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26. Black Speculative Fiction: The Hunger of Imagining

I was just speaking with a colleague about the need to incite curiosity as the basis for research. Questioning, wondering and south-africa-tribes-e28093-south-african-cultureimagining are essential real life skills that are certainly nurtured in speculative fiction.

Earlier this year, authors Zetta Elliott and Ibi Zoboi  published part of a conversation about race and representation in The Hunger Games and YA speculative fiction. Their conversation, which continued on Zetta’s blog brought out significant points on the critical importance of brown girls being seen in worlds of flight and fantasy.

 

IBI: My first contact with speculative fiction was the stories I would hear my family tell. They

Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi

happened in Haiti—political stories intermingled with loogaroo stories, which is like a vampire-type figure in Haitian folklore. There was always a sense of magic and darkness and fear in those stories. There was always somebody who didn’t come home and it was usually associated with the tonton macoute (a bogeyman with a sack), or a loogaroo who came to get somebody’s child. I had two mystical, folkloric figures woven into these political stories about family and friends, so that line between what was real and what was not was never clear.

ZETTA: In my childhood, that line between fantasy and reality was very clear because I was reading British novels in Canada—C.S. Lewis and Frances Hodgson Burnett, which isn’t

Zetta Elliott

Zetta Elliott

exactly fantasy. But her work featured these wealthy, white children living on the moors in England and was so far removed from my reality. And because those books didn’t serve as a mirror, fantasy was very much something that happened to other people. I didn’t really imagine magical, wonderful things happening to me because everything that I read said it only happened to kids of a certain color or a certain class. In terms of gender, at least girls were having adventures, too, so that was a good thing.

You and I are both writers and we’re obviously trying to generate our own stories. Is there a way for us to make an intervention in the field of YA fantasy? How do our stories reach our kids?  MORE

A short list of great resources for racial diversity in young adult sci-fi

bde3b60f5b88f236b3a5a07ca2c0b3a4_400x400

Eboni Elizabeth

Eboni Elizabeth, writing at the Dark Fantastic positions the following regarding people of color  and Native Americans and how YA lit fails in this regard.

There is an imagination gap when we can’t imagine a little Black girl as the symbolic Mockingjay who inspires a revolution in one of today’s most popular YA megaseries.
There is an imagination gap when one of the most popular Black female characters on teen television is stripped of agency, marginalized within the larger story, and becomes a caricature of her literary counterpart.
There is an imagination gap when a Korean-Canadian woman’s critique of J.K. Rowling’s character Cho Chang in the Harry Potter novels is seen as more problematic than certain aspects of the character herself.
There is an imagination gap when a Nambe Pueblo critic’s perspectives on a pre-Columbian America “without people, but with animals” are seen as more problematic than the worldbuilding itself.

This is taken from “The Imagination Gap in #Kidlit and #YAlit: An Introduction to the Dark Fantastic“, her initial blog post. In addition to pulling readers into spaces of deep conversation, Eboni highlights numerous Dark Fantastic/Black Speculative Fiction resources in her side bar.

 


Filed under: Causes Tagged: Black Speculative Fiction Month

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27. Mobile soundsystem


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28. Black Speculative Fiction: The Hunger of Imagining

I was just speaking with a colleague about the need to incite curiosity as the basis for research. Questioning, wondering and south-africa-tribes-e28093-south-african-cultureimagining are essential real life skills that are certainly nurtured in speculative fiction.

Earlier this year, authors Zetta Elliott and Ibi Zoboi  published part of a conversation about race and representation in The Hunger Games and YA speculative fiction. Their conversation, which continued on Zetta’s blog brought out significant points on the critical importance of brown girls being seen in worlds of flight and fantasy.

 

IBI: My first contact with speculative fiction was the stories I would hear my family tell. They

Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi

happened in Haiti—political stories intermingled with loogaroo stories, which is like a vampire-type figure in Haitian folklore. There was always a sense of magic and darkness and fear in those stories. There was always somebody who didn’t come home and it was usually associated with the tonton macoute (a bogeyman with a sack), or a loogaroo who came to get somebody’s child. I had two mystical, folkloric figures woven into these political stories about family and friends, so that line between what was real and what was not was never clear.

ZETTA: In my childhood, that line between fantasy and reality was very clear because I was reading British novels in Canada—C.S. Lewis and Frances Hodgson Burnett, which isn’t

Zetta Elliott

Zetta Elliott

exactly fantasy. But her work featured these wealthy, white children living on the moors in England and was so far removed from my reality. And because those books didn’t serve as a mirror, fantasy was very much something that happened to other people. I didn’t really imagine magical, wonderful things happening to me because everything that I read said it only happened to kids of a certain color or a certain class. In terms of gender, at least girls were having adventures, too, so that was a good thing.

You and I are both writers and we’re obviously trying to generate our own stories. Is there a way for us to make an intervention in the field of YA fantasy? How do our stories reach our kids?  MORE

A short list of great resources for racial diversity in young adult sci-fi

bde3b60f5b88f236b3a5a07ca2c0b3a4_400x400

Eboni Elizabeth

Eboni Elizabeth, writing at the Dark Fantastic positions the following regarding people of color  and Native Americans and how YA lit fails in this regard.

There is an imagination gap when we can’t imagine a little Black girl as the symbolic Mockingjay who inspires a revolution in one of today’s most popular YA megaseries.
There is an imagination gap when one of the most popular Black female characters on teen television is stripped of agency, marginalized within the larger story, and becomes a caricature of her literary counterpart.
There is an imagination gap when a Korean-Canadian woman’s critique of J.K. Rowling’s character Cho Chang in the Harry Potter novels is seen as more problematic than certain aspects of the character herself.
There is an imagination gap when a Nambe Pueblo critic’s perspectives on a pre-Columbian America “without people, but with animals” are seen as more problematic than the worldbuilding itself.

This is taken from “The Imagination Gap in #Kidlit and #YAlit: An Introduction to the Dark Fantastic“, her initial blog post. In addition to pulling readers into spaces of deep conversation, Eboni highlights numerous Dark Fantastic/Black Speculative Fiction resources in her side bar.

 


Filed under: Causes Tagged: Black Speculative Fiction Month

0 Comments on Black Speculative Fiction: The Hunger of Imagining as of 10/21/2014 11:28:00 AM
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29. Face-Lift 1229


Guess the Plot

Love to the 25th Power

1. High school mathematics genius Tim has always been too interested in ones and zeroes to pay attention to girls. But when he tweaks a new formula he's working on it has unexpected consequences - the Binary girl of his dreams comes to life from the paper. Hilarity ensues.

2. Junie Jasmine has 25 boyfriends, and the only way to get rid of them is cannibalism. But eating the flesh of 25 guys won't be easy, not unless she has some delicious apple juice to wash them down. Also, a homeless guy with a cello.

3. After months of calculations, adjustments, and equations, ubernerd Felix Snodgrass has finally found the Holy Grail of Nerddom: The mathematical formula that, when performed, gets girls to instantly fall in love with you. Now all he has to do is leave the basement and find a girl to try it on.

4. Delbert is tired of never having a date for prom, or any other dance. This year will be different. All summer he toils creating his perfect girl. She's beautiful, and witty, and his. But when senior year begins, she falls for Jason, star quarterback. Now Delbert's on a mission to destroy them both.

5. Love Potion No. 9? The Magnificent Seven? Sixteen shells from a thirty-ought-six? Amateurs. When it came to a love of math, Music Professor Studdly McMuffintops would show them a thing or two. He would give them a Love to the 25th Power. Trouble was, he’d never been very good with differential equations… and how in the heck was he gonna work that into a hot, sexy sax solo?

6. Snerdly Butterschnokin had never been much of a people person. But when sweater-wearing Swanoula moved to town, Snerdly’s goose was cooked. He needed to up his game, and fast, before any arrogant hunters could move in on his territory. Trouble was, he’d been stuck at the first level of power ever since he could remember. Let’s see… if breathing was the 1st power, then what was second? And how was he ever to develop his Love . . . to the 25th Power?


Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA fantasy/suspense novel, 70k words, Love to the 25th Power.

Sixteen-year old Junie Jasmine Wilshire’s got 25 boyfriends, all at the same time. And most of them want to kill her. [What's stopping them?]

Ex-boyfriends is more like it.

But, as far as she can remember Junie's never even had a date, let alone a boyfriend. But one of her exes swears she's been with him for years. Her only clue, giving to her by a silent, cello-toting, homeless guy is a note with a single word written on it "Haven."[I think I'd rather know the explanation for this seeming contradiction than who gave her the clue.]

No girl wants to eat the flesh of her ex-boyfriend to heal her wounds, but cannibalism of past lovers is the least of Junie’s worries. [What the--? Where is this coming from? You can't bring up cannibalism of past lovers without laying some groundwork or immediately explaining yourself.] Junie Jasmine Wilshire only wants to be herself- a non-conforming, irresponsible, teenage tomboy who likes urban hip-hop and apple juice. Yet, when the reigning high school cat-fight champion crashes her sixteenth birthday car into a ditch, Junie realizes she is not immortal. [Did she think she was immortal up until then? If so, why?] [The sentences in that paragraph don't seem connected to one another.

But, the many men hunting her very well could be.

A thousand years ago, a witch poisoned 25 men with a potion that captured every romantic ideal of love in its spell: long-lasting youth, emotional intimacy, soul bindings, and last but not least, duration--forever. [This "poison" doesn't sound so bad to me. It's like your doctor tells you you've contracted an STD and, horrified, you ask what the symptoms are and she says, "Eternal youth, a much-improved sex life, and no side effects.] [Maybe you can just say she gave 25 men a potion.] [Maybe you should start the query here, as up to now everything's been sounding nuts.] Like 25 blood vessels connected to one heart, the men will survive as long as she, the heart, survives.

But there’s a problem: men hate forced commitment, and when the spell lifts after a thousand years, [What was that about "duration--forever"?] they want revenge. Now, the witch is sixteen years reincarnated, and Junie Wilshire is their new (and improved!) soul-mate. [Are you saying she's the witch? If so, she would have had to die in order to be reincarnated. If she died, why didn't the 25 "blood vessels?]

Junie’s got to figure out what's going on, who she is, and how to break up with her exes once and for all. And fast. The past has come back to haunt her. Karma is a real, and the men are out for blood. She’s got to drop the mean-girl act, [What mean-girl act? She's been described as a a non-conforming, irresponsible, teenage tomboy who's never had a date, not as a mean girl.] protect her friends and frienemies [From what?] or bring her immortal soulmates down with her. [Are her soul mates immortal despite the spell being lifted?] [I don't see why she has to drop the mean-girl act or why she has to protect her friends. What does she have to do to thwart those hunting her? Leave town and go into hiding? Can she put them under another spell? Can't her witchy powers protect her from them?]


Notes

This is all over the place, confusing, disorganized, and full of extraneous information. If you use only the last three paragraphs it'll sound decent, something like this:

A thousand years ago, a witch put a spell on 25 men, granting them eternal youth but also binding their souls to hers. Problem is, the men didn't all want to be romantically committed to the witch.

Fast-forward to modern times. The witch has taken the persona of 16-year-old high school student Junie Jasmine Wilshire. The spell, which lasts a thousand years is about to be lifted. And Junie's "soulmates" want revenge.

Junie’s got to figure out how to break up with her exes once and for all. And fast. The past has come back to haunt her, and the men are out for blood.


Build on that, especially with the stakes. What must she do and what happens if she fails to do it?

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30. Re-Grouping

More than two weeks after Mma has passed away, I'm slowly pulling the threads of my new life together. Traditionally in Phokeng, we pack up the deceased's stuff (clothing, shoes, linen, personal knicknacks etc) immediately after they pass away, even before the funeral. So all Mma's personal things are in storage to later go to the relevant people and the house, which is very big, feels even

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31. Would this be too much for readers?

Question: What do you think of a fantasy war story that is written from two main character's perspectives? One pov would be from the side of a single man

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32. CANSCAIP's Packaging Your Imagination Conference

Thanks so much to CANSCAIP for inviting me to be a speaker at the Packaging Your Imagination conference at Humber College this past weekend. I had a fantastic time and once again appreciated what a wonderful kidlit/YA community we have here in Canada.

I've posted some of my photos on Facebook and on Flickr.

Kate BlairThanks to Kate Blair for being my "shadow" during the event; Kate helped get me find the right rooms, introduced me at my workshop, made me feel welcome. Kate is a middle grade and YA writer, and placed 2nd in the 2010 Toronto Star Short Story Contest (out of 1800 entries!) as well as being longlisted for the CBC short story contest in both 2011 and 2012. You can find out more about Kate and her work at Kateblair.com.

Anyway, the subway was shut down between Eglinton and Bloor so I ended up taking a cab and arrived way early! The organizers were still setting up. I think I was one of the first to pick up my speaker badge:

Ran into my Torkidlit friend Karen Krossing, who helped distract me from my pre-talk jitters by walking around the venue with me, figuring out where the speaker coats could be stored, etc. Here are CANSCAIP Administrative Director Helena Aalto and PYI Co-Director Lorna Poplak, just before the conference officially opened:

I also had time to check out the art show. So much wonderful children's book art, and I also loved the process sketches that some people included. I'm new enough that I also got a thrill to see my own art up on display...and also very cool to see my sister's art right beside it:

Teresa Toten's opening keynote was inspiring! I've just started reading THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B, Teresa's novel that won the 2013 Governor General Literary Award For Children's Literature, and am loving it so far.

Teresa Toten, giving her inspiring opening keynote

After that were the first set of workshop sessions, including mine! Thanks SO much to the Humber AV crew, who did a fantastic job at PYI:

and the E-Learning team in my session, who helped the streaming portion run smoothly for virtual attendees:

The photo at the top (courtesy GABBY author Joyce Grant) is from the beginning of my session. Here's one from GRACE author/illustrator Kate Parkinson, who was a virtual attendee:

And here's her screen with the live video in the top left and my current slide on the right:

After the conference, I asked Kate how the streaming went and she reports it ran smoothly, thanks to the Humber College tech crew. You can also read Kate's report about being a virtual attendee at CANSCAIP's event on her blog. Kate's FIRST children's book (she's author/illustrator), GRACE, comes out from Holiday House Books early next year!

Back to PYI. My session seemed to go well, yay. I was still really nervous, but it was a bit easier than last time I gave a talk, plus the attendees were enthusiastic and asked interesting questions. After my session, I stayed in the room so I could hear Ashley Spires talk about her work:

Ashley Spires during her session at PYI

I so love Ashley's bubbly enthusiasm and energy! Ashley talked about the creation process for Binky The Space Cat series of junior graphic novels, which I found fascinating, entertaining and informative. Did you know that Ashley initially drew all her herringbone and other intricate textures by HAND? Wow. I think Ashley noticed the look of awe (ok, maybe more like horror :-)) on my face when she told us this. 

Anyway, finally getting to meet Ashley Spires in person was one of my personal highlights at PYI.

With my talk over, I could relax at lunchtime and just chat. Thanks to my lunchtime companions for some great kidlit/YA conversation (including my Torkidlit pal Nicole Winters in the bottom right):

I looked around for my MiGWriters critique partner, Andrea Mack, but missed seeing her! Happily, we ran into each other later in the conference. Here are Lana Button, Jan Dolby (so great to finally meet Jan in person!!) and Joyce Grant:

Lana Button, Jan Dolby and Joyce Grant at PYI 2014. Joyce and Jan are the creative team behind the GABBY series from Fitzhenry and Whiteside Publishers. Finally getting to meet Jan Dolby in person was another personal highlight during the conference. Lana's WILLOW FINDS A WAY was just nominated for a 2014 Blue Spruce Award, by the way!

In the afternoon, I was faced (again) with an impossible choice: I wanted to attend all the workshops! I ended up opting for the industry panel with Susan Rich (Editor-At-Large at Little, Brown) and Tara Walker (Editorial director at Tundra Books):

An excellent panel, so informative AND entertaining. :-D Teresa Toten was a fabulous moderator.

I stupidly missed getting a photo of Susin Nielsen, who gave a wonderful closing keynote (see audience above). We even got to see a clip of her acting role in the original Degrassi Junior High (she was a screenwriter)!

Plus LOOK, I won a prize in the raffle! I never win anything but thanks to CANSCAIP and the Vermont College Of Fine Arts, I won this bag of goodies:

Thanks to Lena Coakley for giving me a lift to a small gathering hosted by Sharon Jennings afterwards. Sadly, a bad headache prevented me from staying as long as I had wished but it was fun chatting with some of the others who came. Thank you, Sharon!

And again, THANK YOU so much to CANSCAIP and all the volunteers and organizers. Everything went so smoothly and I had so much fun, plus came away super-inspired.

If you're a Canadian children's book author, illustrator or performer, I strongly recommend you checking out CANSCAIP's website....and do consider attending next year's PYI event!

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33. Margaret Atwood Fans Invited to Take Part in a Wattpad Writing Contest

Stone MattressRandom House has released Margaret Atwood’s new short fiction collection, Stone Mattress. One of the nine tales, “The Freeze-Dried Groom,” has been posted on Wattpad. This particular piece leaves the reader with many unanswered questions.

Some of these queries include “Will Sam be a killer or a victim?” and “What are the other characters’ versions of events?” Fans are invited to take part in a writing contest to answer these questions. Follow this link to learn about all the rules.

The deadline has been set for October 31st at 11:59 p.m. EST and a winner will be announced on November 18th. The grand prize winner will receive a signed Stone Mattress anthology, a tweet from Atwood, and loot from Wattpad. Two runner-ups will also receive autographed of copies of Atwood’s book.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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34. Two New Exciting Books!!! Rookie Yearbook Three and This is Your Afterlife!!!

I love October. October 3 (my wedding anniversary) and October 31st (the best holiday of all!) are my favorite days, but today, October 21st, is really giving them a run for their money because not one, but TWO books that I've been eagerly awaiting are coming out. I seriously couldn't be more excited about these books if they were my own: ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE, edited by Tavi Gevinson, and THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the YA debut by my hilarious, brilliant, amazing, simply-not-enough-cool-adjectives-exist-to-fully-describe-her critique partner, Vanessa Barneveld!

Let's talk about the amazing Vanessa and her book first. My books would basically not exist if not for Vanessa--well, they definitely would not be as good. We became online critique partners (Vanessa lives in Australia where I really hope to visit her one day!) shortly after I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE sold in 2007. She's read multiple versions of both of my books (and some not-published manuscripts as well) and was a total lifesaver during the revisions of BALLADS OF SUBURBIA in particular, reading and immediately responding to the changes I was making at 3 am (this was where it was very convenient to have an Australian CP). She's got an eye for character and an ear for voice, which have helped me a ton, but those plus her incredible sense of humor have made her manuscripts a blast for me to read over the years and I AM SO FREAKIN' EXCITED that readers EVERYWHERE get to be swept into one of Vanessa's worlds.

Here's the lowdown on THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE!

When the one boy you crushed on in life can't seem to stay away in death, it's hard to be a normal teen when you're a teen paranormal.

Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.

Keira's determined to do anything to find Jimmy's killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira's ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.

This thrilling debut from Vanessa Barneveld crosses over from our world to the next, and brings a whole delightful new meaning to "teen spirit".

Here's the book trailer:



I devoured THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. It was funny, it was sad, it kept me turning pages, and best of all, it reminded me of my own teenage years when I was obsessed with the Ouija Board and longing for the psychic abilities that Keira has. If you are looking for great ghost story with laugh-out-loud moments and more thrills than chills, this is it.

To celebrate her launch, Vanessa is throwing a big, online bash on her blog from tomorrow, October 22nd through October 31st. It will be filled with guests, including me! I'm doing a post and a giveaway (of an anthology featuring a ghost story I've written) on October 30th. I hope to see you there!

And now.... (drum roll)... on to ROOKIE!!!!

I've had the privilege of being a part of Rookie magazine since it launched in September of 2011. (Remember this super-excited blog post when it debuted?) I'm still in awe of everything that we do. The Yearbooks feature the best of the best of our online pieces for each year as well as some cool added bonuses. This is our first Yearbook with Razorbill and since I'm a Penguin/Random House author too now, I'm think that's pretty awesome. I also have two essays in this one, which feels like a huge accomplishment.

Here's the lowdown on ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE!

Rookiemag.com is a website created by and for young women to make the best of the beauty, pain and awkwardness of being a teenager. When it becomes tough to appreciate such things, we have good plain fun and visual pleasure. When you're sick of having to be happy all the time, we have lots of rants, too. Every school year, we compile the best from the site into a print yearbook. Behold: our Junior year!

In Rookie Yearbook Three, we explore cures for love, girl-on-girl crime, open relationships, standing for something, embracing our inner posers, and so much more. Featuring interviews with Rookie role models like Sofia Coppola, Amandla Stenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Kim Gordon, and a bonus section chock-full of exclusive content including a pizza pennant, sticker sheet, valentines, plus advice and contributions from Lorde, Shailene Woodley, Dakota and Elle Fanning, Grimes, Kelis, Sia, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City, Haim, and more!

I know!!!! Amazing, right? Can't wait to go home and pore over my copy!

And if you are in the New York or Toronto areas, there are events celebrating the release TOMORROW, October 22. There is also an event in Brooklyn on November 5th. All of the details are on the Rookie Events page. Go if you can and tell me how fabulous it was!

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35. Macmillan to Publish New Board Book By Jimmy Fallon

DadaThe Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon has been working on a new book. Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group will release Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada as a board book on June 09, 2015.

The story follows a father as he tries to make is so that his child’s first word is “dada.” This project was inspired by Fallon’s mission to compel his daughter, Winnie Rose, to say “dada” for her first word. Sadly, the young girl did not comply and instead said “mama.”

Here’s more from The Hollywood Reporter: “This is Fallon’s second board book. The first, Snowball Fight, about kids having fun when school is canceled for snow, came out in 2005. He’s also the author of a couple of funny books for adults — Thank You Notes and Thank You Notes 2 — that were based on skits from his late night TV show.”

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36. The Power of Reviews

On Friday author Kathleen Hale wrote an article for The Guardian about her experience being catfished. On Monday Twitter, and a number of blogs, got quite excited about this topic and lots of people had lots of opinions. I came upon the article when Jessica Alvarez mentioned it to me and before reading anything about it I went to The Guardian article. I wanted to base any opinion I had on what Kathleen Hale had to say rather than read the opinions of others first.

Even without reading what others thought I know that some people feel that Kathleen Hale was catfished, others feel she crossed a line herself and was not the victim or the only victim and still others wonder if the entire post was made up. After reading just Kathleen Hale's post I do stand behind her in some respects. Not all, but some.

I've been in this business long enough to know the impact a review can have on an author. I've seen smart, successful authors completely lose all self-confidence because of one review or one comment on a writing loop or in a blog. In most cases authors who reacted this way were not the stereotypical "neurotic" or introverted authors. They are almost always people who are successful in various different aspects of their lives. They deal with high stress jobs, families and seem to juggle an entire life on top of a writing life. In other words, these are people who have faced adversity before and wore it well.

In fact, while I'm not an author, I've been one of those people. After six years of blogging about what I really thought it was bound to happen. And happen it did. Time and time again. There were times when the comments on the blog got so contentious I would stop sleeping. I panicked that I had alienated my clients, editors or ruined it for all of us. There were times I would have to shut down the computer and walk away for the day. But each and every time it happened walking away was always the best answer for me.

In Kathleen Hale's case the only story we know is hers. As of yet, to the best of my knowledge, we haven't heard from the reviewer she's charging with catfishing. A term by the way I had never heard until reading her article. Whether or not she was catfished, in my mind, doesn't really matter.  Fro a variety of reasons reviewers and bloggers act anonymously. In some ways it's one of the great things about the Internet. It's also one of worst things. Being anonymous allows us to really say what we want to say and what we think. Something a lot of people wouldn't be comfortable doing under their own name or couldn't do (it might hurt a career or their own reputation in some way). True confession here, before starting the blog I used to comment anonymously all the time on writing forums. I acknowledged that I was an agent, but I was uncomfortable giving my real name. I didn't want what I said to bite a new agency in the butt. Was I catfishing? I don't think so, I was just giving an opinion. And certainly there have been a ton of anonymous publishing bloggers and Tweeters, people who just want to say what they believe without facing repercussions.

Did Kathleen Hale go to far? Probably. Personally I think any time you start tracking down someone in person you are probably going to far. But I get how someone can go there. Putting yourself out there, whether its by writing a book, an opinion piece in a magazine, or a blog, is a scary, scary thing. Sure you feel great about saying what you believe or finding others to read your work, but at the same time you know you're going to face a backlash. That reviewers will hate what you write and have an opinion about it that differs from your own and you know they're not going to be afraid to say something. Especially because they have the right to remain anonymous in any way they see fit. And when we or our opinion or our writing is attacked it's hard. It often impacts our psyche in a big way.

Personally I've never gone to the lengths Kathleen Hale did to discover the truth about her naysayer, but I get it. Sort of. When someone says something really awful about you or your work you want a chance to discuss it with them. You want a chance to defend yourself without sounding defensive (which is often what happens when you start that discussion on comments). And probably you want the chance to discredit that person. To say, you are wrong and how would you know anyway because.... When someone posts anonymously she knows a whole lot about us, but we know nothing about her. It takes all the power away from us and gives it to her.

There were times when I have been attacked on this blog. Right or wrong, people came out to do whatever they could to discredit me and attack me and my professional integrity. I was scared, I was angry and I Googled. What I learned early on however, and what Kathleen Hale admits to learning in the long run, is that the best answer is to just sit quietly and, as they say, this too shall pass. Let the topic speak for itself or let the other readers comment and take care of it. Sometimes the biggest mistake we can make is saying something at all. What we're doing in that case is exactly what the naysayer wants. We're giving her attention. It's sort of like when Buford grabs my slipper and runs around the office with it. I have the option to chase him, call him and feed him treats. To give him the attention he wants. Or I can sit and work and watch him slowly drop the slipper, confused about why he's not getting the attention he wants.

I'm actually pretty impressed that Kathleen Hale wrote the article at all. Maybe she did it to finally get back at the reviewer, or maybe she just decided to put it out there and get rid of her moment of weakness once and for all. Either way it took bravery. Once again she's getting hit with a lot of opinions from a lot of people who don't know her. Sure its a choice she's making, but as writers I think we all know how difficult it is to face the opinions of others.

--jhf


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37. Windows and mirrors book discussion

Lauren had her first adolescent lit class last night at HGSE (Harvard Graduate School of Education). For last night’s class we talked about How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I love this part of a course when the students go from names and faces on a roster to real people with opinions about books. Lauren gave an excellent overview of literature for adolescents: the history, the jargon, the genres.

oct27readings Windows and mirrors book discussion

For next Monday’s class the theme is Windows & Mirrors and they will all read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. For their second book, they have a choice between Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and Cynthia Kadohata’s The Thing About Luck. Tough choice!

Please join us as we discuss these books before Monday evening’s class. Things tend to pick up steam later in the week, but we like to put up the posts early for those who are reading ahead.

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The post Windows and mirrors book discussion appeared first on The Horn Book.

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38. The Sixteen - Soul Jumpers - book two



Quote of the day:




Today's featured book:




Title:  The Sixteen - Soul Jumpers
Book Two
Author:  Ali B.

About the book:

This young adult novel is full of the paranormal and thrilling suspense.  Once you enter into the story you find yourself, along with the main character, Iris Brave, trying to figure out who are the courageous heroes and who are the evil villains.  

Iris is a young, brave, skeptical girl whose father Micah is a soul jumper.  What is that you may ask?  A soul jumper is someone who does not die with their bodies but lives on in the bodies of others.  Iris makes the startling discovery that her dad is still alive, living in a teen age boy's body, and that he has been kidnapped by the villainous Council.  He needs her help to rescue him.  She, along with sixteen other soul jumpers, carefully create a plan to do just that.  Iris is about to have her reality turned upside down as she agrees to partake in an adventure that literally will change her life forever.  Along the way as this plan is implemented, she must discern who is on her side and who are her enemies. She is in constant danger and the cruelty and abuse that she suffers by the hands of The Council only makes her more determined to defeat and eradicate them.  

Young adults readers will be enthralled and totally enjoy the fantasy and mystery that the author has woven throughout this novel from the very beginning to the very end.   I, myself, as an adult (I think I am) enjoyed the book a lot.

About the author:



I can't remember a time when I wasn't reading. I love books! My mother was an incredible librarian and she always had a stack of books by her chair. Now I have my own stack. I also have a lengthy library queue, a To Be Read list on Goodreads, and a virtual online shopping cart full of brilliant titles.
I love writing too. I love creating characters. I love giving them lives, adventures, challenges and quirks. For me, writing is about developing characters that are worth knowing, throwing obstacles in their path, and then sitting back and watching them grow. And typing. Lots and lots of typing.




 Book Review Rating:  8 (Fantastic!)

Read on and read always!  Have an amazing day. 

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39. App of the Week: 2048

2048
Title: 2048
Cost: Free
Platform: iOS and Android

2048 may be 2 to the eleventh power, but it’s also the name of a game I have noticed a lot of people playing lately. It’s based on a paid game, Threes!, which has won numerous game design awards, but the story behind 2048 involves a teen game developer, Gabriele Cirulli who tackled the design as a weekend project then released the game as open-source so that anyone can use the code behind it to build their own versions. You can play through a browser as well.

screen568x568 (1)
 
This game really doesn’t support STEM — the applicability of math to success is minimal. Instead, you combine the same numbers to perform the additive operation. But the real challenge is in thinking ahead and positioning your number tiles. Moving one tiles moves ALL the tiles, and the number of moves available to you are finite.

screen568x568

It’s easy to see how 2048 builds adopts the gaming strategies in Threes!. There are many, many knock-off versions of these games around, and much digital ink has been spilled from both amateur and professional quarters discussing strategies. There are ads in the free version, too. But for free, 2048 is an easy way to give these sorts of games a go. As Wired categorized them, these are games that are “Hard Enough to Be Played Forever.”

Have a suggestion for an App of the Week? Let us know. And check out more YALSA Apps of the Week in our archive.

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40. Guest Post & Interview: J.L. Powers & George Mendoza on Children's Book Illustration & Colors of the Wind

By J.L. Powers
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

What would your life be like if it felt like you were looking into a kaleidoscope every time you opened your eyes?

What would it feel like to experience strange visions twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, even at night when you dream?

That’s what happened to George Mendoza when he started going blind as a teenager.

My first picture book, Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza (Purple House Press, 2014), is a picture book biography about George Mendoza.

When George was 15, he lost his central vision and started seeing things that weren't there—eyes floating in the air, extraordinary colors, objects multiplied and reflected back.

George describes this condition as having "kaleidoscope eyes."

He triumphed over his blindness by setting the world record in the mile for blind runners, and later competing in both the 1980 and 1984 Olympics for the Disabled.

Now a full-time artist, Mendoza's collection of paintings, also titled "Colors of the Wind," is a National Smithsonian Affiliates traveling exhibit. His artwork has also been printed onto fabric and is now sold internationally by Westminster as cloth for clothing and quilts.

Ironically, George paints what he “sees,” an entirely unique phenomenon among painters.

Colors of the Wind is George’s story, illustrated with his paintings (and supplemented with line drawings by Haley Morgan-Sanders).

"Flight of Feathers"
I sat down with George and asked him about the process of becoming a children’s book illustrator.

Powers: What is it like to go from fine artist to illustrator of a children’s book?

Mendoza: Because of my vision problem, being legally blind, I was unable to illustrate the book. But ironically the words that you wrote fit into my paintings. It was kind of a miracle in a way.

Jill Morgan selected those paintings very carefully. And it saved me a lot of trouble because I couldn’t really put paintings to the words.

Wise Tree
Powers: What is it like to have your art used to depict the journey to becoming an artist?

Mendoza: Well, I’ve had great success with painting and having Westminster Inc. do the fabrics, quilts, clothing based on my artwork.

I never thought of doing a children’s book. I think because we’re in a digital age, I thought of doing book covers and CD covers—but never a children’s book.

To have my artwork reproduced digitally on books and fabrics is just a beautiful feeling, to know that people look at my art.

In the beginning, when I first started painting, people said, “Oh, wow, that’s amazing because he’s blind.”

Now they don’t even know that I’m blind because they’re introduced to my artwork only as its reproduced digitally on different types of products.

Powers: Have you ever had art used as covers for CDs? Because I love that idea.

Mendoza: I have actually been contacted by some no-name bands that have put my artwork on their CD covers….and it’s fine with me.

Powers: That’s cool. Anything else you want to say about your journey as an artist and this foray into children’s book publishing?

Mendoza: I grew up with children’s books because my father was a children’s book writer, a very famous children’s book writer. He published over a hundred books with major celebrities like Carol Burnett, Frank Sinatra, celebrities like sports figures. He’s got a classic out called Need a House? Call Miss Mouse (by George Mendoza, illustrated by Doris Susan Smith (Grosset & Dunlap, 1981)).

Jill Morgan (publisher at Purple House Press) wanted to buy the reprint rights for my dad’s book.

She was like the hundredth publisher—email or phone--that I had received over a two-year period so I finally said, “What about our children’s book, Colors of the Wind?”

She said, “Well, let me look at it.”

And it became a children’s book!

www.purplehousepress.com
Visit Purple House Press!


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41. Editorial Submission :: Gerardo Suzán

Post by James

Editorial Submission :: Gerardo Suzán

Editorial Submission :: Gerardo Suzán

Editorial Submission :: Gerardo Suzán

Editorial Submission :: Gerardo Suzán

Gerardo Suzán is an illustrator working professionally since 1985. He focuses mainly on books for young people but his work also appears in advertising, posters, magazines and newspapers. He has won several prizes in Mexico, Japan and USA.

Migration has always been a central topic throughout Gerardo Suzán’s artistic career. The work shown above from one of his children’s books speaks of the importance of self-identity and cultural roots.

Suzán’s formal education includes graphic design at the National School of Visual Arts in México, as well as etching and drawing at the Centro dell’ Incisione with Gigi Pedroli and with Giuliana Consilvio in Milan. He attended the Illustration Seminar organized by the UNESCO and the ACCU (Asian Cultural Center for the UNESCO) taught by Dusan Kallay in Moravany, Slovakia.

You can see more of Gerardo’s work on his website.

 

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42. Review for Seedlings Fables from the Forest by CD Baker





Author Bio:
C.D. Baker's first novel, 'A Journey of Souls,' was released in 2000 and re-released in 2004 as 'Crusade of Tears'-- a Christee Award nominee. He has written seven historical novels, two books of spiritual reflections, and one children's book published variously in the U.S., the U.K., Ukraine, and Germany. He has a Master's degree in Theology from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Baker's specialty is the discovery of the untold story.
Baker writes from his small farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he raises livestock with an interest in natural/organic methods and a passion for humane treatment.

Summary:

Fun fables from the forest for readers 4 - 8. Author C.D. Baker invites children to discover five virtues of a happy life through stories told by trees. The power of gratitude, humility, selflessness, kindness, and forgiveness are revealed in memorable tales that children are sure to love...and to remember.

  • Paperback: 58 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1484813898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1484813898

Review:

Five virtues of a happier life are introduced to young readers through stories told by trees. The power of gratitude, humility, selflessness, kindness and forgiveness are shared by such memorable Tree ‘friends’ as Shady Maple, Slope-Oak, Blue Spruce, and others. The author brings trees to life in these stories, mirroring what some people often feel or believe. Blue Spruce feels she is not big enough, that she is missing something and needs to become better in some way. She accumulates more nests, grows taller, becomes bluer, but she is still not satisfied with herself. She comes to realize through a close friend that the only thing she was missing was just being thankful for what she already had. Once she was able to do that she became more content with who she was and not what she felt she needed to be. This is just one example of the great messages this book contains.

This book is a group of stories where children from 4-8 years of age will learn some great lessons. Questions at the end of each chapter invite children to consider their reactions to the story…and to themselves. The illustrations are amazing and complete the story. They are whimsical and creative. Children as well as parents will love this delightfully told book.

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43. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Stephanie Graegin

Pictured above is the title page illustration from Nancy Van Laan’s Forget Me Not, released by Schwartz & Wade Books in August. This is the poignant and lovingly-rendered story of a young girl whose grandmother is experiencing significant memory loss. It slowly builds in the story — to the point where she is placed in an assisted living center, while her granddaughter watches with concern. The illustrations were rendered by my visitor today, Stephanie Graegin, pictured below.

As you’ll read below, this is Stephanie’s fourth picture book. (Three were released last year.) She’s also illustrated middle grade novels and is working on her own picture book. Graegin’s warm palettes capture the small moments of life, and I wanted to have her over for a cyber-breakfast to discuss her work and see even more art. Normally, she tells me, she’d have a bowl of cereal. But today we are going to splurge by taking a walk to pick up a bacon and egg dub pie from the Dub Pie Shop across the street, along with a coffee.

I thank her for visiting.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Stephanie: Illustrator.

I am in the early stages of working on a picture book that I also wrote (although it has no words), but it feels too soon to call myself an author.


Chicken Soup with Rice Sendak tribute

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?

Stephanie:



 

Picture Books:



 

Middle Grade Novels:

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Stephanie: I draw in pencil (mechanical 2B .5) on paper (Moleskine sketchbook, usually). I draw very tiny and scan the drawing in very high-res to blow it up larger, as I have found I just can’t draw as well large. I make many layers on duralar (a clear paper) of texture, shading, and patterns — using colored pencil, watercolor, and ink. I scan everything into the computer, then compile and color everything digitally in Photoshop. Drawing in pure pencil is my absolute favorite, though.




From the sketchbooks
(Click third image to enlarge)

Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

Stephanie: I have done both picture books and middle grade novels. While I love both, I’ll admit that illustrating a picture book is more challenging — but also more rewarding. A picture book’s text is less specific than a novel, and you are given much more room to explore and to create the world inside the book. A picture book is wide open; almost anything can happen. At times the multitude of options for a illustrating picture book can be overwhelming, but I love the challenge of it. It can be a nice balance to be working on both formats at once — to be able to go back and forth between working in color and in black & white.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Stephanie: I’m in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY, right outside of Prospect Park (the park the book Water in the Park was inspired by). I lived in various neighborhoods in Brooklyn for the last 10 years. I came to Brooklyn to go to graduate school at Pratt Institute. Before I lived in Brooklyn, I lived in Austin, Texas, and Baltimore, MD (where I went to undergrad at The Maryland Institute College of Art). As a kid I lived in Houston, TX; Fort Wayne, IN; and Chicago IL.


“But ever so slowly, like a low tide leaving the bay, a change came along. Grandma was becoming more and more forgetful. First, it was names—of places she’d been or books she’d read or people she knew. Even us. We would joke and tell Grandma she liked to scramble our names for breakfast instead of eggs. And she’d laugh as much as we did.”
(Click to enlarge)


“When she called me Sally or Harry instead of my real name, Julia, I pretended it was a game that Grandma liked to play. After she called out all my wrong names, I’d say, ‘No, silly, my name is Julia!’ Then she’d laugh and clap her hands and say, ‘Oh, silly me! Hello, bright-as-sunshine Julia!’”
(Click to enlarge)


“‘Smells like rain,’ Grandma would say sometimes on a perfectly clear day. ‘Better get out the umbrella.’ Then, a couple of minutes later, she would say, ‘Smells like rain.
Better get out the umbrella.’ And Grandma’s head kept getting worse.”

(Click to enlarge)

Pictured above: Spreads from Nancy Van Laan’s
Forget Me Not

Jules: Can you tell me about your road to publication?

Stephanie: I studied Fine Arts, focusing on printmaking in college and graduate school. I made a lot of artist’s books with etchings, which looking back, were essentially hand-printed picture books. Illustrating children’s books was something I have wanted to do since I was about five, but it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I focused all my energy on making it a reality. Everything fell into place around the same time. I changed the way I was working — I had been making Edward Gorey-inspired work using pen and ink, but it wasn’t right for me. I started drawing only in pencil and adding the color digitally. Something clicked, and the work became so much better.

When the work was in a place where I felt ready to show it, I spent about a year making children’s book portfolio pieces and then about three months putting together a hand-bound mini portfolio booklet, which fit into a 4×6 envelope.


(Click to enlarge)

I sent these out to around 250 editors and art directors, and the calls for book work started happening. Around this same time, I was extremely fortunate that Nate Williams posted a blog post of my work on illustrationmundo, and literary agent Steven Malk at Writers House saw it. Steven reached out to me, and he’s been my agent since then.

[Pictured below are sketches and final art from Emily Jenkins'
Water in the Park

(Schwartz & Wade, 2013)].


“Very early thumbnail sketches of the first two spreads in the book.”
(Click to enlarge)


“An early sketch of the playground scene.”
(Click to enlarge)


“A later sketch of the same spread, with a new composition and lots of people added.”
(Click to enlarge)



Sketches that became part of the final artwork …
(Click each to enlarge)


“On very hot days, as the sun rises, an orange glow shines in the water of the pond.
Just before six o’clock, turtles settle on rocks. They warm their turtle shells in the light.
Good morning, park!”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“By seven o’clock, two babies have come to the park. One has a bagel in a brown paper bag. The other has a plastic box of apple pieces. The babies want drinks from the water fountain. They point their baby fingers and jump.
Their grown-ups lift them. Up and up.”

(Click to enlarge)


“It is seven o’clock. A stripey cat creeps from beneath a bush and laps a quiet puddle. Tup tup. Tup tup. And now the dogs come.
Rouw! Rouw! Rouw! Time for an evening swim.”

(Click to enlarge)



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Stephanie:

Website: www.graegin.com.

Instagram: instagram.com/sgraegin.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Stephanie-Graegin/154714944541337.

Twitter: twitter.com/Steph_Graegin.


(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Stephanie: I’m very thankful that there are a lot of books on the way!

I illustrated a picture book for Penguin (Dial), titled Peace Is an Offering [pictured below], coming out in March 2015. Written by Annette LeBox, the text is a beautiful poem about finding peace in your community.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)

I’m currently working on a second picture book for Farrar, Straus and Giroux about two young, adorable brothers. The first picture book in the duo is titled How to Share with a Bear and was written by Eric Pinder. It comes out in Fall 2015.

There are three other picture books I am newly working on, including the book I am writing — but its still too early to give details on those.




Character studies and sketches from
Nancy Van Laan’s
Forget Me Not
(Click each to enlarge)

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got more coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Stephanie again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?

Stephanie

: The very first thing I do when given a manuscript is break up the text into pages. When I’m given a manuscript, it’s a Word document with no page breaks. I make very tiny thumbnails (about an inch big) to figure out the page count (32 or 40 pages) and what goes where.


Early sketch
(Click to enlarge)

I keep working slightly bigger as I revise. In the early rough sketch phase, I draw the whole book around 3×3 inches a page. After revising these, I draw larger, more refined sketches. I then send these sketches to the editor or art director. They make suggestions, and then I revise again — usually, a few times before going to final art. During the initial sketch stage, I also do a lot of character studies, drawing them in my sketchbook, which I take everywhere, to get to know what these characters look like before I start the final sketches.


Final art: “And she still smelled like cinnamon and lilac when we cuddled up close.”

The final art stage is the most time-consuming but can be the most rewarding — with the book finally coming to life in full color. I usually spend three months on final art. Those three months are filled with very late nights working, and I pretty much become a hermit. I start with very loose color studies over the final sketches in Photoshop to get an idea of the palette for the entire book. Nailing down the perfect palette for the mood of the book, for me, is one of the more difficult steps in the finals process. Once I have a palette that I’m comfortable with, I start making the layers of texture and shading with watercolors and colored pencil. Those are scanned in, and I start the assembly and digital coloring process. I pretty much keep working and reworking the art until the deadline day.


Studio sketchbooks
(Click to enlarge)

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.

Stephanie

: I work out of my apartment, and it’s small. So really my whole apartment is my work space. My favorite spot to draw is at my kitchen table.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


With studio assistant, Bustopher
(Click to enlarge)

3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?

Stephanie

: I was obsessed with the Richard Scarry Busytown books and What Do People Do All Day? He was a major influence in how I learned to draw animals.

I also loved Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books and Maurice Sendak’s The Nutshell Library; they are still my favorite children’s books to this day.

As for novels, I loved Beverly Cleary, especially the Ramona books. I had the same haircut and attitude as Ramona and felt she was written just for me. One of my prized possessions is a postcard Beverly Cleary sent me when I was six. My older sister and I had written to her to tell her how much we loved the books.

Another favorite chapter book was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I reread that book multiple times a year for many years. My copy is held together with tape.

4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Stephanie: A glass of wine with Renata Liwska, Isabelle Arsenault, and Benji Davies. I’m very fond of all of their artwork.

[Pictured below are sketches and final art from Liz Garton Scanlon's
Happy Birthday, Bunny! (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, 2013)].


“Early thumbnails of spreads.”
(Click to enlarge)


Sketch that became part of the final artwork.
(Click to enlarge)


“Thumbnails of jacket ideas. The final cover ended up being
a combination of the two at the top.”

(Click to enlarge)





Final art
(Click each spread to enlarge)


5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Stephanie: I listen to many podcasts — Radiolab, This American Life, Freakonomics, Matthew Winner’s Let Get Busy podcast

, along with listening to music. Music favorites at the moment are Beirut, The Dodos, Boards of Canada.


(Click to enlarge)

6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Stephanie: My family called me “Bird,” instead of Stephanie, until I left for college. My older sister gave me the nickname when I was a baby, and it stuck for 18 years.


(Click to enlarge)

7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.

Stephanie: I think I’ve been asked this before, but its something I’m asked often by students, so it’s good to repeat.

Advice to students/young illustrators starting out? Keep drawing and drawing and drawing. Practice is the only way to get better. Drawing skills are really the most essential thing to being an illustrator; there’s no way around that.

Also, don’t give up! The road to becoming a working illustrator is a long one — expect to still have work a day job for a while, even after you get those first projects.


(Click to enlarge)

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Stephanie: “Caddywhompus.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Stephanie: “Vomit.”

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Stephanie: A great story, a new sketchbook, a long walk.

Jules: What turns you off?

Stephanie: Negative people.

Jules: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Stephanie: “Crapola.”

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Stephanie: My cat Bustopher’s happy meow.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Stephanie: Annoying street noise I can hear from my apartment — sirens, car alarms, car horns, and the loud movie theater air conditioner next door to me.

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Stephanie: Something outside — gardener or vegetable farmer.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Stephanie: Retail. I spent too many years doing that already, and I’ve had my fill of it.

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Stephanie: “The library is right over there.”

All artwork and images are used with permission of Stephanie Graegin.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, © 2009 Matt Phelan.

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44. On Handling Criticism

by

Alex Bracken

Alex

On Saturday morning, as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across an article written by another author, describing the great lengths she had gone to to track down and, I guess, expose a reviewer she felt was too harsh and inaccurate in her review of this author’s work. The author describes the supposed harassment she received from this reviewer in the weeks that followed, and, after some “light stalking” (there is no such thing as “light stalking,” just stalking) of this reviewer’s social media, she ultimately showed up on the reviewer’s doorstep to confront her. I think we are all in agreement that this act was 100% unacceptable behavior and terribly, horribly frightening for the reviewer who had every right to protect her identity online. I’m fairly certain you all know what I’m talking about, but rather than link you to the essay, I will point you in the direction of posts from Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for a better, balanced discussion.

What I want to talk about today are ways to cope with negative criticism as an author. We all receive it. We all see it. And if you haven’t reached that step of your career yet, well, you should expect it and start conditioning yourself to handle it now. It’s easy to think that you can take a rational stance when it comes to getting feedback about your work, but there are so many emotions at play here, that I think many authors are surprised by how gut-deep they feel negative words (and how easy it is to ignore the positive). I’ll be the first to admit that I was not great at coping when my first book was published in 2010. I stalked my Google Alerts and the book’s GoodReads page. Every good review was like a hit of wonderful sunshine-y rainbows, and I’d keep coming back for more… but then I’d see a critical review and it would smack me down into this dark “maybe I do suck” place. So what formed was a cycle and I knew I was going to have to break it if I wanted any sort of career.  Here is what has helped me:

1) Don’t read reviews. Plain and simple, do not read reviews, good or bad. This is the only thing that has ultimately saved my sanity and allowed me to be productive. It’s obviously easier said than done, especially when a book is first coming out and you’re dying to hear what people think. You will never be able to stop with just one review. I recommend staying off GoodReads entirely, but I actually do think it’s important for authors to have a presence there so they can update their books’ information pages and respond to questions and messages. If you find you need a hit of GR, I recommend bookmarking the Readers Questions page for each book or your author dashboard and really keeping to just those pages. You can also add books you’re currently reading without looking at your own books’ pages–don’t sneak a peek. If you find yourself with a crippling addiction to checking on the average or seeing if anyone new is reading it, block GoodReads on your browser.

My one exception to this rule is that I do read professional reviews from trade publications like PublishersWeekly and Kirkus Reviews, because those publications are used by librarians to see if they should purchase the books for their libraries. But you can always ask your editor to hold the reviews back if you really don’t want to see anything.

2) Remember that not every reader is on GoodReads. GR is a fantastic community of book lovers, but if you were to ask the average person on the street what they thought of it, a lot of people would just blink at you in confusion. Bad reviews may feel like someone is trying to mock or humiliate you (they’re not) for public consumption, but that public is actually just a fraction of the number of people reading your books. Don’t believe me? Check your royalty statement against the people who have marked the book as ‘read.’

3) We are all students. The goal of any writer should be to improve and grow with each book. No matter how perfect you think the story is, there is always room for improvement. Embrace that idea, and, if you must-must-must read reviews, learn to recognize a real critique someone is giving you versus a statement about their personal taste, the latter of which is completely out of your control. (eg “This author didn’t spend enough time developing the secondary characters.” versus “I didn’t like XX character. I thought they were annoying.”)

4) Trust reviewers to know their tastes. One thing I’ve learned over the years of getting to know book bloggers and reviewers is that they know what’s going to work for them and what’s not going to work for them. They can read another reviewer’s negative review and recognize, oh, s/he doesn’t like this element in books, but I do, and still purchase or request it. They can even recommend a book they, personally, didn’t like to another reviewer/friend who they think will.

5) Bad reviews are better than no reviews. Trust me.

5.5) THREE STARS MEANS “I LIKED IT.” THEY LIKED IT. THEY DID. IT’S NOT LIKE GETTING A “C” GRADE. THEY LIKED IT. GETTING THREE STARS IS ACTUALLY NICE, OKAY? REMEMBER THAT.

6) Keep the old adage in mind: taste is subjective. Think of your group of friends and family. Think about a movie you all saw, or a book you all read that you, personally loved. Not everyone agreed with you, right? Everyone found their own problem with the story or characters that they fixated on. Readers bring their own world with them to a story, and that informs how they read it and how they enjoy it. I think it was Dita Von Teese who said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, but there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.” I will repeat that to myself over and over if I have to until it clicks in my brain. My epiphany moment came, again, with my first book. I was deep down into the GR rabbit hole, torturing myself by looking at all of the negative reviews, and had a moment of, “Well, what else has this reviewer hated?” Reader, this reviewer hated a lot of books that I myself had given five stars to.

7) Don’t respond to reviews, good or bad. Do not respond. DO NOT RESPOND. If someone includes you when they tweet out the link to the review, you can say thank you, but do not leave comments on their blog, do not leave comments on the GR review. Reviewers are reviewing the books for other readers, not for you. Not even for your publisher. Other readers.

8) Know that you can still be friends with bloggers, even if they didn’t like your book. You are not your book(s). You are an awesome person, and awesome people can be friends with other awesome people. Much like you can be friends with other authors never having read their books or not liking them very much. A negative review isn’t a sign that you’re being shunned, just that your book did not work for that reviewer. But, hey! You both love Sleepy Hollow, so why not chat about that on Twitter instead?

9) Make it so the people who love your work can find you and you can banish the negative voices. The best thing I ever did in this regard was set up a PO Box and an author email account for readers to contact me. Because the ones that are taking the time to write to you are the ones who either are thinking critically about your story enough to have pressing questions or because they love it. You might occasionally get a message from someone who has strong beliefs that contradict what you’re saying in your books, but those will always be fewer than the chorus of sweet, awesome voices of the readers you reached and affected on a personal level. If someone is being a troll on Twitter to you, block them. Done. If you track Tumblr tags of your name or book title, install an extension or plug-in like Tumblr Hatred that lets you hide posts you’d rather not see each time you check the tags.

10) Shake it off. Yes. Like TSwift is telling you to. One of my favorite lyrics in that song is Just think while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world/You could’ve been getting down to this sick beat. Basically, your energy is WAY better spent thinking and caring about the people who like your book. As I said above, don’t ignore a hundred voices telling you they like your stuff in favor of the one or two voices who are basically just saying “eh… not my cup of tea.” There are certainly going to be reviews that are way harsher than that in your lifetime, ones you think go too far. The best response is still no response. It’s getting up from your computer and going to do something you love. Or, you know, turning off the internet and writing. Anything that affects your productivity isn’t worth your time.

Alex lives in New York City where she writes like a fiend and lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books. She is the New York Times bestselling author of The Darkest Minds and Never Fade. You can visit her online at her website, Tumblr, or Twitter.

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45. Creaks and Freaks

Your house always had that spooky charm, what with the old chandeliers, cobwebs everywhere and the occasional knock no one could identify. Well that all came crashing back into your head as you looked down the dark hallway and heard something shuffling towards you in the darkness. Oh and it’s picking up speed. What do you do? What do you see?

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46. When A Grandpa Says "I Love You"



  When A Grandpa Says "I Love You"! Out this fall from Simon And Schuster.







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47. How To Craft a Wreath With Old Books

Autumn is in full swing! Don’t feel like going to the craft store? YouTuber Jenna DeAngeles shares her design for a door wreath using old books.

If you want to make this seasonal decoration, watch the video tutorial embedded above. Follow this link to learn how to make a DIY book-themed pumpkin statue. What Fall decor pieces do you enjoy making?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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48. The Night Gardener (2014)

The Night Gardener. Jonathan Auxier. 2014. Abrams. 350 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved, loved, LOVED Jonathan Auxier's The Night Gardener. It may just be my favorite new book published in 2014. I loved so many things about it: the atmospheric setting, the creepy world-building, the storytelling, the writing, and the characterization. (Yes, those overlap, I imagine.) I could just say that I loved all the elements of this one; that I loved it absolutely from cover to cover. (Which does more justice for the book?)

Here's how the story opens. I'm curious if it will grab you like it did me!
The calendar said early March, but the smell in the air said late October. A crisp sun shone over Cellar Hollow, melting the final bits of ice from the bare trees. Steam rose from the soil like a phantom, carrying with it a whisper of autumn smoke that had been lying dormant in the frosty underground. Squinting through the trees, you could just make out the winding path that ran from the village all the way to the woods in the south. People seldom traveled in that direction, but on this March-morning-that-felt-like-October, a horse and cart rattled down the road. It was a fish cart with a broken back wheel and no fish. Riding atop the bench were two children, a girl and a boy, both with striking red hair. The girl was named Molly, and the boy, her brother, was Kip. And they were riding to their deaths. This, at least, was what Molly had been told by no fewer than a dozen people as they traveled from farm to farm in search of the Windsor estate.
I loved Molly and Kip. It wasn't that either protagonist was perfect. It was that I felt both were oh-so-human. These two do find the Windsor estate. And they do manage to stay on as help. Even though they don't necessarily receive wages--just room and board. This country estate is...well, I don't want to spoil it. But the people who warned them to stay away from the estate, from the sour woods, well they had good intentions. The book is creepy in all the right ways. It is a WONDERFUL read if you love rich, detailed storytelling.

I also loved Hester Kettle. She is the old woman--Kip thought she was a witch at first glance--who tells them the directions to the estate. She also proves to be a friend and kindred spirit. She is, like Molly, a story-teller.
Hester touched the button, "Funny things, wishes. You can't hold'em in your hand, and yet just one could unmake the world." She looked up at Molly. (214)
"You asked me for a story; now you call it a lie." She folded her arms. "So tell me, then: What marks the difference between the two?"
Agitated as she was, Molly couldn't help but consider the question. It was something she had asked herself in one form or another many times in her life. Still, Molly could tell the difference between the two as easily as she could tell hot from cold--a lie put a sting in her throat that made the words catch. It had been some time, however, since she had felt that sting. "A lie hurts people," she finally answered. "A story helps 'em."
"True enough! But helps them do what?" She wagged a finger. "That's the real question..." (214)
I loved the story. I loved the pacing. It was a great read!!! Definitely recommended!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Ticking Clocks and Tracking Eyes

I'm excited to be visiting the Texas A&M. I did a couple of radio interviews in the morning, and then painted this 45-minute gouache sketch of the old clock in downtown Bryan. I used four colors: white, ultra blue, burnt sienna, and cad yellow.

I had lunch with professors Ann McNamara of Texas A&M and Donald House of Clemson University, both of whom share my fascination with eye tracking as it relates to artists.


I was thrilled to have a chance to try out the eye tracking tech setup at the Visualization Lab. Here, graduate student Laura Murphy is calibrating the system. She's checking alignment points on stereo images of my face as I look at a test screen.

Below the computer monitor are the two infrared sensors of the FaceLab 5 system. The sensors track both the exact direction of my eyes and the direction of my head so that the system can record exactly where I'm looking within the display monitor. 

The monitor has a photo of grocery store shelves crowded with products and overlaid info tags that pop up in response to where I'm looking, part of an augmented reality experiment they presented at Siggraph this year.
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I'll be spending time with students of the Department of Visualization in their classes today and tomorrow, and I'll give a free digital slide lecture about picturemaking and worldbuilding in Dinotopia in the Geren Auditorium in the Langford Architecture Center, Building B, Thursday at 7 p.m.
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Previously on GurneyJourney:
Eyetracking and Composition, part 1
Eyetracking and Composition, part 2
Eyetracking and Composition part 3

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50. What’s new in oral history?

Preparing a new edition of an oral history manual, a decade after the last appeared, highlighted dramatic changes that have swept through the field. Technological development made previous references to equipment sound quaint. The use of oral history for exhibits and heritage touring, for instance, leaped from cassettes and compact discs to QR codes and smartphone apps. As oral historians grew more comfortable with new equipment, they expanded into video and discovered the endless possibilities of posting interviews, transcripts, and recordings on the Internet. Having found a way to get oral history off the archival shelves and into the community, interviewers also had to consider the ethical and legal issues of exposing interviewees to worldwide scrutiny.

Over the last decade, the Internet left no excuses for parochialism. As the practice of oral history grew more international, a manual could neither address a single nation nor ignore the rest of the world. Wherever social, political, or economic turmoil has occurred, oral histories have recorded the change — because state archives tend to reflect the old regimes. War, terrorism, hurricanes, floods, fires, pandemics, and other natural and human-made disasters spurred interviews with those who endured trauma and tragedy, and required interviewers to adjust their approaches. Issues of empathy for those suffering emotional distress increasingly became part of the discourse among oral historians. At the same time, the use of interviewing grew more interdisciplinary, with historians examining the fieldwork techniques and needs of social scientists. Sociologists, anthropologists, and ethnographers have long employed interviewing, usually through participant observation. Many have gradually shifted from quantitative to qualitative analysis, raising questions about identifying their sources rather than rendering them anonymous, and bringing their methods closer to oral history protocols.

Oral_history_baltimore
Evergreen Protective Association volunteer recording an oral history by Baltimore Heritage. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

New theoretical interests developed, particularly around memory studies. Oral historians became more concerned about not only what people remember, but also what they forget, and how they express these memories. Weighing the relationship between language and thought, and suggesting that that outward behavior reflects underlying signs, narrative theory has challenged the notion of objective history. It sees the past as recalled and recounted as simply a construction, shaped by the way it is told. Memory theories have dealt with the way suggestive questions can reshape memories, and the way recent experiences can block out memories of earlier ones. These theories suggest that people reconstruct memories of past experiences rather than mentally retrieve exact copies of them.

An increasingly litigious culture raised other concerns for oral historians. Lawsuits have alleged that some online interviews are defamatory. A court case with international implications arose when the United States supported British police efforts to subpoena closed interviews that might shed light on a murder case in Northern Ireland, exposing the vulnerability of oral history to judicial intervention. Although the courts treated closed interviews seriously and limited the amount of material to be opened, the case reminded oral historians that they could not promise absolute confidentiality when dealing with sensitive and possibly criminal issues.

It has been breathtaking to document the scope of change in oral history over the last two decades, and sobering to see how dated it made much of the past information and even some of the language. Looking back over the past decade also provided some reassurance about continuity. While it sometimes seems that everything about the practice of oral history has changed, the personal dynamics of conducting an interview have remained very much intact. Whether sitting down face-to-face or using some means of electronic communication, the human interaction of the interview has stayed the same. So have the basic steps: the interviewer’s need for prior research; for knowing how to operate the equipment; for crafting thoughtful, open-ended questions; for establishing rapport; for listening carefully and following up with further questions; and for doing everything possible to elicit candid and substantive responses.

I was glad to see so many of these new trends prominently displayed at the Oral History Association’s recent meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, (October 8-12) where sessions focused on oral history “in motion.” Motion aptly describes the forward-looking nature of oral history, with its expanding methodology and embrace of the latest technology, as well as its eagerness to confront established narratives with alternative voices.

The post What’s new in oral history? appeared first on OUPblog.

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