out a letter about a school visit. All this preparation can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s all fun stuff. After a pretty quiet summer, I’m happy to be busy! So when work is available, I always say "Yes!" if I can.

This week’s To-Do list demonstrates our current Teaching Authors topic: the variety of ways we try to make a living in addition to writing and marketing our books for children. Marti started us off with a post about her two articles in the 2016 Childrens Writers and Illustrator’s Market, including "Make a Living as a Writer." Last week Monday, Esther mentioned teaching, writing book reviews, and educational writing. On Wednesday, Laura Purdie Salas shared an exercise about writing on assignment. On Friday, April gave us three tips and a story. Mary Ann started this week with another story and her take on school visits and teaching. We all wear multiple hats!

When I’m busybusybusy, I have to remember to take breaks. Yesterday, I walked to the lake and saw this brief, tiny rainbow overhead.

Here’s a cloud-watching poem to go with the view:
Summer Job 
My favorite occupation
is to lie back and look at the sky.
If you find the right spot,
you can see quite a lot
in the shapes of the clouds rolling by. 
You can study the habits of insects.
You can see how they flutter and fly.
You’ll see birds on the wing.
You can hear how they sing
as they swoop and they soar through the sky. 
All in all, it’s a fabulous habit.
You really should give it a try.
There’s nothing to do
but consider the view.
As the day drifts away, so do I.
JoAnn Early Macken 
I hope to see some of you out and about! In the meantime, be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the 2016 Childrens Writers and Illustrator’s Market (courtesy of Writer’s Digest Books)! Saturday, October 10, is the last day to enter.

Laura Purdie Salas is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

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18. "Lady Bumps" in the 1970s! Were Not What They Are Today

I'm so glad you come in here tonight. I'm so it chin' to
Dance I can't stand it and I was countin' on dancin' with you.
It's a saturday night and I feel all right
So come on
let's dance - look at me
AII I wanna do is to bump with you
So come on
let's dance - look at me tonight.
When we hear the music play you might
Learn from me in every way.
They call me lady bump
lady bump it's no lie - ah
Lady bump
lady bump - just the music takes me hiiiiiiiiiigh.

I can still hit those high notes  -even if it is only in my head and
the image of me in a red afrom wig, green boob tube and tight
gold hot pants is...is probably a bit too much information.

Any old how I've been perusing the internet looking for any interesting comics news. Nothing.  

I learn that Ant-Man and The Wasp will be a movie in 2017 but as I've not seen Avengers 2: 
Age of Ultron yet, let aloneAnt-Man all I can say is: "Really?"

Between reading lots of phenomena books recently I have been getting physically exhausted
from watching the Rugby World Cup 2015 on TV. Georgia did an incredible job and were one
of the shing rays of hope -and the lastextended game against Namibia was so tense I even sat
on the edge of the seat -several times.  Namibia FINALLY scoring and proving they can play rugby.

Anyway, talking yesterday about retiring from comics in 2016, I saw this pop up on my screen:

Awwwww. Shit.  I just checked my portfolio and I can retire if I get the other £249.50.
Kids -NEVER say "I am going to make drawing comics my career" because there are,
seriously, thousands out there who said the same thing.  Cut out the hunger, poverty and
anti-social hours and go for a job shelf-stacking. It pays more.

I have also been noting long time comic fans -people who started collecting in the 1960s-
are stating "No more! One more reboot of this title or the entire line and that's it!"  In fact,
many have just stopped buying new Marvel and DC titles.

And as the weeks pass fewer and fewer comic geek chicsters are blogging or making
comic book videos as they move on to the latest trend.

Add to this a lot of long time comic creators in the UK finally calling it quites.  "Dan" told
me: "I've had two paying jobs in a year and the company was not paying much.  I queried
this amount cus they are a long established comic company but was told its market forces
they control the work and if artists want to work they take the money"  he was also told a
couple of artists allowed their work to be used for free (WTF??!!) Those back-stabbing,
brown-nosers (they know who they are) must be really proud of how they've helped UK
comics decline.

Now, I'm off to boogie.

Hang cool.  Five by five.

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19. Review: Curious Cat! Learn About the Seasons, by Maria Denjongpa and Phurba Namgay

Curious Cat! Learn About the Seasons, written by Maria Denjongpa, illustrated by Phurba Namgay (Scholastic Early Science series, Scholastic India, 2014)

Curious Cat! Learn About the Seasons
written by Maria Denjongpa, illustrated by Phurba Namgay
(Scholastic Early Science series, Scholastic … Continue reading ...

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20. How well do you know the soda industry? [quiz]

The history of soda is full of Norman Rockwell paintings, nostalgic Americana, athletes and other celebrities—so many familiar faces that soda companies seem like the industry next door. But these are the same companies that use municipal water supplies in drought-stricken areas and spend large amounts of money on lobbying. So how much do you actually know about the soda industry? Take the quiz and find out.

The post How well do you know the soda industry? [quiz] appeared first on OUPblog.

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21. Summarizing Your Novel: The Query Trenches Part Two

Hey guys! Hannah here. Last month, I posted some tips on little ways to take your query out of the blah zone. JJ and Kelly also posted an awesome podcast on the query process.

When giving query advice, a lot of us take for granted that you’ll know what we mean when we tell you a query must have a short synopsis of your story. We also take for granted that you’ll figure out how to do this in 300 words or fewer. I’d like to talk a bit more about what goes into creating a good, cohesive summary that will entice an agent to read more in just a few paragraphs.

You’ve probably seen a lot of advice that tells you a good query is comprised of a hook followed by a summary of your story, ending with a bio and a few sentences on why you chose the agent you are querying. Structurally, this is sound. But when you have a sprawling epic with many perspectives, or even a quietly complex contemporary, it can be tough to know how best to distill your story into a summary that makes sense.

What I usually see in the slush is this: a summary that goes over many of the big points in the plot but rushes through due to lack of page space and direction. The agent reading might miss key plot points, or have no idea what that made-up word is. Maybe the summary began too deep into the story, and the agent is confused by the list of events. These questions are distracting for a query reader, and can bring them out of a query quick.

So how do you summarize your novel and do it well? We have a tendency to think we must somehow shove the entire plot into this tiny space. But that isn’t actually the case. The best summaries (even the sprawling, epic ones) contain these: your inciting incident, your main conflict, the plan, and the stakes.

Before we get into the summary, let’s talk about the hook. There are two reasons why your hook is so important. Number one: It’s the hook! Okay, that one is obvious. It’s designed to give agents a peak into your character that entices them into reading more. Number two: if done well, it should help you cut huge swaths of fluff from your summary.

A good hook tells us about the character and the conflict in one go. I’m taking this example of a hook from Erin Bowman’s post Querying: The Do’s and Don’ts (thanks, Erin!), to show you what I mean:

Gray Weathersby is counting down the days until his eighteenth birthday with dread, for in the primitive and isolated town of Claysoot, a boy’s eighteenth is marked not by celebration, but by  his disappearance.

We know who the main character is, we know something personal about him when the book opens, and we know what his conflict is going to be. I’m intrigued to keep reading.

Next: What is an inciting incident? This is that moment when the status quo is no more, and the character is forced to take action. This is a step I often see skipped in queries, resulting in a strangely disjointed summary.

Figure out what the inciting moment is for your character, and tell us about it. For example, a precious jewel is stolen from a museum—this is the catalyst for the Private Eye to enter the picture and solve the mystery. Or, your protagonists loses her job and instead of applying elsewhere, chooses to fulfill a dream and travel the world. Tell me about the moment when everything your character thought she knew is turned on its head.

Now that your character has been called to action, tell us what needs to be accomplished. This is where you flesh out your conflict. We don’t need each and every detail; just enough to show us what the protagonist must overcome. The P.I. must now solve the mystery of the stolen diamond—but a nefarious gang will stop at nothing, including murder, to prevent it from happening. And, the more the P.I. digs, the more he unearths about a political conspiracy (give some detail on that conspiracy) attached to the diamond theft. The World Traveler has all of her money stolen in a foreign country. The hostel where she was staying burns down with all of her worldly possessions. Maybe she, too, stumbles into a political conflict she knows nothing about.

So what are your characters going to do about it? They have decisions to make. These decisions are informed by the stakes. For a lowly P.I., getting in the middle of a nefarious gang AND a political conspiracy might not be worth it. So tell me why he gets involved anyway. Is he blackmailed? Does he have a personal tie to a person or plan within the gang or the conspiracy? Tell us why he MUST solve the murder, and what is at stake for him if he doesn’t. For the World Traveler who has lost everything, tell us how she plans to get home, what she must sacrifice to do it, and what happens if she fails. Is her father dying back home? Is her sister getting married? Is her house set for demolition? Why is it important for her to overcome this conflict?

A note on fantasy: it’s very tempting to try and give all the backstory about the world, its magical systems, its government, or its religion. These are things you’ve worked hard on – your story is not the same without these elements. But if character IS story (and it is), then the most important thing is to make us understand your character’s struggle at the most basic level. Leave the made-up words and the complicated hierarchies out of the query.

When you look at the summary in this way, you can see that even sprawling epics can be broken down into short summaries. These components make up the heart of the story, and that’s what an agent wants to see in a query.

I hope this has been useful! If anyone is interested in a Part Three, let me know below!


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22. Fun + Fun = More Fun

I've been trying to make it a priority to maximize creative joy in my life, and actually, just to maximize FUN in any form. I learned this from a student at Hollins University when I taught there summer before last. You can either meet with a student to talk about her chapter-book-in-progress (fun in its own right) in your bare little office, OR over ice cream at the sweet place up the road, sitting outside on a bench under a tree on a perfect summer afternoon. Which should you pick?

My life strategy now is to pick the option that involves ice cream.

So when I received a grant to do research on the manuscripts of Eleanor Estes at the University of Connecticut (fun in its own right), I asked myself: how can I make this fun thing even more fun?

Answer: time the trip so that I could head down from Storrs to NYC afterward on the very weekend that a friend's play was being produced there. My friend Sandy Asher, whom I see every year at the children's literature festival sponsored by the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, had her one-act, one-actor play, Walking to America, selected for performance in this year's Solo Festival. Her goal was to sell out the theater so she could obtain a second night: she ended up with SIX. And I was there for one of them.

I took myself to the city from Hartford via Peter Pan bus. I stayed two nights with another writer friend, whom I first met at the poetry writing retreat I attended for many years, in her adorable, tiny book-and-teapot-filled apartment on York Avenue and 64th Street. We attended Sandy's fabulous play together, as well as wandering all around Central Park where I paid a visit to Hans Christian Andersen.

For extra fun, I reconnected with a former CU student whose brilliant creative writing thesis I advised over a decade ago; we spent hours at two different vegan cafes talking, talking, talking. I had lunch with my editor, Margaret Ferguson at FSG, and iced chocolate with my agent, Steve Fraser (meeting him under the clock at Grand Central Station, something I've always wanted to do). I spent one night with my dear grade-school friend Kim at her cozy home in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. And I took myself to the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland exhibit at the Morgan Library on Madison Avenue.

I even watched the lunar eclipse on an esplanade overlooking the East River. I really can't take credit for what the moon chooses to do, or not to do, but I watched it with eyes ready to feast on any fun that comes their way. Because fun plus fun equals more fun.

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23. pictures mean business: calling all agents!

Literary agents! Illustration agents! We need your help!
Sales of illustrated chapter books are booming - David Walliams' and Tony Ross's illustrated novel is at the top of the overall UK sales chart today - but many illustrators are getting cut out of almost all career-advancing publicity.

One of the main reasons is that illustrators (particularly of illustrated fiction, or so-called 'chapter books' or 'middle grade books') aren't getting their names on the front covers of their books. While they're often credited on the back cover or inside the book, it's the front cover that does the publicity rounds, and what readers and reviewers use to judge who created it. If the illustrator's name isn't on the front cover, they're far less likely to get proper recognition in metadata, so their books won't be searchable online. They may get left out of award lists. Their names may not be included at all in Advance Information sheets sent to reviewers (as noted by Fiona Noble at The Bookseller*).

Here's where we need your help! What need you to unite in your efforts to make sure that in contracts, illustrators get a guarantee that their names will be on the front covers of the books they illustrate. My guideline has been any book that has at least one illustration per chapter. In the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, we're not asking for a lot - not even total equality with the writer in front-cover billing - just that there BE a billing. If the publisher wants to put the illustrator's name in smaller font, that's okay, as long as it's visible on the front cover.

We need your help in this because illustrators are afraid; we worry that if we make too much of a fuss, we'll be branded as 'trouble' and the publishers will commission from work from illustrators who don't stand up for themselves. I'm only able to argue the case because I have such solid support from my own agent Jodie Hodges, publishers, series co-author Philip Reeve, and his agent Philippa Milnes-Smith.

Publishers may offer to pay illustrators an extra fee, so they don't have to put their names on the front covers, but this isn't good enough. Why are publishers ashamed to admit their books are illustrated? Illustration is a key selling point, and not showing the book is illustrated inside is missing a key marketing angle. Pretending that the writer did the pictures (in the name of single-name branding) is false advertising. Illustrators work freelance just like writers - we don't get salaries or benefits - and illustrators need to build careers based on our names.

When publishers say there's no room on the cover for the illustrator's name, this is rubbish. Foreign editions often rejig the cover so this isn't a problem, such as my Dutch publisher, who have completely taken the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign on board:

Without a front-cover credit, illustrators are always going to be left out. We need you to urge publishers to be leaders in doing the right thing, not the last publishers to follow, kicking and screaming. Illustrators are watching how publishers respond, and the publishers who continue to put up the most resistance may find they have trouble commissioning work from the best illustrators. We need you as agents to keep an eye on publisher practice, too.

If your illustrator is working with a celebrity writer, don't let the publisher tell you that it's common practice for all celebs to have single billing. This certainly is not the case with picture books, as seen by examples here. (All these covers credit their illustrators.) Celebs are usually much more quick to recognise artistic skill than some publishers, I find, and are pleased (not ashamed) to be paired up with an artist working in a different field to their own.

If you can tweet your support with the #PicturesMeanBusiness hash tag, we can get a good idea of which agents are supportive and WILL stand up for their illustrators. Even if you don't tweet, we ask that you'll join us in making sure your clients don't get any nasty surprises when their book comes out, uncredited. We need you agents to lead the way, even for illustrators who don't have agents. We need to make the deliberate omission of illustrators something that everyone finds distasteful.

The great thing about this campaign is that, in public, almost everyone agrees with it and supports us fully. It's kind of a no-brainer. But we still need your brains and your clout. Recent sales of physical books show that people are very interested in how books look, their craftsmanship, their tactile qualities. Illustrated chapter books are filling a big niche in the children's book market, in that under-filled gap between picture books and text-only books; it's just the gap where we're losing kids who will turn into readers for life, and pictures really help keep those kids on board. Interest in illustrated books for adults and comics/graphic novels is on the rise. Britain isn't a major manufacturing nation anymore, but illustration is one thing we can be proud to say that we create and export, and we do it very well.

Find out more about the campaign on the website www.picturesmeanbusiness.com and in the Twitter conversation at #PicturesMeanBusiness.


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24. My tweets

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25. An (in)effective interrogation

In early July, the American Psychological Association (APA) released an independent report detailing collusion between the APA and the Bush Administration on abusive interrogation techniques. The 500 plus page Hoffman report found that a small group of APA officials colluded with counterparts in the Department of Defense (DOD).

The post An (in)effective interrogation appeared first on OUPblog.

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