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1. How can we hold the UN accountable for sexual violence?

Cometh the new year, cometh the fresh round of allegations that United Nations peacekeepers raped or abused some of the most vulnerable people in the world. 2016 has just begun and already reports are surfacing of UN peacekeepers paying to have sex with girls as young as 13 at a displaced persons camp in the Central African Republic.

The post How can we hold the UN accountable for sexual violence? appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. More Comic Shops Need To Close Down -And I Am NOT Joking

Remember the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption?  I think 2010 was my last year going into a comic shop, too. 

Anyway, comic shops began to panic because their Marvels and DCs (their Image and that other company) comics were not getting to the UK.  But did the shops try to push back issues or graphic novels that they had so many of because they ordered out of stupidity and greed? 

No.

They panicked.  As far as they were concerned they HAD to have new comics on the shelves because what else could they put on their comic shelves (let's not be too hard on them because a lot of these people are just stupid through greed)?

In the UK Diamond has a monopoly on comic distribution. If you were around in the 1980s and knew a lot of the shop holders back then you will know how they got that monopoly thanks to Titan Distributors.  From 4-5 distributors we went to one.  A monopoly.  But business monopolies in the UK are far from legal.  Here, read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_competition_law

But do shop owners complain when, if they did, a new distributor might set up competition and offer them lower prices?  No, because they are scared of Diamond and they don't know much about business other than that they can inflate comic prices to get their money back.

But in 2010 Diamond had a panic. No comics to distribute and there was talk that another distributor (I know who) had access to the latest US comics and was starting to offer them to shops. The shops all acted like scarede kids because "What if Diamond finds out?" -that was said to my face three times by shop owners.

So, Diamond thought "Independent comics -they saved us all before!" Which is what the "Black and White Explosion" of the 1980s did along with US companies recruiting UK creators. "Now's your chance to get on comic shop shelves!" they declared -and comic shops had to bite the bullet.

I asked Diamond how many copies per month of titles they would need?  What the special deal was" and so on.

"We only want the books until we can get our usual stock in" I was told.  As were several other Indie publishers. The deal?  Over 75% of the book cover price -and the publisher paid to get the books to Diamond so....publishers had to give their books for free...now you know why those shelves remained empty until the US imports started arriving.

But Indie publishers who did supply comic shops turned up to find their books no longer on the shelf. Most were dumped into boxes waiting for them to collect and some were turn, badly creased or even had coffee stains (?!) on them.  "We did say we took no responsibility for damages" was a phrase used a lot. Three years later one publisher who was owed £20 (just £20 -$40) gave up trying to get his money.

Back in the 1980s with Preview Comic I lost £50 from the sales of issues 1-5 because Forbidden Planet in London "can't read the signature on the invoice?" and other insulting con-man remarks.  £50 back then was a lot of money and would have meant continued publication.

But comic shop owners are "okay" and "their mates" -what I used to think. Remember I supported one shop and was banned (I still have all the emails) because I purchased an Independent comic they told me for months they could not get so I told the owner I'd track it down online. Two weeks later the owner (I saw him) hid at the top of the shop stairs as one of his staff verbally abused me because I bought the comic they now had (after months of saying it was impossible to get so go online). The temptation was to floor the little fecker being rude but I just said loudly "You hide up there while one of your staff rudely insults someone who has promoted and supported your business since day one?" then I walked out (the boss was very brave later in his email).

Like the guy in the last video posted says, most of the people are shit.  Morons.  Rather than build a strong comic shop industry embracing all genres and publishers like they used to up to the late 1980s, they prefer decline with Marvel, DC, Image or that other company.

Decent, honest shop owners are very rare today and how long have they been trading -most are almost dealing with their comic shops as an extension of their hobby not a real business.

Personally, I think we need less and less comic shops.  More need to go out of business, and they will be, because if they are SCARED of their distributor who cannot survive without them, and will not diversify, they deserve to go. "Where are people going to get their comics then?" If you are really asking that question then YOU need to go, too!

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3. One Writer’s Process: Gigi Amateau

Surrounded by deer, foxes, raccoons, and a host of other forest creatures who inhabit the woods near her house, Gigi Amateau lives on a tributary of the James River called Rattlesnake Creek and finds inspiration for many of her stories by looking out the window or taking a walk down to the river. “I cannot imagine living or writing without access to the river,” says Amateau, the author of

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4. Valentine Week

Valentine Week एक समय था जब Valentine Day का ही पता नही होता था और अब देखिए  ये रोज डे या चाकलेट डे भी कुछ होता है और अब पता चला … 1.Rose Day – February 7 2. Propose Day – February 8 3. Chocolate Day – February 9 4. Teddy Day – February 10 5. […]

The post Valentine Week appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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5. Take What Your Stories Give You


Big Believer in Boom Factor

I've written about the martial art of writing. I've done martial arts and I noticed that writing is like it in this way: you have to do a lot of things at once without thinking when you write. You can do this because you've studied each skill separately and because you've practiced a lot. I still think this is true. But I was thinking as I walked Merlin the dog


(which is where I do some of my best thinking, such as it is, which is why one of my best pieces of advice for becoming a writer is that you get a dog and that you walk your dog) that even though I now pre-write more than I used to and plan --as I'm working along but still--a lot more than I used to, I STILL DISCOVER new connections and twists and turns in plot and character and new setting ideas as I go along. I think this is because it's the mix, the way the various elements of writing interact  (language, characters, story, setting, conflict) and the way this creates new  insights and new--the technical term is BOOMS--BOOMS in the manuscript. You have to allow this to happen, throw out all your plans and plotting and whatever when it does. Because these booms--or sometimes just tiny and subtle shifts--help you to take your story to places you couldn't have imagined until you do-

To me, this is why formulas do not solve all writing problems as their proponents sometimes claim. It's a big reason why fiction writing can't be reduced to Step 1, Step 2...there's this constant interaction and it creates NEW. The writer has to react to NEW. If she/he does it well, finds the right moves, the manuscript improves. If not--

Learning skills, practicing skills will help you make those right moves but you have to be open to taking what your story gives you, too.

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6. Diane Duane, author of GAMES WIZARDS PLAY, on never being afraid that you won’t be original enough

GAMES WIZARDS PLAY is the latest novel in the Young Wizards series, and we're thrilled to have Diane Duane with us to chat about writing.

Diane, what's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I do love to work away from home when I can, and some of my favorite books have been written that way. I’ve written a Spider-Man novel in a Bavarian country beer hall and an X-Men book in a medieval townhouse in Bruges, and I’ve outlined a Star Trek novel in a flat buried inside the walls of a Scottish castle. My all-time record daily word count (13,000 words and a bit) happened when I was writing in a chocolatier/cafe in the Swiss capital city of Bern, while I was working on the fantasy novel A Wind from the South. …But I also get good results at home, which is probably just as well, as that way I get to see my husband a lot more. (Of course he has his own writing to do too, so when we're not working at home, sometimes we wind up in the same city but different cafes…)

Generally speaking I don’t listen to music when I’m writing, these days, because I find it interferes with me clearly hearing character voices when creating dialogue. I do listen to it, though, when writing action scenes or when I need to get myself into the mood to do a particular kind of emotionally loaded scene.

In terms of ritual, the only one I’ve got is that I do my best to write something every day, whether it’s contracted work or one of the too-many-other-projects presently choking my to-do list. A good day’s writing for me varies widely in terms of word count: it might be as few as a thousand words or as many as ten, but about four thousand would be average — a couple thousand in the morning, a couple thousand in the afternoon/evening. For screen work, since for me that's much harder work than prose, ten pages of screenplay would be a good day. Either way, I alternate between composing at the computer via keyboard, or dictating using Dragon Naturally Speaking (sometimes I do this while out walking).

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Never be afraid that you won’t be original enough. At one level, it’s simply impossible for you not to be original. You occupy a unique position in spacetime. By definition, no one else can be right where you are, right when you are, with your unique worldview, your outlook, your developmental history, your “tone of mind”, your reading and writing history. But more to the point, our craft is such that you could give two writers exactly the same idea for a novel and turn them loose to write, and their works would still be significantly different and unique. (In fact I’m betting that you could give two writers the same outline for a novel and each work would still be radically different.) …If you’ve honestly done your homework—if you’re clear about what you want to be writing and what effect you mean to produce—your voice, and your writing’s uniqueness, will inevitably show through. Just concentrate on telling your story.

What are you working on now?

The sequel to GWP (still untitled), the fourth and final book in my first fantasy series (The Door Into Starlight), a third book that unfortunately I can’t talk about, and a miniseries screenplay (ditto).

ABOUT THE BOOK

Games Wizards Playby Diane Duane
Hardcover
HMH Books for Young Readers
Released 2/2/2016

Every eleven years, Earth's senior wizards hold the Invitational: an intensive three-week event where the planet's newest, sharpest young wizards show off their best and hottest spells. Wizardly partners Kit Rodriguez and Nita Callahan, and Nita's sister, former wizard-prodigy Dairine Callahan, are drafted in to mentor two brilliant and difficult cases: for Nita and Kit, there’s Penn Shao-Feng, a would-be sun technician with a dangerous new take on managing solar weather; and for Dairine, there's shy young Mehrnaz Farrahi, an Iranian wizard-girl trying to specialize in defusing earthquakes while struggling with a toxic extended wizardly family that demands she perform to their expectations. 

Together they're plunged into a whirlwind of cutthroat competition and ruthless judging. Penn's egotistical attitude toward his mentors complicates matters as the pair tries to negotiate their burgeoning romance. Meanwhile, Dairine struggles to stabilize her hero-worshipping, insecure protégée against the interference of powerful relatives using her to further their own tangled agendas. When both candidates make it through to the finals stage on the dark side of the Moon, they and their mentors are flung into a final conflict that could change the solar system for the better . . . or damage Earth beyond even wizardly repair.

Purchase Games Wizards Play at Amazon
Purchase Games Wizards Play at IndieBound
View Games Wizards Play on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Diane Duane has been a writer of science fiction, fantasy, TV and film for more than thirty years.
Besides the 1980's creation of the Young Wizards fantasy series for which she's best known, the "Middle Kingdoms" epic fantasy series, and numerous stand-alone fantasy or science fiction novels, her career has included extensive work in the Star Trek TM universe, and many scripts for live-action and animated TV series on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as work in comics and computer games. She has spent a fair amount of time on the New York Times Bestseller List, and has picked up various awards and award nominations here and there.

She lives in County Wicklow, in Ireland, with her husband of twenty years, the screenwriter and novelist Peter Morwood.

Her favorite color is blue, her favorite food is a weird kind of Swiss scrambled-potato dish called maluns, she was born in a Year of the Dragon, and her sign is "Runway 24 Left, Hold For Clearance."
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Have you had a chance to read GAMES WIZARDS PLAY yet? How fun does it sound to write in all these exotic places? Do you make sure to tell your story in your voice? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sarah, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

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7. Bang, bang — democracy’s dead: Obama and the politics of gun control

It would seem that President Obama has a new prey in his sites. It is, however, a target that he has hunted for some time but never really managed to wound, let alone kill. The focus of Obama’s attention is gun violence and the aim is really to make American communities safer places to live.

The post Bang, bang — democracy’s dead: Obama and the politics of gun control appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Emma Watson Attend Premiere of “Colonia”

Emma Watson attended the red carpet European premiere of her new film, Colonia. Emma wore a simple, but chic white dress and off-white coat.

Reuters was able to ask Emma a quick question while she attended the premiere. This video can be seen below:

The Daily Mail snapped many photos of Emma and her costars, a few which can be seen below.

 

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Colonia will make its Switzerland and German opening date on February 18, opening in the USA in April. More premiere dates can be seen here at IMDB.

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9. Semi circle


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10. UK library lending numbers

       The Public Lending Right is the neat system in the UK whereby authors are remunerated (up to a point) each time their books are checked out of a library, and they've now released their most recent statistics as to UK library borrowing.
       In The Guardian PLR chair Tom Holland has a useful overview of Library lending figures: which books were most popular in 2014/15 ? -- including the list of the 100 most borrowed titles.
       Despite being (completely) fiction-dominated, none of the top 100 are under review at the complete review; indeed, few other books by any of the authors to crack the top 100 are.

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11. This Month for Writers - January 2016


A new year brings new writing goals and a swath of information to help writers develop their craft and challenge themselves with each new project. This past month, in addition to celebrating the authors honored with the American Library Association's YMA awards, we were also excited to find articles with tips on writer self-care, as well as loads of advice on how to keep readers turning pages and coming back for more, and encouragement for writers to stop following "rules" and forge their own writing path. Read on, and keep writing!



Read more »

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12. Themed art - Princess


Some more work from a version of Cinderella I drew for Japanese publisher Hikari no Kuni many years ago. At the time I'd been researching the French Revolution a great deal and had large stock pile of art references of the late 18th Century. The setting is very much the dying days of the Ancien Régime, so sadly Cinders and Prince Charming may not have had long to enjoy their happiness!

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13. Fitz and Van's Formula


Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman teamed up to paint many of the classic car ads of the 1960s. Using gouache, Fitz painted the cars and Van painted the backgrounds. They had a formula, but it was a great formula.


It goes like this. Coloristically, they choose a overall background color (here, blue). They let that color key fill the scene, including the areas that aren't so important. Those areas are allowed to stay flat (here, dock, water, and sky). The car is the feature color (here, a soft gold). And there's usually an accent color in the background (here, red). A black shadow beneath the car makes the other colors look sharp. 

Compositionally, they fill the foreground with the car's front end, seen in perspective and stretched horizontally. They pick a complex background theme which suggests an attractive couple enjoying leisure time at an exotic location with other affluent people. This time we're dockside with a pleasure-boat party. 

Fitz said that the ad was supposed to make people feel: "I wanted to be in that car, in that place, with that gal on my arm." 


Overall background color—cyan. Feature color, magenta. Accent color—green (figures and swash of light). Background—tropical foliage. Theme—moonlight in the tropics.


Overall background color—dull ochre. Feature color—brighter yellow and blue. Accent color—red. Background —mountains and crowd. Theme: A day at the races.


Overall background color—magenta to violet. Feature color—red. Accent color—yellow. Background— architecture. Theme: Evening party. 


Overall background color—yellow green. Feature color—green with blue highlights. Accents—yellow and pink. Background —stately mansion. Theme: Southern elegance.


Overall background color—blue green. Feature color—yellow. Accents—pink. Background —country club or hotel architecture. Theme: party in the country.


Even though the paintings look photo-real, when you compare them to a photo of a real car, you can see how many artistic choices they brought to their renderings. They ignored a lot of hood reflections, made the windshields more transparent, simplified the ground plane, and exaggerated the car's geometry.

Van Kaufman died in 1996, and Art Fitzpatrick died last year at age 96. Here's a New York Times article about how Fitz received some recognition late in life for his accomplishment.
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Fitzpatrick's art appears in a book called Pontiac Pizazz!
Previously: More technical notes about Fitz and Van
My video tutorial "Gouache in the Wild"

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14. Pixar's Movie Tributes

This is a fun video putting Pixar movies side-by-side with scenes from famous movies they were mimicking or were inspired by. Click the image to watch on YouTube.

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15. Don Tate & Phoebe Wahl Win Ezra Jack Keats Book Award

By The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation
from Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, in partnership with the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi, announced the winners of the 30th annual Ezra Jack Keats Book Award.

Each year, a new writer and new illustrator are celebrated. The 2016 award ceremony will be held April 7 during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. The winners receive a gold medallion as well as an honorarium of $1,000.

“We are proud to present the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award to the best new talents in children’s illustrated literature each year. These are writers and illustrators whose books reflect the spirit of Keats, and at the same time, are refreshingly original,” said Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “This year is Ezra’s 100th birthday! So we are especially delighted to celebrate him by honoring those whose books, like his, are wonderful to read and look at and reflect our multicultural world.”

“The Keats Archives at the de Grummond Children’s Collection is a happy reminder of the joy that Ezra’s books have brought to readers and the impact they have had on children’s book makers.

"Once again, we see that influence in the work of this year’s EJK Book Award winners. We are confident that they’ll join the long list of illustrious past winners whose books continue to delight and make a difference,” said Ellen Ruffin, Curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

Lois Lowry, two-time winner of the Newbery Award for Number the Stars (1990) and The Giver (1994), will present this year’s Ezra Jack Keats Book Awards. Michael Cart, columnist/reviewer for Booklist and a leading expert on young adult literature, will deliver the Keats Lecture.

The 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winner for new writer is:

Don Tate for Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree)

In the South before the Civil War, it was illegal to teach slaves to read, but George Moses Horton loved words too much to be stopped. He taught himself to read as a child and grew up to be a published poet, while still a slave.

Writing about slavery for young readers is challenging but important, and Don Tate succeeds brilliantly, in an engaging, age-appropriate and true narrative.

Tate said, “Three years ago, I won an Ezra Jack Keats honor award, one of the proudest moments of my career. I never imagined being considered again… this time [for] the top award. There has always been a special place in my heart for Ezra Jack Keats. When he chose to picture brown children in his books, he chose to acknowledge me. I wasn’t invisible to him.

"As a creator of color in a field that sorely lacks diversity, it can be easy to sometimes feel unseen. This award serves as a reminder to me that I am not invisible and that my work matters.”

The 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winner for new illustrator is:

Phoebe Wahl for Sonya’s Chickens (Tundra)

Sonya’s dad presents her with three baby chicks to care for, and she does her job well, providing food, shelter and lots of love as they grow into hens. Then one night, Sonya discovers that one of her hens is missing! But as her father explains, the fox stole the hen because he loved his kits and needed to feed them.

The circle of life is gently and exquisitely depicted in Wahl’s rich and colorful watercolor and collage illustrations of a multicultural family’s life on a farm.

Wahl said, “Keats’ work stands out as some of the most impactful of my childhood. I can directly trace the roots of my obsession with pattern, color and my use of collage to my affinity with the lacy baby blanket in Peter’s Chair. Keats inspired me to create stories that are quiet and gentle, yet honor the rich inner lives of children and all of the complexity that allows.

"I am humbled to be associated with Keats’ legacy in being presented with this award, and I am so grateful to the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation and the children’s literature community for this show of support and encouragement.”

The 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award honor winners are:

2016 New Writer Honors


Julia Sarcone-Roach for The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, also illustrated by Sarcone-Roach (Knopf)


Megan Dowd Lambert for A Crow of His Own, illustrated by David Hyde Costello (Charlesbridge)

2016 New Illustrator Honors


Ryan T. Higgins for Mother Bruce, also written by Higgins (Hyperion)


Rowboat Watkins for Rude Cakes, also written by Watkins (Chronicle)

The Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Criteria

To be eligible for the 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award, the author and/or illustrator will have no more than three children’s picture books published prior to the year under consideration.

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16. A history of the poetry of history

History and poetry hardly seem obvious bed-fellows – a historian is tasked with discovering the truth about the past, whereas, as Aristotle said, ‘a poet’s job is to describe not what has happened, but the kind of thing that might’. But for the Romans, the connections between them were deep: historia . . . proxima poetis (‘history is closest to the poets’), as Quintilian remarked in the first century AD. What did he mean by that?

The post A history of the poetry of history appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. Philosopher of the month: Plato

The OUP Philosophy team have selected Plato (c. 429–c.347 BC) as their February Philosopher of the Month. The best known and most widely studied of all the ancient Greek philosophers, Plato laid the groundwork for Western philosophy and Christian theology. Plato was most likely born in Athens, to Ariston and Perictione, a noble, politically active family.

The post Philosopher of the month: Plato appeared first on OUPblog.

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18. SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!!!

and i'm going to try my hardest not to tear up just writing this (although that's probably not going to happen...).


i'm almost willing to bet that everyone who knows me knows my love and respect for Peyton Manning. i mean, seriously. i spent 16 years teaching preschoolers and i can tell you that some of them still, to this day, see this man on a football field and say "Ms. Nicole loves Peyton Manning". the number 18 forever embedded in their little minds. the number 18 representing greatness, gracefulness, determination, drive, talent and just a legend...a pure legend.


i have LOYALLY followed this man for almost TWO DECADES (yes, THAT long) and i have NEVER faltered once due to any loss by the Colts (his then team) or by the Broncos (his now and most likely final team-insert tears)...even after the ugly loss two years ago in Super Bowl 48 to the Seahawks. never. his humility and pure love of the game make him something special. a role model, of sorts. something the sports world alone could learn from this man.

ironically, beginning 6 years ago we wound up having something not so fortunate in common...multiple neck surgeries/fusions. every day (after THREE surgeries) i STILL live in pain....pain that shoots down my right arm (yes, my painting arm) into my hand, back up into my shoulder, down my trapezius and well, it's just not a whole lot of fun. i manage. i'll continue to manage. why? because my drive and determination and pure LOVE and PASSION for my craft will keep that pencil and paintbrush in my hand, no matter what the pain level may be. throwing a football and being one of the greatest players to ever grace a field after FOUR of those surgeries? well, that is nothing short of miraculous. yes, he has access to the greatest doctors in the world, etc etc etc. but he plays still because he has great LOVE and PASSION for the sport. no matter what his physical disabilities may be, his drive and determination is much much bigger.

knowing that today's game may be his last ever, you can bet i'll be crying a whole ocean (or two) just watching this man do what he loves most...honestly, humbly, respectfully and just Peyton being Peyton. not sure what i'll do with my sundays now but i'll still be wearing that magical number 18 and i'll still have his face as the screensaver on my Mac so that when i'm at my easel doing what i love most and the pain gets a bit mundane, i can just look over and know that it can be done. that pain and physical limitations don't have to stop you from doing what you love more than anything else in the world. always promised myself that one day i would pen this man a letter, letting him know how much of an inspiration he truly is....

helmets off to you, Peyton Manning for being a class act all the way to the end. win or lose, you'll always be a winner to this girl!


{my style may have changed over the years but that's about it when it comes to this man!}



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19. Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating

When I preordered Jess Keating's new book, Pink is for Blobfish, I accidentally ordered 2 copies. Lucky thing because the book became immediately popular in the classroom!  Take a look at the book trailer:



I shared the book with my 3rd graders this week.  We have been learning about informational writing and this one invited great conversation about the way Jess Keating chose the animals for the book, titled the book and organized the information. The book is packed with information about pink animals and the photos and layout make the book perfect for middle grade readers. From the cover, it looks like this might be part of a new series--if so, I am extra excited!  This is a fabulous informational book and will hook so many young readers.  You'll definitely want this book for your classroom or library. Not only is it a great book for kids' independent reading, there is so much to share with kids about good informational writing.

I love that Jess Keating is a zoologist turned author.  If you know her fiction series (My Life is a Zoo) you know what a fun writer she is.  Her middle grade series is engaging and accessible for middle grade and early middle school readers.  In both her fiction and nonfiction books, Jess Keating packs in lots of things to think about while giving us a humor break and some new ways to think about things throughout.

Jess Keating recently introduced a Youtube channel called "Animals for Smart People".  It is a great series of informational videos. I am going to share the channel with my students this week and we are going to study this particular video as we think about the choices Jess Keating made about the visuals she included.  These are great sources of information for everyone. And they are perfect mentor texts for our middle grade kids as they learn to write informational text and create informational movies.



On a sidenote, Jess Keating and I are both original members of the #nerdrun team, #TeamSaunter.  I am thinking that Pink is for Blobfish might inspire some great costumes for the 2016 #nerdrun.....

The 2014 #TeamSaunter at #nerdrun! (Jess Keating dressed as Beetle:-)

You can (and should) follow Jess Keating on Twitter (@Jess_Keating) and make sure to visit her website. It is packed with lots of great stuff!

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20. Day 7: Ekua Holmes

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Photo credit: Clennon L. King

Before making her debut as a children’s book illustrator, Ekua Holmes was already an accomplished and award-winning fine artist. She was the first African American woman to be appointed a commissioner on the Boston Arts Commission. She was the recipient of a 2013 Brother Thomas Fellowship from The Boston Foundation for her contributions to the Boston arts community. In addition, she was the creator of a 2015 Google Doodle honoring the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday!

 

Last year, Holmes took the children’s book world by storm with her illustrations in Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. The book went on to receive numerous awards, including a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrator’s Original Art exhibition, four starred reviews, a Sibert and Caldecott Honor, and a Coretta Scott King New Voices Award.

Holmes is a painter and collage artist who uses news clippings, photographs, vibrant gunnamed[1].jpgcolor and skillful composition to infuse her work with energy.

Presenting Ekua Holmes:

Tell us about your path to publishing. How did you get that first trade contract?

My path to publishing seemed to appear out of the blue. One day I got a call from a woman who had seen my work at an Open Studios event in my hometown of Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston, MA. They asked would I be interested in working in Children’s literature. Would I ??? YES! I have always loved Children’s books and in the back of my mind held it as a possible path for my work. At exhibitions of my work people would say, “Have you ever thought about doing Children’s books.” I believe children’s books introduced me to art through the illustrations. Long before I went to museums and galleries, I went to the library. At the time of the call, I didn’t know if anything would come of it but I was pleased that there was interest.

Tell us about your most recent book, “Voice of Freedom.”

Months later the same woman called to say that her company, Candlewick Press, had a manuscript for me to consider—a manuscript about Fannie Lou Hamer. I knew about her role in the Freedom Summer, and her signature statement, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I admired her and was honored to be asked to illustrate her story. I said YES! What a blessing.

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Talk about the research process for the book.

Well first things first—reading the manuscript— again and again! Then images began to come into my mind – colors, patterns, shapes, faces.  After that, I started doing online searches. One search led to another and I was able to find images of Ms. Hamer from the 60s. The manuscript is so rich! It chronicles her life from the age of six to her 70s. Of course there were no early photos. Her family was too poor for that. So for the early years, I had to imagine her as a child. What did she look like? How did she wear her hair? What was her demeanor? Where did she live? I read books and articles about her. I read comments written by people who had worked with her in the movement. I listened to tapes of her speaking and singing. I looked at photos of her hometown. I immersed myself in her world.  Another smart thing I did was engage a college student to help me collect the books and information from various sources. She was so helpful (thank you Chianta).

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Google Doodle by Ekua Holmes

Talk about the medium you use in your work

I primarily use collage techniques with acrylic paint. Collaging is basically glueing things onto a surface – photos, newspapers, lace- whatever helps to tell the story. My work is made of cut and torn paper and paint. I am also a proud and committed thrifter. I am always at the flea markets and thrift stores picking up things that speak to me. Just as I was about to work on the image of the doll Fannie Lou Hamer’s mother bought for her, I ran across these two old handmade dolls at a thrift store in Salem, MA. They seemed to be just the kind of dolls that Fannie Lou Hamer would have received from her Mother. They were so authentic! It was as if the universe had provided just what I needed.

Was there anything especially interesting that you learned about the subject while researching the book?

Fannie Lou Hamer was 45 years old when she started her Voting Rights work. Because of her upbringing, experiences and intellect, she was ready when it was her time to step onto the world stage. She was a devoted mother and daughter, committed wife and staunch believer in the word of God. She knew the battle was bigger than her, bigger than any human being. It was a righteous struggle and right had to win.  She never said, I’m too old, too tired, too poor- I’m inspired by that.

If you could spend one day in a studio, working with any artist — past or present — who would that be, and why?

What I would really enjoy is going thrifting with them, so artists like Whitfield Lovell, Radcliffe Bailey, Rene Stout or Bettye and Alison Saar. Oh and Nick Cave! They have the same affinity for the power of found objects. WE could spend the entire day (or days) driving through the South (or new England) visiting garages and barns, finding just the right items to inspire our work.

What would be your dream manuscript?

 

I like to think it’s on its way to me right now. Stay tuned.

 

 

Your dream author to work with?

 

Its funny, there is not as much communication between author and illustrator as you might think. Generally the publisher selects the illustrator (but does get the writer’s approval, I think). So I feel very fortunate to have worked on this book by Carole Boston Weatherford, who has written over 30 books and won many awards. Now I’m working on a book of poetry created by Kwame Alexander – another powerhouse writer/poet and winner of the 2015 Newberry Award. I couldn’t be happier.

 

 

 

Can you talk a bit about your process of illustrating a book?

 

This was my first time illustrating a book but I think it’s much like working on my personal collages. Research is crucial. I saturate myself in the author’s words (or subject) and allow images to rise to the surface. I sketch and revise, sketch and revise. Each time hoping to get closer to what I feel is the right composition. There is a lot of looking, thinking and moving things around.

 

 

 

Who are your cheerleaders, those who encourage you?

 

My partner and I are both artists (he’s a filmmaker). We give each other a lot of high fives. He is very proud of me right now.  Also my 8-year old granddaughter introduces me by saying “…and this is Nana, my artist.” Once she patted me on the head while saying this. I couldn’t have been more amused or flattered. If I can work on books that she and her generation will cherish, I will have everything I need in this world as an artist.

 

 

 

What’s on the horizon, what can your fans expect to see from you?

 

Winning a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award and a Robert F. Sibert Award for “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” is a hearty and magical welcome into the world of Children’s literature. I look forward to illustrating many more books. Folks can expect me to do my absolute best on each story, striving for creative excellence so that the illustrations I make will complement, illuminate and enhance the texts —it’s a collaboration. And after all—my granddaughter is watching.

–Don Tate


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21. The I-Wants and the Gimmies, by Taylor Overbey

Crimson Dragon is proud to present Taylor Overbey’s debut book, The I-Wants and the Gimmies. Released in February 2016, this book shows that everyone should think about others regardless of differences.

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22. Too much, if any, backstory allowed...

Hello, sir. May I have your thoughts on backstory, please? Is devoting most of the first chapter to backstory unwise? Would doing that turn off an editor

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23. Will McIntosh, author of BURNING MIDNIGHT, on not boring readers during quiet scenes

We're honored to have Hugo-Award-winning Will McIntosh here to talk about his first YA novel BURNING MIDNIGHT.

Will, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

For me, the hardest scenes to write tend to be the quiet ones, the ones where characters are talking, planning, getting to know each other. They’re essential to the story, but you always risk boring readers. One of the hard scenes to write in Burning Midnight involved an argument between the two main characters, Sully and Hunter. Sully accuses Hunter of being closed off and secretive, and Hunter, furious, reveals the secret that drives her to keep to herself. I had to rewrite it a few times to bring out each character’s emotions in what I hope is a realistic and emotionally powerful manner.

The scene I love, the one I tend to read when I’m doing a public reading, is where Sully and Hunter find a very, very rare sphere in the middle of winter in a very unlikely place. It made me very happy to give my poverty-stricken characters that moment.

What was your inspiration for writing BURNING MIDNIGHT?

When I was twelve, my sister, a cousin, and I stumbled on a 60 year-old dump in the woods. We spent a summer hunting for antique bottles, and built a collection of something like 200 that we displayed on the porch. Those great memories led me to want to create a story about hunting and discovering incredibly valuable things in the wild. 

How long did you work on BURNING MIDNIGHT?

Five months. I write Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with a one hour break for lunch and exercise, so I write relatively fast. I resigned a tenured university position when my family moved to Williamsburg, and now writing is my profession, so I take it very seriously. Fortunately, there are few things I love more than writing. I never get tired of it, so having all those hours each day to write makes me very happy.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?


This is my first Young Adult book, but I’ve published four adult SF books, and this was by far the easiest road to publication one of my books has experienced! I delivered it to my agent, he emailed to say he was sending it out to editors, and we should hear back in four to eight weeks. Two days later, he called to say the editor at Delacorte Press had made a two-book preempt offer. I was thrilled, and we made a deal that same day!

What are you working on now?

My next Young Adult novel. It’s about the lies and deception that are such a big part of modern society. I want to title it The Future Will Be Bull**** Free, but I’m guessing that would stifle sales a bit. For now, that’s all I can say.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Burning Midnightby Will McIntosh
Hardcover 
Delacorte Press 
Released 2/2/2016 

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent. No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere. 

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them. 

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will McIntosh’s debut novel, Soft Apocalypse, was a finalist for both a Locus award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He is a frequent contributor to Asimov’s, where his story “Bridesicle” won the 2010 Reader’s Award, as well as the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. His third novel, Love Minus Eighty (based on “Bridesicle”) was published by Orbit books in June, 2013, and was named best Science Fiction novel of the year by the American Library Association. His upcoming novel, Defenders has been optioned by Warner Brothers for a feature film. Will recently moved to Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife Alison and twins Hannah and Miles. He left his position as a psychology professor in Southeast Georgia to write full time, and still teaches as an adjunct, at the College of William and Mary. Will is represented by Seth Fishman at The Gernert Company. Follow him on Twitter @WillMcIntoshSF
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Have you had a chance to read BURNING MIDNIGHT yet? How do you keep the quiet scenes interesting? Do you incorporate childhood memories into your stories? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sarah, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

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24. Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett on winning the American Indian Library Association's 2016 Picture Book Award


I asked Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett for a response to the news that their exquisite board book, Little You, had won the 2016 Picture Book Award from the American Indian Library Association.

Richard said:
 "I've always wanted to work with Julie Flett so I'm honoured to receive this high honor with her and our team at Orca Books!"

Julie said:
It's really exciting to hear that Little You is being honored along with the other books listed. Wow, thank you, committee!"

Congratulations to both of you, Richard and Julie! 

Several books by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett are amongst AICL's Best Books lists, so do click on over there and see what else they've done.

I hope they work together on additional books!

Before hitting the upload button for this post, I want to point readers to another huge plus for Little You. At Orca's blog, I learned that is available in South Slavey, Bush Cree, and Chipewyan:






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25. TEDx TALK - getting closer!

Yesterday I attended a TEDx Master Class led once again by the amazing speech coach, Mel Sherwood. A team of volunteers gathered to give feedback to five of the speakers (me included). It was the first time to share my speech with an audience and their feedback was fantastic - a roomful of brilliant minds! (Photo shared with permission by Nel Raymond.)

But first, Mel walked us through a bunch of exercises getting our minds, bodies, and mouths ready to be fully engaged. She's brilliant with her insights and I once again learned so much from her.
     There have been several stages with this preparation for a TEDx Talk. A few weeks ago, I saw the venue for the first time - Edinburgh's Central Hall. It is truly lovely and will hold 700 audience members. 500 tickets have already been sold, and you can buy yours HERE.
     They took my official photo while I was there, although I might need a redo as I recently got new glasses:
(Click here to see the photo with its write-up on the TEDx FB page.)
     What's been especially nice is how supportive my Uni classmates have been. They've been cheering me on, helping with design tips and Michal even gave my talk a listen in preparation for the master class. I am so grateful for all of them!
     So, how'd I do for my practice run? Well, I still need more practice, but overall, I felt good about my talk, "Is Your Stuff Stopping You?" It will be recorded, so if you can't make the journey to Edinburgh, it will be online soon after the date - where it can be viewed by millions of people if it goes viral. No pressure. But really, yeah, I hope it goes viral!!!

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