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1. Selection Is Privilege

AmyAmy Koester is the Youth & Family Program Coordinator at Skokie Public Library, where she 13089CT01.tifselects fiction for youth birth through teens and oversees programming aimed at children through grade 5. She is the chair of the ALSC Public Awareness Committee, and she manages LittleeLit.com and is a Joint Chief of the Storytime Underground. Amy has shared her library programs, book reviews, and musings on librarianship on her blog The Show Me Librarian since early 2012.

This post originally appeared on her blog The Show Me Librarian, and is cross-posted with her permission.

There is a conversation happening on the Storytime Underground Facebook Group right now. It’s been going on for a few days, actually, and it seems to have started innocuously enough: with a question about folks’ thoughts on the Youth Media Award winners, asked by a person who expressed “major shock” and disappointment (via frown-y face emoticons) about one of the Caldecott honors. As I said; innocuously enough.

Some folks who added to the thread brought up the perennial gripe that not all the recognized titles seem to have much kid appeal; other voices jumped in to clarify that kid appeal is not part of the criteria for any of the major YMAs awarded by ALSC and YALSA. I find this argument annoying the same way I do a mosquito bite, because it pops up every year around the same time and is irritating but will disappear in a week. After all, there are awards that take kid appeal into account.

But. Then something ugly and uncomfortable popped up. People started talking about certain books not appealing to kids or their entire communities for one reason: because said certain books have diverse protagonists.

Things people have said*:

  • “Sometimes I pass on even well reviewed books because I know they just won’t circulate. There aren’t any Greek gods in it! I also have a difficult time getting uh, diverse books to circulate in my community. When I started my job and weeded the picture books a huge number of non circulating titles had POC on the cover. ‘Brown Girl Dreaming?’ That’s a hard sell.”
  • “You can have my copy then. Because it won’t circulate where I am.”
  • “I just know it’s going to be a hard sell.”
  • “We have a copy, but I can count the number of black patrons my library has in two weeks on one hand. It is rural, middle class, white West Michigan. The only black author that circulates…at all…is Christopher Paul Curtis and that’s because some teachers require it. It’s not just the race of the characters either. If our young patrons want sports fiction they are going to choose Mike Lupica or Tim Green. The crossover has not circulated even one time since we got it. It’s not like Kwame can’t write. Acoustic Rooster checks out frequently.”

After reading the full thread and seeing this build-up of negative dialogue specifically around diverse award-winning titles in collections, I responded:

“I find it extremely problematic to suggest that a library doesn’t need a book–award-winner or not–that features a minority protagonist on the basis that there aren’t many readers of that minority who use the library. To me, that suggests both a bias on the part of selectors as well as a lack of trust in the readers we serve. We know verifiably that young readers do not only want to read about characters whose lives are like their own, and keeping them from even having the option to try a book about a person who is different from them is bordering dangerously on censorship. If a particular child does not want to read a particular book, so be it; but, especially in a public library, children should have that option.”

I am going to expand on that a bit.

First, and frankly, I find the position “because we don’t have X readers in my library, we don’t need X books” to be racist. This position implies that we as selectors view diverse books as inherently less-than. If we argue that only black youth will want to read about black youth, we are really saying that the experiences of black youth have no relevance or meaning to youth of any other race. We are saying that the experiences of the youth in the books we do buy have broader relevance and resonance. That is the very definition of otherizing and making a particular perspective, experience, or group less-than.

The position that “because we don’t have X readers in my library, we don’t need X books” also denotes a fundamental lack of respect for the children we are supposed to be serving. It suggests that we think our young readers cannot handle, relate to, or be expected to understand an experience that does not mirror their own. Not collecting—and collecting but not promoting—titles with diverse protagonists projects the selector’s own bias onto the reader instead of letting readers freely encounter stories and information.

Also, I feel very strongly that if the excellent diverse books in your collection do not circulate, you are not doing your job of getting great books into the hands of readers. As librarians, we can sell any great book to the right reader. We can find the aspects of a title that will appeal to the range of readers we serve. Diverse books have the exact same appeal factors as the whitewashed majority of children’s publishing. So we can be professionals and make our readers’ advisory about appeal factors, or we can continue to always take kids interested in sports reads to Matt Christopher or Tim Green instead of to Kwame Alexander. But if we do the latter, we are part of the problem. If we omit diverse titles from our RA even though those exact same appeal factors are there, we are perpetuating a racist status quo.

I want to take a moment to step outside of what I have to say on this topic and share what some other professionals have said*:

  • “Good collection development policies should emphasize a variety of things, but one of them should most definitely be diversity. The goal of a public library is not just to serve as a mirror for our community, but to serve as an open door to the world, which includes giving our communities opportunities to walk in the shoes of characters very different from them. This, to me, is part of our education goals, to help our patrons gain a broad perspective of the world. If books don’t circulate there are things we can do to help promote circulation, including book displays, book talks, sharing book trailers and more. Yes, budgets are tight every where, but we should absolutely make sure that we actively are working to build diverse collections because it is an important part of helping us fulfill our primary mission to our local communities. And the idea that not one single person in our local communities wants or needs to read books that highlight diversity concerns me because it suggests that we don’t have enough faith in our kids to learn, grow and step outside of their comfort zones.”
  • “I think it is a PRIMARY JOB of librarians, specifically youth services librarians, to promote and encourage diversity in our collections, budgets be damned. After all, I spend way too much of my money on crap like Barbie and Disney princesses … which circulate like *gangbusters*. But if I went on just that, I’d have a very shallow collection.”
  • “The point: if the only way you know how to sell a book is ‘it’s got brown people’ then you might’ve missed the point of the story.”
  • “If you want to champion diversity in a place where people are resistant, sell the story, not the character’s color or orientation.”
  • “And I absolutely hate that people use the excuse ‘well, they just don’t circulate in my library.’ That speaks the the librarian’s failings.”

When it comes down to it, a major aspect of this topic is selection/collection development, and the fact that selection is a privilege. If you select materials for your readers, you are privileged to get to influence not only what children read, but what they have access to in the first place. And when I read arguments against including diverse titles, or questions about why we have to talk about this topic, it puts into sharp focus for me the fact that we have to recognize our privilege as selectors, and, more than likely, as white selectors for diverse readers.
selection is privilege
If you find yourself thinking “I don’t need this title because we don’t really have many X readers here,” your privilege is showing. You have probably never had to open more than one or two books in a row in order to find a character who looks/speaks/lives like you do. That is privilege. And whether we intend it to or not, our privilege influences our thinking and our decisions. This is a problem because our decisions affect the capabilities of young readers to find books in which they can find themselves and in which they can meet new people.

Confronting our privilege is hard. It is uncomfortable. I am acutely aware that, because of my privilege as a white woman, I don’t have to write this post. No one would begrudge me for not speaking up on this topic publicly. In fact, it would probably be a lot easier, and I would seem a lot nicer, if I didn’t write this post.

But that course of action is no longer acceptable to me. I am no longer going to privately roll my eyes when professional colleagues make privileged statements about their exclusionary practices, or when reviewers ignore microaggressions in books for youth. I am going to say something, because ignoring it only lets it perpetuate. And when someone calls me out on something I say or causes me to think critically about my own practice, I am going to try really, really hard not to get defensive and to just listen and reflect and improve. It is hard. And I don’t need to do it.

Except that I do, because the ability of every child I serve to feel valuable and see themselves as a beautiful, complex individual is what hangs in the balance.

This is not about our comfort, or our personal convictions, or what we think we know definitively after doing this job a particular way for so many years.

It is about the children we serve. Every single one of them.

*Because these conversations have been happening in public forums (a public Facebook group and on Twitter), I feel that sharing direct quotations is not a breach of anyone’s privacy. I have made the decision to share these quotes without identifying the speakers, as my ultimate goal is constructive conversation about privilege in selection for youth libraries, not alienating or shaming members of the community.

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2. Match

an old spread

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3. 2015 SCBWI Europolitan Con: Agent Brooks Sherman

By Elisabeth Norton
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations 

Brooks Sherman is an agent with The Bent Agency.

He represents picture books, fiction for young adult and middle-grade-readers, select literary and commercial adult fiction, and nonfiction in the areas of humor, pop culture, and narrative nonfiction.

He was interviewed by Elisabeth Norton for the SCBWI Europolitan Conference.

You'll be presenting in Amsterdam about using social media effectively. This is a topic most creators wrestle with at some point in their career.

ON SOCIAL MEDIA...

Does a writer have to be on social media these days?

No. It could be argued that it is more essential for nonfiction writers than for those who write fiction, as nonfiction usually requires author platform.

Here’s the thing: Social media can be useful to a writer, if they are good at it. If you are uncomfortable communicating via social media, it will show, and it will actually have a negative effect. So, if you absolutely loathe using Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, don’t do it!

That said, if you do want to learn how to use it, it can be an invaluable tool for following industry news and trends, as well as networking with other writers and industry professionals.

Do you think the target reader age influences whether a writer needs to be on social media? Is it more important for a writer of young adult fiction to be on social media than say, someone who illustrates picture books?

Again, I don’t think anyone needs to be on social media. I will say that the young adult reading and publishing communities are quite active on social media, so it’s certainly worth considering if you write in that area.

Also, I found my first picture book client, Sam Garton, on Twitter; he had created a Twitter profile for his character Otter that included a link to his website.

Once I clicked onto his site and saw his wonderful humor and amazing artwork, I decided to reach out to him to see if he was working on any picture books.

So if you are an illustrator, keep in mind that social media can be a great way to advertise your artwork and online portfolio.

What's your advice to the writer who has no social media presence at the moment?

I would encourage every writer to at least explore a few social media platforms, to see if any of them hold appeal. Twitter is a different experience from Facebook, as are Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Try them out before you decide you don’t want to use them.

Before I got into publishing, I thought Twitter was a useless, narcissistic tool. Since I’ve become an agent, I’ve found it incredibly useful for keeping up with world news, publishing news, promoting my clients’ work, and building my own professional reputation.

Is there such a thing as too much social media presence?

I think so. While I think it’s great if writers and publishing professionals are active on social media, if you are too active, it can become exhausting for those who are following you, and you might turn people off.

Also, keep in mind that social media should be a tool, not a goal; if you are using it nonstop every day, when are you going to find the time for your real work? (Or your family, friends, and health?)

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see by writers/illustrators using social media?

The biggest mistake I see people make on social media is forgetting that everything they do is public.

Again, social media is a tool; don’t use it when your emotions are running high, or say, after you’ve had a few glasses of wine. Social media is an excellent way to build a public persona, but it is not you — it is the you that you want to share publicly.

Also, no need to overshare: you don’t need to share every single thought that pops into your head!

ON GRIPPING OPENINGS...

Can you give a couple of examples of what you think are gripping openings, and tell us why they work?



Certainly. Here is the opening line from my client Emma Trevayne’s middle-grade fantasy Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times:

“There are doorways, and there are doorways.” 

Right away, this sentence establishes atmosphere and style. There is a classic feel to this narration, and it compels you to keep reading.



There is also the opening line from my client Heidi Schulz’s middle-grade adventure Hook’s Revenge:

“There have always been pirates. Why, even as far back as Eve, on the day she was considering whether or not to eat that apple, a pirate was most certainly planning to sail in and take it from her.” 

Again, atmosphere and style are immediately apparent. There is some wonderfully wry humor here, and really, who doesn’t love reading about pirates?



The opening lines from my client Becky Albertalli’s young adult contemporary novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda:

"It’s a weirdly subtle conversation. I almost don’t notice I’m being blackmailed.” 

Here is an example of the story starting right away — as a reader, I definitely want to know what’s happening, because my interest has been piqued with the word “blackmailed.”

Who is blackmailing our narrator, and why?

In the submissions you see, what percentage would you say grab you with their openings?

I receive somewhere between 50 to 100 queries (with opening pages) during an average week. Of these, I would say perhaps 10 percent of these intrigue me enough to request the full manuscript.

Do any of those stories with gripping openings lose you later?

Learn more!
Unfortunately, this does happen.

Sometimes it is simply a case of my loving the story’s premise but not connecting with the way the story is told.

Other times, it feels like the writer has worked very hard on the opening pages, but not as much on the rest of the manuscript.

While it is important for you to have a gripping opening, don’t forget to give the same attention to the rest of your story! Make sure your story is as tight and strong as possible before you query agents and editors; you want to put your best foot forward.

Thank you, Brooks. See you in Amsterdam.

Cynsational Notes


Learn more!
Elisabeth Norton was first published at age 16 when she had no idea what an “unsolicited submission” was. Seeing her byline on the subsequently published magazine article ignited her desire for a career as an author.

Once she realized she wanted to write for children, she joined SCBWI and now serves as Regional Advisor for the Swiss region.

Originally from Alaska, she now lives in Switzerland between the Alps and the Jura and writes for middle graders.

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4. The Book Review Club - Like Water on Stone

Like Water on Stone
Dana Walrath
YA

I had the great pleasure of knowing Dana while I was a student at Vermont College. She is a woman of many talents and a thought-provoking speaker. Her novel, Like Water on Stone, was a labor of love that started, I think, while she was at Vermont College and continued on after she'd completed the program. I cheered when I heard it had been acquired, not simply because a fellow VCFA'er had placed a story but because this book brings a rich form of diversity to not only kidlit but literature overall.

Basic Premise: It's 1914. Shahen dreams of moving to New York where part of his family has already immigrated. His father, initially, stands in his son's way. He loves their life in Armenia. And then the Ottoman empire, in decline, goes to war. Religion suddenly matters, and not in a good way. Much of Shahen's family, Christians, including his parents and older brothers, are murdered by troops. Shahen and two of his sisters flee across the mountains to safety and, eventually, a new life in America.

The story was inspired by Walrath's own family story of immigration. 

There are a variety of interesting elements to take away from this piece. The most hard-hitting is that this is a story of genocide. How does a kidlit writer tackle such hard stuff and not overwhelm her reader? Walrath chose to write her story in verse, her reasoning being, the material is so graphic, so emotionally full, by painting with thinner strokes, it is possible to share and yet not overwhelm a younger audience. Not once did I ever feel words were missing, nor did I feel as if I couldn't keep reading. It's a masterful use of a writer's tool. In so doing, Walrath exposes her audience to the concept that genocide is, very unfortunately, a recurring theme in human history, and opens the story of for debate by leaving the reader wondering: why? Why do we as humans tend toward annihilation of others? It's a contemporary topic.

Further, the novel is told from alternating POVs. It was truly fascinating to both read and see POV change by changing poetic structure. It's yet another tool to add to the toolbox.

For other great reads, you don't even need to get out your galoshes, just spring over to Barrie Summy's website. Happy reading!

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5. Zoo Animals : About Zoologists

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6. Just a quick note on perseverance in life and children's book publishing.



Most of us know the story of Hans August and Margret Rey, but in case you do not, here is the cliff note version from Wikipedia. It does not include many of the hardships that I am sure these folks endured. I thought of them because I have been reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.(yes, you must read it)
Hans Augusto Reyersbach was born in Hamburg, Germany, as was his wife Margret. Hans and Margret's fathers were German Jews; Margret's mother was not. The couple first met in Hamburg at Margret's sister's 16th birthday party. They met again in Brazil, where Hans was working as a salesman of bathtubs and Margret had gone to escape the rise of Nazism Germany. They married in 1935 and moved to Paris in August of that year.
While in Paris, Hans's animal drawings came to the attention of a French publisher, who commissioned him to write a children's book. The result, Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys, is little remembered, but one of its characters, an adorably impish monkey named Curious George, was such a success that the couple considered writing a book just about him. The outbreak of World War II interrupted their work. As Jews, the Reys decided to flee Paris before the Nazis seized the city. Hans assembled two bicycles, and they fled Paris just a few hours before it fell. Among the meager possessions they brought with them was the illustrated manuscript of Curious George.
The Reys' odyssey brought them to Bayonne, France where they were issued life-saving visas signed by Vice-Consul Manuel Vieira Braga (following instructions from Aristides de Sousa Mendes) on June 20, 1940. They crossed the Spanish border, where they bought train tickets to Lisbon. From there they returned to Brazil, where they had met five years earlier, but this time they continued to New York. The Reys escaped Europe carrying the manuscript to the first Curious George book, which they then published in New York by Houghton Mifflin in 1941. Hans and Margret originally planned to use watercolor illustrations, but since they were responsible for the color separation, he changed these to the cartoon-like images that continue to be featured in each of the books.
Wow.

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7. Character Files: PRINCE SARGENT

NAME: Prince Sargent the SimplePrince Sargent

HOME: The Northwest Kingdom

BACKGROUND: Prince Sargent the Simple is not the most sophisticated of the Seven Lovelorn Princes, however he does love to explore and find new things — usually in his nose or belly button. Back home, he enjoys wrestling alligators and letting the gators win. Every now and then you might find a pearl of simple wisdom uttered from his lips, however you’ll need to wait for a pretty long time.

PRINCELY POWER: He possesses the ability to enjoy the simple things in life, but that’s mainly because those are the only things he understands.


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8. The Last Jews in Berlin

The Last Jews in Berlin. Leonard Gross. 1982/2015. Open Road Media. 343 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Last Jews in Berlin was a good read. It was oh-so-close to being a great read every now and then. What I loved about this one were the personal stories. These stories were the heart of the book. Readers get to meet dozens of people and follow their stories. As you can imagine, these stories can be intense.

Instead of telling each person's story one at a time, one after the other, the book takes a more chronological approach. The book is told in alternating viewpoints. Is this for the best? On the one hand, I can see why this approach makes it more difficult for readers to follow individuals, to keep track of each person's story. Just when you get good and attached to a certain person's narrative, it changes. It takes a page or two perhaps before you reconnect with the next narrator and get invested in that unfolding story. On the other hand, telling the story like this sets a certain tone, increases tension and suspense, and avoids repetition. So I can see why it makes sense. The method of storytelling didn't bother me.

Probably the one thing I learned from reading this is that there were Jews working with the Nazis and turning other Jews in. That there were Jews betraying one another trying to survive. One simply didn't know who to trust.

At the same time, the book shares stories of people who were trustworthy, people who were willing to risk their own lives to help Jews. Life was hard for everyone: but some were willing to share their food and open up their homes at great risk. The book did show that not every person supported the Nazis and their philosophy. There were people who disagreed and were willing to do the right thing.

It's an emotional book, very intense in places.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Free Writing Lessons: "Shakespeare Uncovered" on PBS

I've recently finished watching the second season of Shakespeare Uncovered, a series of documentaries exploring some of Shakespeare's plays, largely from the perspective of the people who have played the parts. I'm now going back and watching the first season again. It's not just because I love Shakespeare. It's not even because the series is beautifully done.

It's because this series is one of the greatest teaching tools about how to write that I've come across in some time.

Understand, please, that I am usually not a visual person. I learn better by reading than by watching films. I don't even particular enjoy movies or TV that much. But Shakespeare Uncovered is an exception. By starting from an actor's perspective--a person who has lived a character and the story in a personal, intimate way--we get a personal, intimate look into Shakespeare's story-telling skills.

I think this is valuable, even if you don't enjoy Shakespeare. Even if he does not appeal to you personally, due to the nature of his stories or the age or language, you will benefit from this series, as a writer.

Each episode explores the nature of stories, the development of characters, in a uniquely inspiring and moving way. We explore the internal workings of characters as diverse as Macbeth and Bottom the Weaver, learning what makes them tick, and how a master writer uses their characters to tell a story that reveals something about each of us.

As one of the men who has played Macbeth, Antony Sher, says in the first episode of the first season, "Shakespeare's great gift as a writer is that he never holds people at arm's length. He never says, 'Look at this person. Isn't he disgraceful, or isn't he ridiculous?' Shakespeare always says, 'It's me. It's you. It's us.' He always does that. It is his great gift."

This is precisely what we need to do to draw an audience into our stories. And it's why, as somebody who attempts to tell stories, I find Shakespeare so inspiring.

Whether you are a Shakespeare fan or not, this series will help you learn how to do this. It shows how to develop characters and put them into settings that amplifies their personal issues.It shows how to use those characters to develop a plot that really means something and reveals something about the way we all tick. It shows how to use current cultural elements to amplify a story. It shows how to use the rhythm of language to create emotion, and how to magnify that emotion with action and movement.

If you have Comcast, season two is currently on On Demand. Maybe it's available from other providers as well. Check it out, and see if it is as great a writing lesson for you as it has been for me.

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10. Zoology for Kids - a bookwrap




Unwrapping....Zoology



Zoology is the scientific study of the characteristics and classification of animals. It is one of the branches of biology, and therefore it is also referred to as animal biology. There are several sub-branches within this field, including ethology, zoography, and anthrozoology. Additionally, zoologists often specialize in the study of specific types of animals. For instance, an ornithologist studies birds, while a mammologist studies mammals. As zoology is a very interdisciplinary subject, there are a number of related fields, including taxonomy, paleontology, and evolutionary biology. 

Sub-Branches

Common sub-branches of zoology include zoography, ethology, paleozoology, and anthrozoology. Zoography is the description of animals and the environments in which they live. These descriptions are often extremely detailed, and may also include information about the animal's behavior or eating habits. A related subfield is ethology, which is the study of animal behavior. Ethologists tend to focus more on behavior characteristics rather than specific types of animals, and may study many different species. Common behaviors studied include imprinting, aggression, emotion, and communication.

Now that's a mouthful.  Let's break it down so that a child can understand the true meaning of the word.

Unwrapping today's todays non-fiction book suitable for ages 11-15. Enjoy....






Zoology For Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals by Josh Hestermann and Bethanie Hestermann


Introduction by...






The Kratt brothers are creators and hosts of Kratts' Creatures and Zoboomafoo. They've been creature adventuring ever since they were as big as a wombat, first in their backyard and now all over the world. The brothers started making wildlife films while in college when they went on camping trips around the world and filmed wildlife. They edited the films in their basement and brought them into schools to show kids. Now, they've made 50 episodes of Kratts' Creatures in Africa, Central America, Australia and all around the world.

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11. wee red writer interview



I've done an interview with Edinburgh-based Julie Stirling over on the Wee Red Writer website about my work making books, about the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, and some tips for budding illustrators. You can read it in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. And get another peek at my Scholastic UK picture book coming out in March, Dinosaur Police.

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12. Navigating a Debut Year: Private Life

cover profiles

I first ran this series five months after May B. hit the shelves. With Blue Birds releasing next week (!), it feels like the right time for me to revisit my Writer’s Manifesto — a list of things I’d like to focus on in my public, private, and writing life. 

This is not in any way meant to be preachy or condemning (please notice I’m directing all of this to myself). I have yet to figure everything out and am in many ways a pro at doing the exact opposite of what I know is best. Yet these are ideas I’ve circled back to again and again, things I know will ultimately benefit my career, my friendships, my writing and my life. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

In my private life I will…
  • Err on the side of love: I got this beautiful quote from author Irene Latham, who first heard it from her mama. It’s a good way to think about the world in general and is especially important in our small community. Assume the best of others, their intentions, their actions. It will make you happier and kinder, too.
  • Let go of what I can’t control: This is pretty much everything from how my work is received by professional reviewers, bloggers, readers, and friends to sales, publicity, and marketing efforts outside my hands. I can do what I can, and that is all. It isn’t right or fair to try to own things that aren’t mine and never will be.
  • Be real with other authors in a safe, closed community: I’ve talked a lot about the Class of 2k12 and The Apocalypsies around here. Though both function as promotional groups for debut authors, they are first and foremost a place I can go for support. The debut year is full of new experiences only other debuts can truly appreciate and understand. Knowing I can go to these stellar people with anything has helped bolster and encourage me.
In my private life I won’t…
  • Hold my colleagues to unspoken expectations: This one is easy to do without even realizing it — trusting a colleague will read my book as I have read hers, assuming someone else will talk up my titles as I have for him, believing another should comment on my blog as much as I do on hers and on and on. Insisting others are beholden to me because of what I’ve done for them is a sure formula for heartache, especially when those friends have no idea of my expectations. Maybe they haven’t read my book yet but still plan to. Maybe they have, and out of an attempt to be courteous haven’t mentioned it because it wasn’t their thing. Maybe they’re not interested in it at all. Ultimately, it’s none of my business and becomes another opportunity to err on the side of love.
  • Compare or begrudge the successes, sales, or careers of others: About six months ago, there were a number of posts in the blogosphere about envy and contentment. There was tremendous response from readers confessing similar feelings. The drive to compare is such a gut-level thing it’s sometimes hard to avoid. Some people are able to use comparison as a sort of motivation for their own work. Not so with me. Comparison leads to frustration and feelings of inadequacy…or feelings of superiority, neither of which benefits me. My friends’ successes don’t somehow negatively reflect on my own efforts. There is room for all of us. Just because my career will unfold differently from someone else’s doesn’t make it wrong and doesn’t give me the right to be bitter with others’ success.

The post Navigating a Debut Year: Private Life appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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13. What's your writing routine?


Much like athletes warming up for a big game, just about every writer I know has a routine to get them ready and focused to write.

What's yours?

Mine: I wake up relatively early on the weekend (7:30-8:00am), start up a pot of coffee, go outside to get a bagel or breakfast sandwich, come back, turn on soccer, answer emails, and then get myself started writing.

What about you?

Art: Été by Claude Monet

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14. Flogometer for Jacob—are you compelled to turn the page?

Submissions Wanted... If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.


The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.

Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.

A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.

Mastering front 100WshadowBefore you rip into today’s submission, consider this checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Download a free PDF copy here.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of this list before submitting to the Flogometer. I use it on my own work.

A First-page Checklist

  • It begins connecting the reader with the protagonist
  • Something is happening. On a first page, this does NOT include a character musing about whatever.
  • What happens is dramatized in an immediate scene with action and description plus, if it works, dialogue.
  • What happens moves the story forward.
  • What happens has consequences for the protagonist.
  • The protagonist desires something.
  • The protagonist does something.
  • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
  • It happens in the NOW of the story.
  • Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
  • What happens raises a story question—what happens next? or why did that happen?

Caveat: a strong first-person voice with the right content can raise powerful story questions and create page turns without doing all of the above. A recent submission worked wonderfully well and didn't deal with five of the things in the checklist.


Jacob sends the first chapter of The Freerunners. The remainder of the chapter is after the break.

Noah’s luck had finally run out. Normally, his charm, good looks and quick wit was enough to get him out of trouble. He definitely had an undeniable way with people, a sly con man making a living through the efforts of those around him. Which made it all the more interesting when he had the ‘accident’ with Willy Butler. Of course, no one else saw it as an accident. It certainly wasn’t easy for Noah to explain either, considering how difficult it is to grind a skateboard backwards along a 10-meter handrail.

And he never had any intention of tumbling off the end into a very upset Miss Castello. Whilst this in itself might not have been so bad, it unfortunately led to Miss Castello spilling her microwaved tomato soup all over the person she happened to be talking with. That, of course, is where our good lad Willy comes in. You know, your typical schoolyard big fella, 6 foot 6, dad owns the local gym kinda guy. Not someone you wanna mess with. Willy looked across at the culprit, his shirt stained like a bloody wound had sprouted from his chest, a dark gleam in his eye. Nope. Definitely not someone you wanna mess with.

“Come ‘ere, ya bloomin’ tosser,” Willy’s coarse vocabulary rumbled across the dead quiet courtyard. He made a desperate lunge for Noah, but he wasn’t quick enough to dodge the boot that collided with his front teeth. And that is where Cody Blackwood is introduced, Noah’s brother and best friend. Often mixed up with his bloodline, he too shared his brother’s blonde (snip)

Were you compelled to turn Jacob's first page?

Well, it seems that conflict is on the way, but there were craft issues that stopped me. There’s some sort of omniscient narrator who steps in to introduce characters, and there were clarity issues as well—see the notes for the boot and the teeth part. The narrator seems to go away in the rest of the chapter. I think whatever it is you are trying for with this narrator isn’t working as well as you’d like it to. I suggest you just deal with what’s happening. Notes:

Noah’s luck had finally run out. Normally, his charm, good looks and quick wit was were enough to get him out of trouble. He definitely had an undeniable way with people, a sly con man making a living through the efforts of those around him. Which made it all the more interesting when he had the ‘accident’ with Willy Butler. Of course, no one else saw it as an accident. It certainly wasn’t easy for Noah to explain either, considering how difficult it is to grind a skateboard backwards along a 10-meter handrail. I wouldn’t say “con man” as it leads to thinking of the character as a man, not a boy. Con artist would work. The logic of the last couple of sentences eludes me. If it is difficult to grind the skateboard, then it would be difficult to control, which would make what follows more likely to be an accident than not.

And he never had any intention of tumbling off the end into a very upset Miss Castello. Whilst this in itself might not have been so bad, it unfortunately led to Miss Castello spilling her microwaved tomato soup all over the person she happened to be talking with. That, of course, is where our good lad Willy comes in. You know, your typical schoolyard big fella, 6 foot 6, dad owns the local gym kinda guy. Not someone you wanna mess with. Willy looked across at the culprit, his shirt stained like a bloody wound had sprouted from his chest, a dark gleam in his eye. Nope. Definitely not someone you wanna mess with. I’m a little confused about who or what or where the narrator is. It seems to be an omniscient someone who knows what’s going on and would decide to say”that is where. . . our good lad Willy comes in.” This is not Noah or, as nearly as I can tell, anyone present at the scene.

“Come ‘ere, ya bloomin’ tosser,” Willy’s coarse vocabulary rumbled across the dead quiet courtyard. He made a desperate lunge for Noah, but he wasn’t quick enough to dodge the boot that collided with his front teeth. And that is where Cody Blackwood is introduced, Noah’s brother and best friend. Often mixed up with his bloodline, he too shared his brother’s blonde (snip) Some confusion here about the front teeth—the pronoun in “but he wasn’t quick enough” could refer to Noah, the last person named, or perhaps Will. Unclear. Even more unclear is where a boot colliding with teeth comes from. It’s that narrator again, who goes on to say “where Cody Blackwood is introduced.” Why not just show the action? I can’t see a reason to tell us that Cody is being introduced. And to whom? I guess the reader, since it seems clear from later narrative that Will would know the brother of Noah. This technique took this reader out of the story. Lastly, what does "often mixed up with his bloodline" mean in reference to a brother? Clarity issues.

Comments, please?

For what it’s worth.

Ray

Submitting to the Flogometer:

Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):

  1. your title
  2. your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
  3. Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
  4. Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
  5. Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
  6. And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
  7. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
  8. If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.

Were I you, I'd examine my first page in the light of the first-page checklist before submitting to the Flogometer.

Flogging the Quill © 2015 Ray Rhamey, story © 2015 Jacob

Continued

hair and tanned skin. Unfortunately, aside from an impressive talent for troublemaking, that’s about as far as the similarities went for Cody and Noah. Confident and daring, he was one of the coolest guys around, having an easygoing nature with a daredevil’s spirit. A natural athlete, Cody spent more time running from police then on any track race at school. That’s the way things went in Groveville. Known as the Slums by locals to the area, Groveville used to be the pinnacle of civilization, before the war that ruined a once glorious city. Now it was just a breeding place for thugs like the Butlers.

“Come get some you muppet!” Cody and Noah had to think fast. Looking across the schoolyard, students were already making way, looking forward to the chase that was sure to ensue. Stuff like this went down in school legend, and no one wanted to miss out. After knowingly looking at each other, the two brothers tore off to cheers from the crowd, Willy in wild pursuit. A teacher tried to stop the chase, but the wave of students had already swallowed them up.

“Hey Mum,” there was Cody on the phone. “Yeah, nothing too major but you might wanna come down as soon as you can.” Cody hung up the phone and looked across at Noah. “She’s gonna be here ASAP,” he panted between breaths. ‘You are done mate!” they heard the catcalls from their fellow students. Noah glanced back; Andre’s was already hounding him down, his face contorted with pure rage. “I’m not sure ASAP is gonna be soon enough.”

Hurdling like madmen, Cody and Noah dashed across the school towards the carpark. This was not the first time they had been chased before, and so they leapt over ledges and across staircases with relative ease. Willy, however, was not nearly as smooth as Noah or Cody at traversing the busy school, resorting to a battering ram style method in order to keep pace with the two brothers. He gnashed his teeth like a lion in anticipation of an upcoming kill, hunting its prey with merciless abandon.

As they sped through the corridors, Noah realised they were soon running out of options. He knew this hallway was a dead end, and Willy seemed to know it to, increasing his pace to a level quite unexpected for a person of his height. The panic started to set in for Noah. He’d never been in so much trouble, not too mention the beating he’d have to endure from Willy and his cronies. Cody would always have his back, but even he wouldn’t be able to protect his brother from Willy’s gang. No one else would lift a finger of course, not even teachers. That’s the way things went in Groveville. Noah looked across at his brother, expecting to see a similar frown of concern. “It’s over mate,” Noah said, slowing down as he came to terms with the situation. It surprised him then, to see a crafty smile sprout from his face. Cody looked back at his brother, his smile ever increasing. And amidst all the chaos, the shouting and the abuse, he whispered “Look up.”

Noah’s jaw dropped. Any one could have been standing inside that window. A friendly teacher, a fireman, perhaps even a cop. Yet no other then his very own mother, Saline, stood above him, a rope snaked around her arms. He blinked a few times, trying to come to terms with this new reality. He should have expected it really, considering Cody had called her earlier. He just couldn’t believe that she had actually come through for them. Her dark hair was still up in a bun, her hands dirty from hours slaving away on the farm. It was unfortunate it had to be like that since Noah and Cody’s father had died in the war, and they had tried to convince her many times that school was not important and that they would quit to help her manage the land. She would have none of it, however, telling them they would be the first Blackwoods to get an education. “You wanna spend your life toiling away in the soil,” she often said to them, her hardened yet delicate hands caressing their heads. She looked worried as she gazed down from her vantage point, before throwing the rope out of window. At first Noah was a bit confused, but Cody took the hint and launched himself upwards, climbing it with extreme speed and precision. Noah turned around. Willy was only 20 metres away, parting students left right and centre. “Come on!” the shout came down from Cody, peering over the window, its open doors swaying to the tune of the breeze.

Not wasting any time, Noah hauled himself up the rope, which was made twice as hard due to his grazed hands from his earlier stack. He didn’t want to look weak however; there were still tonnes of people watching on, so he drove on through the pain, gritting his teeth as he pushed his muscles harder. With a final lunge for safety, he just managed to grab the windowsill, using the rope to balance himself whilst Saline’s strong arms wrapped around him. He could have stayed in her embrace forever, memories of his childhood flooding over him as he remembered back before the war, and all the rubbish that came with it, when his mother used to hold him like that. It didn’t last though, as he was heaved back to his senses when a foreign hand gripped ruthlessly around his foot. He stumbled, losing grip of the windowsill as Willy managed to get another hand bound around his ankles. Now only Saline’s dwindling reserves of strength kept him alive. A drop from there could be fatal, with roughly 6 metres separating him from the embrace of the merciless concrete floor. Noah looked up at his mother, her eyes swelling with tears. He wished he could say something to comfort her, as she had done so many times. Nothing came out though. All he could do was smile as he let go of her loving arms…

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15. "Art Is a Way Out. Do not let life overwhelm you. When the old paths are choked with the débris of..."

“Art Is a Way Out. Do not let life overwhelm you. When the old paths are choked with the débris of failure, look for newer and fresher paths. Art is just such a path. Art is distilled from suffering.”

- Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts (via)



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16. George R.R. Martin Gives Away a First-Edition Hobbit

georgerrmartinGame of Thrones author George R.R. Martin has given away a rare, first-edition, copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This particular volume contains illustrations created by Tolkien himself.

The donation was made to Texas A&M University. According to the school’s blog post, the book will be displayed at the Cushing Memorial Library & Archives for a few weeks.

During his visit, Martin explained that “there’s no doubt his effect upon me was profound and I take a strange pleasure in seeing him included in a library like this, to be a 5 millionth book with Cervantes and Walt Whitman. It represents an acceptance of fantasy into the canon of world literature which I think is long overdue, frankly.” Do you agree with Martin’s opinion? (via Chron.com)

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17. Review of Won Ton and Chopstick

wardlaw_won ton and chopstickWon Ton and Chopstick:
A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku

by Lee Wardlaw; illus. by Eugene Yelchin
Primary   Holt   40 pp.
3/15   978-0-8050-9987-4   $17.99   g

In this sequel to Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (rev. 3/11), the cautious kitty has another reason to be worried: an adorable new puppy. Won Ton is not happy when he catches his first glimpse: “Ears perk. Fur prickles. / Belly low, I creep…peek…FREEZE! / My eyes full of Doom.” He scoffs at the ideas the people suggest for names, and ferociously warns the new pup: “Trespassers bitten.” Yelchin’s graphite and gouache illustrations depict with sensitivity and humor the sleek gray cat’s initial fear and horror alongside the roly-poly brown puppy. Pastel backgrounds cleverly incorporating shadow and light allow the funny poses and expressions of the pair to shine. Each haiku is complete in itself, capturing the essence of cat with images such as the banished and lonesome Won Ton “Q-curled tight,” and together the poems create a whole tale of displacement and eventual mutual understanding. At the end, both cat and puppy snuggle in bed with the boy, meeting nose-to-nose as friends.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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18. Keys and bolts

I received a question whether I was going to write about the word key in the series on our habitat. I didn't have such an intention, but, since someone is interested in this matter, I’ll gladly change my plans and satisfy the curiosity of our friend.

The post Keys and bolts appeared first on OUPblog.

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19. App of the Week: OneShot

Name: OneShot
Platform: iOS
Cost:Free

oneshot logo Imagine that one afternoon after school the teens you work with are hanging out at the library reading articles of personal interest on their iPhones. All of a sudden one of the teens reads something that she has to let others know about. So, she decides she wants to Tweet the link. But, really what she wants to do is highlight one particular sentence in the article for her friends to read. She could copy and paste the text into Twitter, but maybe that makes her Tweet too long to post easily. But then she realizes, I have OneShot on my phone and I can take a screenshot of the part of the article that I want to point out, highlight the text on the screenshot, and then add that image to the Tweet. So, that's what she does.

I think that story highlights that OneShot is a simple idea and a simple app that does one thing really well - allows Twitter users to use screenshots in Tweets and enables highlighting in those screenshots (OneShot also makes it possible to crop screenshots and add a background color). It's one of those apps that before I used it I didn't realize I needed it. I was making due with the tools I had - copy and paste, ordinary screenshots, and so on.

Here is an example of a recent Tweet that I posted using OneShot to highlight a portion of a web page:

At the moment the app only works on iPhones. The developers say that a universal version should be available any day now which means that it will be available for iPad as well. I can see that the iPad version could be very useful for teens and staff who are reading articles and web pages on their personal and/or library provided devices.

I know that OneShot probably seems like just an extra tool that is OK to have but not a necessity. But, if the teens you work with, your colleagues, or yourself take part in Tweeting that includes links to articles and other web content, try it out. I think you'll be happy that you did.

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20. What I Wish You Knew About an Agent's Job

Recently I posted on Twitter that I had run out of blog ideas. Brilliant planning since I just restarted the blog. Well thankfully a few kind souls came to my aid with questions that they thought I might be able to answer. We'll see about that.


EmilieLorditch
@BookEndsJessica @BookEndsKim What is something that you wish people who submit to you knew about your job?
2/11/15, 10:55 AM



Thank you @EmilieLoritch for your question. This is something I hope I convey regularly on the blog when it might feel like I'm really just kvetching. Of course a couple of things came to mind, but the very first thing I thought of has more to do with writers and their expectations than it does with me and my job. At least I think that's what I'm about to write.

The first thing I want people to know about agents is that the least important thing we do is actually sell the book. I think there is, understandably, a lot of emphasis on that sale and while that's not wrong (because without the sale none of the other stuff, the more important stuff, would really happen) it's probably, in some ways, the easiest part of an agent's job.

What an agent actually spends the day doing is dealing with all that other stuff which really amounts to planning the author's career. I would say the most important thing you agent does for you is negotiate the contract and I don't mean the advance and royalties. I meant he nitty-gritty details of the contract that will allow, or not allow, you to do other things in the future. With contract negotiations comes an eye toward the author's career. What will this author want to be doing next year or two years down the road and how can I make sure this contract doesn't prohibit that?

I'm going to keep this simple rather than go into the myriad of other things an agent does, but what I will tell you this, which I know you've heard before, is that one of the things an agent rarely does while in the office is read. That means submissions or otherwise. Between phone calls, meetings and contracts there's very little time to put my feet up and whip out a good book.

--jhf




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21. BilBOlbul Newsletter 4 marzo 2015


NEWSLETTER 4/03/2015
  

I DISEGNI DE "IL BATTELLO BRILLO"
CON ATTO DAL VIVO DI STEFANO RICCI
E BEMYDELAY
Sabato 7 marzo alle ore 19:30 presso Squadro stamperia galleria d’arte verranno battuti all’asta la serie di disegni originali realizzata a 4 mani da Stefano Ricci e Manuele Fior. Le opere nascono dalla live-performance "Il battello brillo" in occasione dell’ultima edizione di BilBOlbul.

L’asta sarà accompagnata da un aperitivo con musica selezionata da Brace e sarà seguita da un atto dal vivo di Stefano Ricci e BeMyDelay.

In questa occasione saranno premiati i vincitori del challenge organizzato in collaborazione con Instagramers Bologna, che si sono aggiudicati Klebstoff #8, catalogo di BilBOlbul, ideato in collaborazione con lo sticker magazine tedesco Klebstoff.
Segui tutti i dettagli dell’asta su facebook
FATHERLAND
MOSTRA DI STEVEN GUARNACCIA
Steven Guarnaccia, uno dei più importanti illustratori contemporanei, in occasione dI Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2015 trasforma la sede di Hamelin nella propria casa. Un viaggio sul filo delle memorie famigliari attraverso il disegno ma soprattutto attraverso l’installazione di una collezione di oggetti trovati e reinterpretati dalla mano dell’artista.
La mostra sarà inaugurata alla presenza dell’autore il 1 aprile 2015 alle ore 19.30.

In collaborazione con Transbook Children’s Literature on the Move, Gruppo Hera, Parsons The New School for Design, Comune di Bologna - Quartiere San Vitale, Corraini.

Orari mostra: dal lunedì al venerdì 10.00-13.00/15.00-18.30 | Chiuso sabato e domenica
BilBOlbul Festival internazionale di fumetto fa parte della
Rete dei Festival del Contemporaneo di Bologna
Live Arts Week: 21 > 26 aprile 2015 - liveartsweek.it :: Future Film Festival: 5 > 10 maggio 2015 - futurefilmfestival.org :: Angelica- Festival Internazionale di musica: 2 > 31 maggio 2015 - aaa-angelica.com :: Biografilm: 5 > 15 giugno 2015 - biografilm.it :: Gender Bender: 31 ottobre > 8 novembre 2015 - www.genderbender.it :: BilBOlBul: 19 > 22 novembre 2015 - bilbolbul.net

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22. HEAVY METAL TEENAGER is back in the woods!! (First spotting in over a year. He looked older, but his...

HEAVY METAL TEENAGER is back in the woods!! (First spotting in over a year. He looked older, but his long locks remain golden, abundant; his bangs still hang to the frames of his thick, thick glasses; and his t-shirt game is still on point.)

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23. USPS Reveals Maya Angelou Forever Stamp

USPS has released a preview of the upcoming Maya Angelou forever stamp.

The stamp features a  hyper-realistic painting of Angelou by the Atlanta-based artist Ross Rossin. The original painting is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery through Nov. 1. The stamp also features a quote from the author:  \"A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.\"

The stamp will be issued at a dedication ceremony on Tuesday April 7th. In the meantime, you can preorder the stamps here.

 

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24. Animals Playing Instruments – #kidlitart's Twenty-Eight Day Challenge Part 3

Here is the third batch:

RHINO PLAYING A REBEC


SKUNK PLAYING A SAXOPHONE


TIGER PLAYING A TUBA

UPUPA PLAYING A UKULELE

VERVET PLAYING A VIOLIN

WALRUS PLAYING WASHBOARD 

XERUS PLAYING XYLOPHONE

YAK PLAYING YUEQIN

ZEBRA PLAYING A ZURNA





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25. PARALLELOGRAM Omnibus Edition Now Available!

Parallelogram Omnibus

For those of you who like to read your series in one big chunk, there’s now an omnibus ebook edition of the entire PARALLELOGRAM series–and it’s incredibly cheap for the moment. All four books for only $7.99! And more important, no waiting in between cliff hangers.

Enjoy!

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