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1. January Short Stories

January's Short Stories (original sign-up post) (my list of 52) (challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis)
  • 6 Spades "The Spot of Art" by P.G. Wodehouse from Very Good, Jeeves 
  • Queen Clubs "Face Value" by Karen Joy Fowler from Alien Contact 
  • Queen Diamonds "Mr. Lismore and the Widow" by Wilkie Collins from Little Novels
  • 4 Hearts "Aunt Susanna's Birthday Celebration" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906

"Spot of Art" by P.G. Wodehouse (1929, from Very Good, Jeeves 1930)
  • Premise/Plot:  Bertram Wooster cancels his scheduled yachting trip with Aunt Dahlia so that he can stay close-to-home and woo the oh-so-lovely Gwladys who is an artist. Aunt Dahlia predicts that by the time the trip occurs, Bertie will have lost his lady love, and be more than ready to vacation. Was Aunt Dahlia's prediction spot on?! Yes and no! Does he lose Gwladys?! Yes. To his rival, another artist. But not just ANY artist. Gwladys invited Mr. Pim to view the portrait of Wooster which she'd just finished. (Jeeves HATES the "spot of art" hanging on the wall). But on his way to the flat, Mr. Pim gets run over. But not just run over by anyone, but by Gwladys herself. Mr. Pim will spend WEEKS living at Wooster's flat while he recuperates. Mr. Pim not wanting his own family to know that Gwladys, the woman he's in love with, is the one who run him down, tells his family that Bertie did it! Mr. Pim's brother-in-law, who owns a soup shop, comes to beat him up and/or sue him. But during their confrontation, he slips on a golf ball. So now Bertie has TWO unwanted invalid guests. He flees to the continent--to Paris--with strict instructions to Jeeves. When he returns weeks later--before he even sees Jeeves or learns the latest--he sees his face, his portrait, ADVERTISING SOUP. This poster is EVERYWHERE. He then learns that Gwladys is engaged to Mr. Pim, and that the copyright to the portrait has been given to this soup-shop-owner to appease him. Wooster is horribly upset!!! And he needs a vacation!!! Turns out, the yachting trip is JUST what he needs...and it's been conveniently postponed because of illness. So Aunt Dahlia was right, for the most part!!!
"Face Value" by Karen Joy Fowler from Alien Contact
  • Premise/Plot: Taki and Hesper are a xenologist and a poet on an alien planet studying the menes. Hesper is not coping well to say the least. Though she wanted to go with him at first, though she was at first eager to learn firsthand about the menes, she is now miserable and depressed. She's lost herself... Taki has never really understood Hesper. He's wanted to. He's tried. He's hoped. Hoped that Hesper at one time really did love him. Hoped that Hesper would love him again. But. He's clueless in many ways. Taki is unable to communicate effectively with Hesper and the menes. There is a strangeness to this story. I'm not sure I "liked" it overall. But it is very science fiction-y. 

"Mr. Lismore and the Widow" by Wilkie Collins from Little Novels
  •  Premise/Plot: Mr. Lismore is struggling financially. He is facing ruin in a month or two if his ship doesn't come in. An elderly widow whom he rescued from a fire a handful of years before wants to help him out. If his ship doesn't come in before his debts are due, the two will marry. She is quite rich. He is hesitant but willing. The two will leave England after the marriage and live abroad. She wants him to be completely honest with her and let her know if he should find himself falling in love with another woman. He tells her one day that there was a beautiful young woman at an art gallery that caught his eye. She makes him promise to bring her home the next time he sees her. She wants to meet her, talk with her. He is puzzled but agrees... I won't spoil the twist. This is an unusual story, but, then again it is Wilkie Collins!
"Aunt Susanna's Birthday Celebration" by L.M. Montgomery from Short Stories 1905-1906
  • Premise/Plot Aunt Susanna is chatting with someone--Nora May. The story uses "you" throughout, so it is easy to feel that Aunt Susanna is talking directly to you. She's got a story to tell you about Anne Douglas, a teacher, and her lover, Gilbert Martin. Anne and Gilbert were "both pretty proud and sperrited and high-strung." The two quarreled and put off their marriage. Both left town. Anne still loves Gilbert. Gilbert still loves Anne. Both confide in Susannah. The letters arrive on her birthday--or near her birthday--and she's inspired to meddle. She sends Gilbert's letter to Anne. It's a letter confessing how much he still loves Anne. And she sends Anne's letter to Gilbert. Again, it's a letter professing how much she still loves Gilbert. The two are reunited and very grateful for "Aunt Susannah." It concludes:
Those two young creatures have learned their lesson. You'd better take it to heart too, Nora May. It's less trouble to learn it at second hand. Don't you ever quarrel with your real beau--it don't matter about the sham ones, of course. Don't take offence at trifles or listen to what other people tell you about him--outsiders, that is, that want to make mischief. What you think about him is of more importance than what they do. To be sure, you're too young yet to be thinking of such things at all. But just mind what old Aunt Susanna told you when your time comes.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. The Write Stuff

There’s this belief among writers that hidden inside us is all the stuff we need to write. Maybe we're born with this stuff, or maybe we get it from our teachers or parents, or by reading the work of other writers, but we have it and only have to dig deep enough to find it. Of course, we still need to learn how to write. We still need to read lots of books and write lots of words. 

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3. The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves – January 25th Edition

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

Yesterday I went to a schooling academy show with Pixie.  Both Elsa and I took turns riding her, and Pixie did really well.  I didn’t care what ribbons she got, I just wanted to see if she would behavior her sometimes sassy self in the crowded, cold venue where these shows are held.  If she had walked a bit better I would have been ecstatic – as it was, I was pretty darn pleased with her performance.  The weather even cooperated and it was a balmy (for January) 38 degrees!  Still chilly when you’re hanging out all day in an unheated barn, but so much better than the last time I went!

I was gone all day long, and by the time I got back home, I just wanted to veg out.  I did finish a book, but I didn’t feel like doing anything else, so I didn’t!  And I didn’t even feel guilty about it.  So, posting might be a little slow here next week.

How was your week?

Check out my current contests!  See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library.  Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

Rebel Mechanics

Becoming Rain

Valiant

The Misshapes

Brave Men Die Part 2

Non-stop Till Tokyo

The Long Ride Home

Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Uprooted

Murder of Crows (Library)

Eye of the Falcon

Match 3 Quest – This is a HUGE time suck, but I made a deal with myself – I can play as long as I want, as long as I am riding the exercise bike while I’m playing.  Any other time, 10 minute limit (Yes, I even set a timer)  I hope I’m addicted to this game for a long time, because I am pedaling the calories away almost every time I play it!

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

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The post The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves – January 25th Edition appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Jenni Desmond: delightful characters, striking atmospheres

Post by Heather Ryerson

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond

Jenni Desmond is a London-based illustrator who combines wet washed backgrounds with cut and collaged textures to create whimsical characters within evocative settings. Her technique has been used to great effect in her four published children’s books; two more—The Blue Whale and The First Slodge—are due out in spring 2015. In addition to books, Desmond’s work can be found on a range of textiles and stationary as well as adorning maps at the National Portrait Gallery.

Check out more work on Jenni Desmond’s website »

 

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5. 2016 Books by Austinites

 Here's the preliminary list of trade picture books and novels scheduled for publication from Austin authors and illustrators next year!  And click the link for previous years' books by Austin authors and illustrators!


Middle Grade/Tween

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: DO ALL THE GOOD YOU CAN, by Cynthia Levinson (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins 2016)

UNTITLED NOVEL, by Jo Whittemore (HarperCollins 2016).

CROSS MY HEART, by Mari Mancusi (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster 2016).

TO CATCH A CHEAT, by Varian Johnson (Arthur Levine/Scholastic, Spring 2016).

RED MOON RISING, by K.A. Holt (McElderry/Simon & Schuster, 2016).

BEYOND THE RAILS, by K.A. Holt (Chronicle, 2016).

DINOSAUR BOY SAVES MARS, by Cory Putnam Oakes (Sourcebooks, February 2016).

Young Adult

HIGH SCHOOL HORROR STORY, by Chandler Baker (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, Winter 2016).

Picture Books

CARROT HAWK, by Chris Barton, ill. by tbd (Hyperion, Spring 2016).

WHOOSH!, by Chris Barton, ill. by Don Tate (Charlesbridge 2016).

EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S DUELING WORDS, by Donna Janell Bowman  (Peachtree, TBD)

STRONGMAN, by Don Tate (Charlesbridge, Fall 2016).

SUPER TRUCK, by Chris Barton, ill. by Troy Cummings (HarperCollins 2016)

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6. Russian book trailers

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Julia Shevelkina reports that: 'Russian bookstores are using movie style trailers to grab people's attention and promote interest in reading', in Bringing a touch of Hollywood sparkle to Russian bookstores.
       'Sparkle' may be a bit of an exaggeration, but see for yourself: several examples are on offer.

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7. Have we become what we hate?

In 1971, William Irvin Thompson, a professor at York University in Toronto, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled, “We Become What We Hate,” describing the way in which “thoughts can become inverted when they are reflected in actions.”

He cited several scientific, sociocultural, economic, and political situations where the maxim appeared to be true. The physician who believed he was inventing a pill to help women become pregnant had actually invented the oral contraceptive. Germany and Japan, having lost World War II, had become peaceful consumer societies. The People’s Republic of China had become, at least back in 1971, a puritanical nation.

Today, many of the values that we, as a nation, profess — protection of civil rights and human rights, assistance for the needy, support for international cooperation, and promotion of peace — have become inverted in our actions. As a nation, we say one thing, but often do the opposite.

As a nation, we profess protection of civil rights. But our criminal justice system and our systems for federal, state, and local elections discriminate against people of color and other minorities.

As a nation, we profess protection of human rights. But we have imprisoned “enemy combatants” without charges, stripped them of their rights as prisoners of war, and tortured many of them in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

As a nation, we profess adherence to the late Senator Hubert H. Humphrey’s dictum that the true measure of a government is how it cares for the young, the old, the sick, and the needy. But we set the minimum wage at a level at which working people cannot survive. We inadequately fund human services for those who need them most. And, even after implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we continue to be the only industrialized country that does not ensure health care for all its citizens.

As a nation, we profess support for international cooperation. But we fail to sign treaties to ban antipersonnel landmines and prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. And we, as a nation, contribute much less than our fair share of foreign assistance to low-income countries.

As a nation, we profess commitment to world peace. But we lead all other countries, by far, in both arms sales and military expenditures.

In many ways, we, as a nation, have become what we hate.

Image Credit: Dispersed, Occupy Oakland Move In Day. Photo by Glenn Halog. CC by NC 2.0 via Flickr.

The post Have we become what we hate? appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in January

New Loot:
  • Death in Disguise by Caroline Graham
  • Storm by Donna Jo Napoli
  • The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
  • Devil at My Heels by Louis Zamperini with David Rensin
Leftover Loot:
  • Almost Super by Marion Jensen
  • Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  • Socks by Beverly Cleary
  • The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss
  • On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss
  • Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
  • If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss
  •  Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson
  • Death of a Hollow Man by Caroline Graham
  • The Blue Cotton Gown by Patricia Harman
  • The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
  • The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  •  Quinny & Hopper by Adriana Brad Schanen 
  • Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale
  •  A Great and Glorious Adventure by Gordon Corrigan
  • The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
  • Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
  • Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
  • The Foundry's Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
  • Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas
  • Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas
  • Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
  • The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
  • The Barefoot Queen Ildefondo de Sierra Falcones
  • Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  • All Hail the Queen by Erica David
  • Memory and Magic by Erica David
    Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.   


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. L.M Montgomery Short Stories 1905-1906

Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1905-1906. Dodo Press. 260 pages. [Source: Bought]

There are thirty-one short stories in this L.M. Montgomery collection. There are some great stories within this collection. There are some not-so-great stories within this collection. The quality definitely varies story to story. But if you already love L.M. Montgomery, it's well worth reading. If you're never read her, however, this may not be the best introduction. True, you'd probably find something to like, to enjoy, maybe even love. But would it persuade you to seek out EVERYTHING she's ever written because she's oh-so-amazing?! Probably not. It's good to keep in mind that these short stories were published several years before her novels. (Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908).

There are two stories that are tied for being my favorite-favorite in this collection: "Aunt Susanna's Birthday Celebration" and "The Understanding of Sister Sara." Both stories are about lovers' quarrels being resolved with a little outside help.

Previous short story collections I've reviewed:
  1. L.M. Montgomery Short Stories, 1896-1901. L.M. Montgomery. 142 pages.
  2. Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories, 1902-1903. L.M. Montgomery. 216 pages.
  3. L.M. Montgomery Short Stories, 1904. L.M. Montgomery. Dodo Press. 144 pages.
These stories are included in Lucy Maud Montgomery Short Stories: 1905-1906
  • A Correspondence and a Climax
  • An Adventure On Island Rock
  • At Five O'Clock in the Morning
  • Aunt Susanna's Birthday Celebration
  • Bertie's New Year
  • Between the Hill and the Valley
  • Clorinda's Gifts
  • Cyrilla's Inspiration
  • Dorinda's Desperate Deed
  • Her Own People
  • Ida's New Year Cake
  • In the Old Valley
  • Jane Lavinia
  • Mackereling Out in the Gulf
  • Millicent's Double
  • The Blue North Room
  • The Christmas Surprise at Enderly Road
  • The Dissipation of Miss Ponsonby
  • The Falsoms' Christmas Dinner
  • The Fraser Scholarship
  • The Girl at the Gate
  • The Light on the Big Dipper
  • The Prodigal Brother
  • The Redemption of John Churchill
  • The Schoolmaster's Letters
  • The Understanding of Sister Sara
  • The Unforgotten One
  • The Wooing of Bessy
  • Their Girl Josie
  • When Jack and Jill Took a Hand 
If you're looking for a good short story to perhaps read on its own, I'd recommend:
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Interview with Grammarly


I recently received an offer to try out the grammar correction program called Grammarly. On their website, Grammarly claims to make you a better writer by finding and correcting grammatical mistakes.

I downloaded the software and tried it out, but instead of reviewing it, I thought it would be interesting to interview a representative of the company by email. Mr. Mager, an online marketing analyst, agreed to my request. Before he sent his answers, he said he checked them with a colleague to verify that they were accurate.

JG: Would you briefly describe how Grammarly is different from other grammar-checking programs?

Grammarly offers automated grammar, spelling, and plagiarism checking. Its technology catches 10x more mistakes than Microsoft Word, while also offering unique features such as writing enhancement and citation suggestions. Grammarly regularly conducts tests to compare our algorithms against our competitors including Google. Our continuously improving machine learning algorithm always wins. A more recent defining element of Grammarly is its Chrome extension that will soon be available for Firefox and Safari later this year. The extension allows our users to have a grammar checker wherever they go on the internet from their emails to Facebook comments.

JG: Do you recommend a different prose style for print settings than you do for online settings?
Our linguists approach Grammarly with a classical, academic approach. We realize that context is vital to proper communication. A properly written sentence or paragraph can make the difference in receiving a passing or failing grade, job offer, or a good story. When writing with Grammarly, we offer seven categories and 32 different document types that range from short stories to business emails. With each document type, Grammarly applies different grammar rules and suggestions.

JG: How does the reading experience differ when we read text on a computer screen?
Last year, the Grammarly team ran a survey to get more information about this topic from our community of word nerds about their reading habits. We found that out of 6,744 responses, 79% preferred to read printed books versus e-books. Another survey showed that of 1,929 responses 39% would prefer their children read printed books while 11% preferred e-books and 34% of respondents simply wanted their kids to read! It is clear that there is a more positive experience with holding a paper book than looking at a screen.

JG: Should those differences change the way we think about writing for the computer?

The most important thing, about writing for the computer or print, is that we write with clarity and creativity. If readers can’t understand what we are writing, then our message is lost on them - no matter what we’re saying. What I have personally noticed is that writing in print is often more formal than online writing and written in long form. Online writing tends to be more succinct, with more paragraphs and bullets to break up thoughts. This is likely due to our shorter digital attention spans.


JG: I allowed Grammarly to evaluate the first paragraphs from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. According to Grammarly, each of them has issues with wordiness. Is that a false positive, a change in historical standards or a valid objection to their style?

Grammarly is not meant to critique works of art or classic literature. It is built around a powerful and an ever-evolving algorithm designed to provide students, professionals, and advanced language learners with an automated, cost-effective, accurate, and always-available online tool to help improve their written English skills. Through contextual guidance, users are empowered to make the final assessment of whether the feedback they’ve received fits the material being reviewed, enabling them to learn from their mistakes.

JG: How has using Grammarly changed your personal experience as a writer?
For me, Grammarly serves as an extra pair of eyes on my work. It keeps me aware of some common issues that I have with my writing and explains the grammar rules that I miss. This feedback has been helpful with the accuracy of my writing even when Grammarly isn’t available. I find when I write to my boss, family, or friends I can have more confidence and credibility behind my message.

JG: Given that you work at a web company that ferrets out mistakes in writing, do you find that your friends and family give you a hard time every time you make a mistake?
Yes! So much so, in fact, that one of us wrote a blog post about it: http://www.grammarly.com/blog/2014/email-presents-major-challenge/

I appreciate the challenge though. My writing wasn’t the best in school so as I pay more attention to how I speak and write, I see my communication improving every day.

JG: Forgive me, but you did make an error in your cover letter to me, saying, “stuck a chord” rather than “struck a chord.” That’s a hard one to catch given that you spelled each phrase correctly, and it was grammatical. Would Grammarly be able to find such a mistake if it used the kind of statistical algorithms that Google uses when it prompts alternate search phrasing?

Grammarly is able to pick up “stuck and struck” a chord and other contextual errors such as “there, their, they’re”, however we are still adding to the contexts that they can be found in. Our program is constantly learning, similar to the way Google uses its statistical algorithms, and while Grammarly is not yet perfect, we are still the leader in writing enhancement software.

JG: What thinking did you give to the manner in which Grammarly points out issues to the writer? I notice that it has a polite and helpful demeanor. If you had designed it differently, it might have appeared obnoxious or pedantic. What thinking went into that interface?

Grammar rules can be confusing to many people and are constantly evolving. Grammarly was created to provide an easy way for students, professionals, job seekers, and English language learners to become better, more accurate English language writers and help them learn and understand the rules of grammar. We’re not here as a grammar judge; rather, we want to be a resource. Our world-class designers and UX experts have played a big role in this as they obsess over every detail to create an easy, understandable interface for our users.

JG: What happens behind the scenes when the little Grammarly logo starts spinning around? Is the text being uploaded to your computers? Do you keep a copy of the writing? Do you ever share it with anyone else?

Our policy agreement provides detailed information about how Grammarly stores text, but I can tell you that we never share any writer's text publically. Behind the scenes, Grammarly's learning algorithms are constantly reviewing whether our tool is being applied in the right context or not -- that is how we can make continuous improvements.

JG: Do you worry that the reliance on machine-based spell-check or grammar-check programs will blunt the attention that you devote to your writing or that it might sand off the corners of your personal style? (Grammarly didn't like me using the word "sand".)

Nice imagery. No, the great thing about Grammarly is that it was developed alongside English professors to be a passive learning tool. For each potential issue flagged by Grammarly’s algorithms, users receive a detailed explanation so they can make an informed decision about how, and whether, to correct the mistake. Our positive reviews from professional writers really speak for itself.

JG: How would you envision Grammarly five years from now? Please describe the kind of writing partner you’d like to see it become.

Grammarly’s core mission is improving lives by improving communication, and there is a lot in store over the next few years. One part of this is improving Grammarly’s algorithms to the level of a human proofreader. Every day, we get a little closer to that goal. The other part is integrating Grammarly more into people’s lives. This new plugin we recently launched for Chrome, and soon other browsers, is a big step to bringing our advanced grammar checker to where a majority of the world writes most. It is an exciting time to be here!
----

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11. Hakka literature

       In the Taipei Times Lii Wen reports that Awards celebrate Hakka literature, reporting on the fifth Tung Blossom Literary Awards (桐花文學獎).

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12. Revisiting To Dream in the City of Sorrows

To Dream in the City of Sorrows. (Babylon 5: Book #9). Kathryn M. Drennan. Based on the series by J. Michael Straczynski. 1997. Random House. 352 pages.  [Source: Bought]
"What are we to do with him her?" asked the Mole of the Water Rat.
"Nothing at all," replied the Rat firmly. "Because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know him her from old. He She is now possessed. He She has got a new craze, and it always takes him her that way, in its first stage. He'll She'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind him her. ~ Adapted from Wind of the Willows
Me obsessed with Babylon 5?! Really?! Perhaps. 

I've read To Dream in the City of Sorrows three times now. I reviewed it in 2011 and 2012. I think it is a must read for fans of Babylon 5. In the introduction, J. Michael Straczynski writes, "What you hold in your hand is an official, authorized chapter in the Babylon 5 story line. This is the definitive answer to the Sinclair question, and should be considered as authentic as any episode in the regular series."

But where to place it?! That is the question. It's tempting to read it in between season one and season two. After all, most of the book's events are parallel to season two. Readers get a chance to read what Sinclair is doing in the meantime. But not all the events, and that is where it gets tricky. Reading To Dream In the City of Sorrows before viewing season three would spoil things for you. So reading it after you've seen the third season may prove best. Since I've seen most all the seasons multiple times, I read it when I like! [For the record, this time around, I've seen all of season one, and the first eight episodes of season two.]    

So the framework of To Dream In The City of Sorrows--the prologue and epilogue--take place shortly after season three's "Grey 17 is Missing," and are narrated by Marcus Cole. (I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Marcus Cole!) But most of the book focuses on what was happening with Jeffrey Sinclair after he left Babylon 5. (The gap between the last episode of season one, "Chrysalis," and the incredibly intense two-part episode "War Without End" of season three.)

Read To Dream in the City of Sorrows

  • If you want to know what Sinclair was doing in season two and three
  • If you want to know what became of Catherine Sakai, to learn if these two were able to make their troubled relationship work...with the added drama of Shadows and Rangers
  • If you want to know more even more about the Shadows' movements during this time
  • If you want to learn about how Sinclair became Ranger One and re-energized the Rangers (first started by Valen)
  • If you want to learn more about Minbari prophecies (also their culture and caste system)
  • If you want to learn more about the Vorlons; in particular readers are introduced to Ulkesh. (Loved Sinclair's first impression of him! And his insights about the Vorlons in general. How Kosh may not be the most representative of his race.)
  • If you want to learn more about Marcus. Readers meet William Cole AND Marcus Cole. Two brothers with an imperfect relationship. William is an eager ranger-in-training trying to get Marcus to join him, but, things don't always go as planned.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Four reasons for ISIS’s success

The editors of Oxford Islamic Studies Online asked several experts the following question:

The world has watched as ISIS (ISIL, the “Islamic State”) has moved from being a small but extreme section of the Syrian opposition to a powerful organization in control of a large swath of Iraq and Syria. Even President Obama recently admitted that the US was surprised by the success of ISIS in that region. Why have they been so successful, and why now?

Political Scientist Robert A. Pape and undergraduate research associate Sarah Morell, both from the University of Chicago, share their thoughts.

ISIS has been successful for four primary reasons. First, the group has tapped into the marginalization of the Sunni population in Iraq to gain territory and local support. Second, ISIS fighters are battle-hardened strategists fighting against an unmotivated Iraqi army. Third, the group exploits natural resources to fund their operations. And fourth, ISIS has utilized a brilliant social media strategy to recruit fighters and increase their international recognition. One of the important aspects cutting across these four elements is the unification of anti-American populations across Iraq and Syria — remnants of the Saddam regime, Iraqi civilians driven to militant behavior during the US occupation, transnational jihadists, and the tribes who were hung out to dry following the withdrawal of US forces in 2011.

The Sunni population’s hatred of the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad has allowed ISIS to quickly overtake huge swaths of Iraqi Sunni territory. The Iraq parliamentary elections in 2010 were a critical moment in this story. The Iraqiyya coalition, led by Ayad Allawi, won support of the Sunni population to win the plurality of seats in Iraq’s parliament. Maliki’s party came second by a slim two-seat margin. Despite Allawi’s electoral victory, Maliki and his Shia coalition — backed by the United States — succeeded in forming a government with Maliki as Prime Minister.

Inside of the Baghdad Convention Center, where the Council of Representatives of Iraq meets. By James (Jim) Gordon. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Inside of the Baghdad Convention Center, where the Council of Representatives of Iraq meets. By James (Jim) Gordon. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the months following the election, Maliki targeted Sunni leaders in an effort to consolidate Shia domination of Baghdad. Many of these were the same Sunni leaders successfully mobilized by US forces during the occupation — in an operation that became known as the Anbar Awakening — to cripple al-Qa’ida in Iraq strongholds within the Sunni population. When the US withdrew, they directed the aid to the Maliki government with the expectation that Maliki would distribute it fairly. Instead, the day after the US forces withdrew in December 2011, Iraq’s Judicial Council issued an arrest warrant for Iraqi Vice President Hashimi, a key Sunni leader. Arrests of Sunni leaders and their staffs continued, sparking widespread Sunni protests in Anbar province. When ISIS — a Sunni extremist group — rolled into Iraq, many in the Sunni population cooperated, viewing the group as the lesser of two evils.

The second element in the ISIS success story is their military strategy. Their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, spent four years as a prisoner in the Bucca Camp before assuming control of AQI (ISIS’s predecessor) in 2010. He seized upon the opportunity of the Syrian civil war to fuel a resurgence of the group. As a result, today’s ISIS militants are battle-hardened through their Syrian experience fighting moderate rebels. The Washington Post has described Baghdadi as “a shrewd strategist, a prolific fundraiser, and a ruthless killer.”

In Iraq, ISIS has adopted “an operational form that allows decentralized commanders to use their experienced fighters against the weakest points of its foes,” writes Robert Farley in The National Interest. “At the same time, the center retains enough operational control to conduct medium-to-long term planning on how to allocate forces, logistics, and reinforcements.” Their strategy — hitting their adversaries at their weakest points while avoiding fights they cannot win — has created a narrative of momentum that increases the group’s morale and prestige.

ISIS has also carved out a territory in Iraq that Shia and Kurdish forces will not fight and die to retake, an argument articulated by Kenneth Pollack at Brookings. ISIS has not tried to take Baghdad because they know they would lose; Shia forces would be motivated to expend blood and treasure to defeat ISIS on their home turf. Some experts believe the Kurds, likewise, are unlikely to commit forces to retake Sunni territory. This mentality also plays into the catastrophic performance of the Iraqi Security Forces at Mosul, forces composed disproportionately of Kurds and Sunni Arabs; when confronted with Sunni militants, these soldiers “were never going to fight to the death for Maliki and against Sunni militants looking to stop him,” writes Pollack.

Third, ISIS has also been able to seize key natural resources in Syria to fund their operations, probably making them one of the wealthiest terror groups in history. ISIS is in control of 60% of Syria’s oil assets, including the Al Omar, Tanak, and Shadadi oil fields. According to the US Treasury, the group’s oil sales are pulling in about $1 million a day. This enables ISIS to increasingly become “a hybrid organization, on the model of Hezbollah,” writes Steve Coll in The New Yorker — “part terrorist network, part guerrilla army, part proto-state.”

Finally, ISIS has developed a sophisticated social media campaign to “recruit, radicalize, and raise funds,” according to J. M. Berger in The Atlantic. The piece details ISIS’s Arabic-language Twitter app called The Dawn of Glad Tidings, advertised as a way to keep up on the latest news about the group. On the day ISIS marched into Mosul, the app sent almost 40,000 tweets. The group has displayed a lighter side to the militants, such as videos showing young children breaking their Ramadan fast with ISIS fighters. These strategies “project strength and promote engagement online” while also romanticizing their fight, attracting new recruits from around the world and inspiring lone wolf attacks.

Since June 2014, the United Sates has pursued a policy of offshore balancing — over-the-horizon air and naval power, Special Forces, and empowerment of local allies — to contain and undermine ISIS. The crucial local groups are the Sunni tribes. These leaders were responsible for the near-collapse of AQI during the Anbar Awakening, and could well be able to defeat ISIS in the future.

This is part two of a series of articles discussing ISIS. Part one is by Hanin Ghaddar, Lebanese journalist and editor. Part two is by Shadi Hamid, fellow at the Brookings Institution. Part three is by Charles Kurzman, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Headline image credit: Coalition airstrike on ISIL position in Kobane on 22 October 2014. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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14. Illustration Friday: Passion


Her heart constantly fluttered like a swarm of butterflies because of her passion for life.

Digital collage, rubber stamps, colored pencil

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15. My tweets

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16. Remembering South Street and celebrating Isaiah Zagar, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer

Last Friday I pushed away from the desk, went out into the air, and returned to South and Gaskill Streets. I rediscovered some of my own history. I talked with Julia Zagar about her husband's remarkable mosaics (Isaiah Zagar, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens). I remembered.

The story is here, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Huge thanks to Kevin Ferris and to Amy Junod, page designer, who used six of my photographs for this piece. I'm sort of overwhelmed. I'm very grateful. Thank you.

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17. The myth-eaten corpse of Robert Burns

‘Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt,’ so wrote the other bard, Shakespeare.

Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, has had a surfeit of biographical attention: upwards of three hundred biographical treatments, and as if many of these were not fanciful enough hundreds of novels, short stories, theatrical, television, and film treatments that often strain well beyond credulity.

Burns has been pursued beyond (or properly in) the grave in even more extreme ways. His remains have been disinterred twice, the second time so that his skull might be examined for the purposes of phrenology. In death he has been bothered again very recently in the run up to Scotland’s referendum in October 2014. Would Burns have been a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ voter, a Nationalist or a Unionist, was often posed and answered across media outlets.

This de-historicised Burns, someone who never actually had any kind of political vote in life, who had no access to nationalist, or indeed, unionist ideology, in the modern senses is nothing new. During World War I, the minute book of the Dumfries Volunteer Militia, in which Burns had enlisted in 1795 in the face of threatened French invasion, was rediscovered. It was published in 1919 by William Will of the London Burns Club with a rather emotional introduction claiming that the minute-book’s records showing Burns’s impeccable conduct as a militiaman was proof of the poet’s sound British patriotism and how he might be compared to the many brave British soldiers who had just taken on the Kaiser. In response, those who had been recently constructing a pacifist Burns spluttered with indignation. Wasn’t the Scottish Bard the man who had written ‘Why Shouldna Poor Folk Mowe [make love]’ during the 1790s:

When Princes and Prelates and het-headed zealots
All Europe hae set in a lowe             [noisy turmoil]
The poor man lies down, nor envies a crown,
And comforts himself with a mowe.

Image Credit: Portrait of Robert Burns, Ayr, Scotland. Library of Congress.
Portrait of Robert Burns, Ayr, Scotland. Library of Congress.

This is an increasingly obscene song, an anti-war text saying, ‘a plague on all your houses’ (to paraphrase the other bard again): the poor should choose love, and not war – the latter being the result of much more shameful shenanigans by their supposed lords and masters.

Ironically enough in ‘To A Louse’, Burns wrote:

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
        An’ foolish notion

The problem is that Burns would be dizzy with the multifarious contradictoriness of it all if he could truly emerge from the grave and attempt to see himself as others have seen him. Ultimately, what we have with Burns is the man who may or may not have been Scotland’s greatest poet, but who is certainly Scotland’s greatest song-writer (with the production of twice as many songs as poems) — the nearest Scotland has, a bit cheesy though the comparison is, to Lennon and McCartney. These songs and poems express indeed many different ideas, moods, emotions, and characters. They sympathise with radically different viewpoints (for instance, Burns can write empathetically on occasion about both Mary Queen of Scots (Catholic Stuart tyrant) and the Covenanters (Calvinist fanatics, according to their respective detractors)). Burns’s work is both his living achievement and the real remains over which we ought to pore. In the end there is no real Burns, but instead a fictional one and the important fictions are of his making.

Image Credit: Scottish Highlands by Gustave Doré (1875). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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18. Everything I Never Told You/Celeste Ng and Citizen: An American Lyric/Claudia Rankine

There are books that fill you with the clamor of something new—the risk of them, the innovation.

There are books that silence you—how honest and aching and true, how beautifully levered down into the soul.

This morning I am silenced by Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng's impeccable first novel about a daughter whose inexplicable death cracks open the vault of a family's secrets and regrets. A novel about children submitting to their parents' dreams for them, and the woeful consequences. Bill Wolfe had named this his favorite book of the year. So many others, too. Believe anyone who tells you that you must read this book. Believe me. You must.

Ng is a master of the omniscient voice. A brilliant webber of divergent perspectives. A calm creator of sentences. A woman capable of writing with enormous clarity and tenderness about racism, silence, the terrible burdens of doing one's duty, the steep weight of holding that science book in your hand because your mother wants you to, the wretchedness of being the less-loved child. How do you take a heartbreaking story and still leave the reader with hope? You do it by writing through a powerful knowing not just of the past but of the future, too.

I am one of those people who writes in her books—outlining, defining, questioning. I did not write inside Ng's pages, preferring to keep them pristine. I turned back the ear of but one, knowing it would be the page that I shared, the thing that lies most at the heart of this novel. That word "different" and how we use it or abuse it in our lives.

Sometimes you almost forgot: that you didn't look like everyone else. In homeroom or at the drugstore or at the supermarket, you listened to morning announcements or dropped off a roll of film or picked out a carton of eggs and felt like just another someone in the crowd. Sometimes you didn't think about it at all. And then sometimes you noticed the girl across the aisle watching, the pharmacist watching, the checkout boy watching, and you saw yourself reflected in their stares: incongruous. Catching the eye like a hook. Every time you saw yourself from the outside, the way other people saw you, you remembered all over again. 

I was reading Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric the same time that I was reading Ng. I was thinking of how many times I have likely gotten it wrong in my own language—despite all these years now with my own Salvadoran husband, all these years fighting labels in life and on the page. Even those of us who should fully understand the nuances of prejudicial language can, horrifyingly, get it wrong, and will again. I mean to take nothing away from Ng's magnificent novel by including words from Rankine in this post, but they do, I believe, go together. They must—both these books—be read.

You are twelve attending Sts. Philip and James School on White Plains Road and the girl sitting in the seat behind asks you to lean to the right during exams so she can copy what you have written. Sister Evelyn is in the habit of taping the 100s and the failing grades to the coat closet doors. The girl is Catholic with waist-length brown hair. You can't remember her name: Mary? Catherine?

You never really speak except for the time she makes her request and later when she tells you you smell good and have features more like a white person. You assume she thinks she is thanking you for letting her cheat and feels better cheating from an almost white person.

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19. Tips Wisata Murah ke Yogjakarta

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Yogjakarta, sebagai sebuah Kota Pelajar selalu menghadirkan berbagai tempat dan budaya yang menarik. Sebagai kota pelajar, kota ini dihuni oleh berbagai suku bangsa yang datang dari hampir seluruh wilayah Indonesia. Hal inilah yang melatarbelakangi Yogjakarta sebagai salah satu ikon pendidikan di Indonesia. Ramainya siswa maupun mahasiswa yang datang ke Yogyakarta memberikan nilai tersendiri bagi budaya dan gaya hidup masyarakat Yogjakarta.

tips-wisata-murah-ke-yogjakarta

Selain sebgai kota pelajar,Yogjakarta sejak dahulu memang sudah dikenal sebagai kota budaya yang mewariskan banyak peninggalan-peninggalan sejarah serta adat istiadat kesultanan keraton.
Di Yogyakarta masih terdapat banyak bangunan-bangunan bersejarah yang masih berdiri tegak dan masih berfungsi dengan baik. Tidak hanya itu, sebagian dari bangunan-bangunan bersejarah tersebut digunakan dan dimanfaatkan sebagai kantor-kantor oleh pemerintah daerah Yogyakarta.Hingga sekarang, bangunan-bangunan tersebut tetap terawat dan tampak masih kokoh.
Ikon Yogjakarta adalah Malioboro dan tugu, selain itu paris atau Pantai Parangtritis juga adalah salah satu ikon pariwisata di kota ini.
Malioboro memiliki daya tarik tersendiri bagi para wisatawan karena tempat ini menawarkan keunikan yang sulit anda temukan di tempat lain.
Yogyakarta sebagai kota pelajar, merupakan kota yang tidak terlalu mahal dalam arti anda bisa makan dan menginap dengan biaya yang murah.
Jika anda ingin berwisata ke yogyakarta dengan biaya murah, maka anda harus memiliki beberapa pengetahuan seputar Yogyakarta.Baik itu tempat makan, penginapan, transportasi, dan berbagai hal yang bisa menghemat budget anda.
Berikut adalah tips wisata murah ke Yogjakarta yang bisa anda gunakan sebagai pedoman diantaranya adalah.
1.      Siang hari
Usahakan untuk selalu tiba di tempat tujuan anda pada siang hari, dimana transportasi bukanlah kendala berarti pada siang hari. Pada malam hari biasanya transportasi akan menjadi lebih mahal dan sulit.
2.      Transportasi
Untuk menuju ke daerah daerah yang tidak terlalu jauh, anda bisa memanfaatkan ojek atau becak untuk mengantarkan anda menuju tempat yang akan anda tuju. Sedangkan jika anda ingin kepergian ke tempat yang lebih jauh, cobalah menggunakan BusTrans Jogja yang ongkosnya relatif sangat murah.
Setelah anda berada di penginapan, di sana anda bisa menyewa kendaraan roda dua yang rata-rata harga sewa per harinya sekitar Rp.50.000. Dengan begitu anda bisa pergi ke mana pun yang anda inginkan dengan berbekal Peta Wisata yang bisa anda dapatkan di beberapa tempat seperti di Pusat Informasi Wisata di Jalan Malioboro, atau di Mirota Batik Jalan Malioboro.
3.      Penginapan
Sosrowijayan adalah sebuah jalan yang ada di lingkungan Malioboro, tempat ini banyak memiliki hotel atau penginapan yang bertarif murah. Mulai dari 70 ribu hingga 100 ribu permalam. Tidak hanya penginapan di sosrowijayan, sebenarnya anda juga bisa mencari penginapan atau guest house yang berada di beberapa tempat misalnya di dekat Malioboro atau di dekat Alun-Alun Kidul.
Jika anda berwisata ke Yogjakarta berame-rame, maka Guest House adalah pilihan tepat. Harga sewa Guest House perhari sekitar Rp. 600.000. Namun jika anda datang sendiri atau berdua, maka penginapan di Sosrowijayan adalah pilihan tepat.
4.      Kuliner
Kuliner di sekitar Malioboro atau di sepanjang Jalan Malioboro bukankah kuliner yang berharga murah. Setiap orang yang makan di warung kaki lima sepanjang jalan ini harus menyiapkan uang dua kali lipat atau tiga kali lipat dibandingkan dengan warung-warung yang ada di gang-gang Malioboro atau di sekitaran Malioboro. Jadi untuk makan, anda bisa mencoba mendatangi warung-warung kecil atau angkringan yang menawarkan harga makanan relatif lebih murah.

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20. READ!

I write never ever to send me pdf event/book press releases.  So what do I get? Zipped files I have to download and open to get to...pdf files.

Word doc and any images as jpegs. Next repeat offender is black-listed from EVER getting a mention in CBO again.

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21. The Week In Review

 

In Monday's post on POV, Kitty mentioned one of my favorite books Bright Lights Big City which is famously written in the second person

"You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy.  You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head."

Kitty asked "I've often wondered if McInerney had to really sell the 2nd person, because some people have a knee-jerk reaction to it, or did his writing sell it for him?" 

I'll opine that the writing is what carries this book. Using 2nd person POV was a device to bring the reader along with the narrator, in the closest narrative proximity possible. There is no "you and I" here, certainly no "they" there is only "us."

I've read other books in the second person POV notably CharlesBenoit's YOU which I might have enthused about here a time or two, but it's a tough POV to carry off well.



Long time blog reader Julie Weathers gave me a new favorite phrase on Monday too: "Holy rolling armadillos." 

That pretty much had us all in stitches here in the office.



And I really liked Colin Smith's list of questions about how to figure out which POV suits the story:

* How emotionally intense is the story? How closely do I want the reader to feel what the MC feels?

* How important is it that the reader is as surprised by plot developments as the MC?

* Do I want the reader to have a broader perspective of the story than the MC? Perhaps there are multiple plot threads with minor characters that your MC isn't aware of, but play into the main plot.

* What's the focus of your story: solving a mystery step-by-step, knowing the solution to the mystery and seeing how your MC solves it (like Columbo), the hunt for a bad guy, or the unraveling of a deadly scheme? I think you can use pretty much any POV for these scenarios, but some favor particular POVs more than others (e.g., Columbo-style is probably best as 3rd Omniscient; the step-by-step would be 1st or 3rd Limited like Harry Potter).




On Wednesday's blog post on characters' names, oh-so-useful Felix Buttonweezer (I think there are at least two spellings on that floating around!) reappeared.  This was immediate license for all the blog commenters to further build his backstory.  We're going to need a Buttonweezer Bible here before too long.



I did Facebook post on what I found to be an insightful comment at LibraryThing about building tension in historical thrillers.



Thursday was a really odd day. I posted the details of why on my Facebook page.



This week I paid my annual AAR dues which may seem like a small thing, but I remember when I wasn't an AAR member and how much I wanted to join as soon as I could.  For those of you who aren't familiar with AAR, it's the literary and dramatic agents professional group.  There's a Canon of Ethics which members agree to abide by, and a minimum standard for associate and full membership.
Some very reputable agents elect not to belong to AAR, but I'm very happy to fork over my dues and count myself among those who do.

I can't believe next week is the last week in January! Time is just flying by...even without those flying cars or personal jetpacks that I'm still hoping for!





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22. Smiley's people


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23. Flying and the creative path - Part 3

After months of training on the bunny hills, I finally graduated. I equate this to getting published. First it was magazines, then picture books and finally a novel was in the works. Staying with the flying analogy, it was time for me to fly off the top of Lookout Mountain. I wasn't nervous at all. (Yeah, right.)

     I usually flew as the light was fading and the sky calmed. Just like in publishing, in flying there are levels of degrees. We called these later flights sled runs, and wow, were they a rush. And what fun to overhear the onlookers whisper, "It's a girl!" as I leaped off the ledge. I loved it. I felt all-powerful! Unstoppable!
     After college... I would chug up to Chattanooga in my '78 Land Cruiser, my dream vehicle, to camp in the LZ - with my own tent. Part of being on the journey is slowly collecting the skills and tools you need. Nothing happens all of a sudden. I slowly created the lifestyle I wanted.

     For many years, my life was about flying, which is why I eventually moved to Chattanooga full-time. (My job at Buster Brown Apparel, drawing Charlie Brown and Snoopy, funded the adventure.)

And I flew!

     Eventually I even bought my own glider - a beautiful one with a cobalt blue edge.

     Many people thought I was crazy. Some admired how I chased my dream. Some focused only on the end result of these years of steady learning and growing to become the hang-glider pilot I was.
     It's so similar to writing and illustrating.
     People see me published now, with so many picture books and a novel under my belt. But to only see the end result is to make incorrect assumptions. Chasing dreams isn't easy - they take work. But there are steps you can take to achieve even the wildest dreams. The first step is deciding what that dream is and moving your life in that direction. Small decisions feed into the path from then on. And eventually, you will be ready for the mountain.
     I still dream about flying sometimes, and would never put it past me to take it up again someday. But for now, I am a children's book writer and illustrator. And as I say on my bio page - sometimes this business can feel just as crazy as jumping off a cliff with a kite tied to your back. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't jump!

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24. Blizzard Warning

The sky looks clear and though the temps
Are not exactly warm,
The weatherman's predicting
There will be a major storm.

The blizzard warning's on the horn,
The airlines pulling flights;
Anxiety starts ratcheting
To Xanax-taking heights.

At times I wish for days gone by
When storms were a surprise.
We didn't have alerts
So then we couldn't agonize.

Of course we're better off today
So we can be prepared,
But being clueless, so much stress
Would happily be spared.


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25. My tweets

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