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Recently on a listserv, authors were talking about careers. Some knew exactly where they wanted to go and were laser focused. Some were looking all around and trying a bit of this and a bit of that. How do you plan a writing career?
What are you good at?
Which pieces of writing are bringing you the most attention? This is a hard one because some of the writers were having success with nonfiction pieces; yet, they longed to write fiction. (Not many vice versa!) The question became, do you stick with nonfiction to build a career? Some needed the income from their nonfiction and considered it their job; fiction was their passion, but not the bread-winner, so they could only fit it in around other projects.
There’s nothing wrong with this! Good writing is good writing. Why not make money at what you do and do well? Often, we don’t see ourselves and our work clearly. The marketplace has a way of rewarding good work and it’s clearly something to which you should pay attention.
Where do your passions lie?
“Six of One, Half a Dozen of Me,” self-portrait quilt. c. 2014 Darcy Pattison
Are you a frustrated poet? Do you love YA novels? Or do easy readers excite you because you’ll be helping someone learn to love reading? For me, everything I do winds up being teaching. I like to take complex material and simplify it for others so it’s practical and easy to implement. But I also love poetry, writing fantasy and science fiction novels, and writing for this blog. Picture books are especially exciting for me to write. I’m all over the place. When you have a multifaceted set of passions, sometimes you need to prioritize. Or understand that for this season of life, one passion will sell better than anything else.
If you need some tutoring in order to be great at a passion, then get it.
Unique: No One Else Could Do This
One way of thinking about this is to answer this question: What can you do that no one else could do? What’s the one type of writing/publishing in which you could be the best in the world? Top Dog! Why mess around writing mediocre pieces? Instead, find the one thing that you do best and no one else can match you.
Maybe it’s one of these:
Nature poetry for K-3.
Erotica for New Adult readers.
Christian fiction set in NYC for New Adult readers.
YA dystopian stories set on Mars.
Picture book family stories for the MidWest.
Preschool picture books that include a grandparent.
Vietnam War stories for middle grade girls.
It doesn’t matter that you are the only one in your category and you’ve even invented the category. Vietnam War stories for middle grade girls? Yikes! Unlikely. But it that’s your passion and you can pull it off with integrity and excellence, then do it!
That’s how you build a career. Do something no one else has done and do it with such excellence that no one can turn you down.
Easier said than done? Of course. But a career plan worthy of striving toward. And in the end, that’s all we can do. Butt in chair. Write. You might as well choose to write what will build your career.
I made a discovery amidst my family’s unfortunate new reality. Since I am not a genius, I am sure most of you already knew what I just found out. However, it solved a long-standing conundrum for me.
I’ve been doing the dishes in my domicile for about a decade. There are two reasons and both pertain to my lovely wife. First, her hands get dry and cracked sometimes after she washes dishes. It isn’t a big deal to pitch in and do something, so I figured I could help AND save money on expensive lotions. The second reason is that she said I never looked sexier than when I’m elbow deep in soap suds. If that ain’t reason enough, I don’t know what is.
We have this long running argument about the necessity of some pots, pans, and utensils to the cooking process. I believe that she has an evil plan to soil every dish we own – thus my dirty kitchen apocalypse theory. She discounts my hypothesis and doesn’t seem to care anyway. I still maintain that chocolate chip cookies shouldn’t require seventeen items to make. Yet every time I smell them cooking, I know I have seventeen new items to wash.
All of that leads to today’s brilliant finding. She had been at the hospital with our youngest for two weeks. It has been a rough stretch with me playing Mr. Mom. Thanks to the generosity of others, I have yet to cook (a fact that makes my other daughters very happy since my culinary expertise doesn’t extend past piling things on bread.) I noticed during the last few days that I didn’t have many dishes to wash at all. Bonus!
We finally got to bring our sick baby home this week and, lo and behold, within an hour the sink was full of dirty dishes. Nothing could dampen the joy of the reunion, but I admit I was slightly peaved. So I playfully confronted the offender with the revival of my dirty kitchen apocalypse theory.
My lovely wife didn’t flinch, just laughed and waved me off.
“But I haven’t washed this many dishes in two weeks,” I complained to her back as she walked away.
“You have to cook to make dishes,” she replied over her shoulder.
Ahhh, so that explains it.
And off I go to fill the sink with suds, hoping she’ll take notice.
photo credit: Mysid (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Kristi said: I have a question for today’s guest, Ruth Barshaw. Is sketching something that one is just naturally good at, or can it be learned?
Hi, Kristi! I’ve read varying opinions on this, and have talked to some famous illustrators about it too. Though some will argue against it, I’m not alone in my firm belief: Anyone can learn to draw well. It just takes time and lots and lots of concentrated effort.
Some people say that it also requires talent. I say no. Some people claim I started higher on the “talented” level — that people who draw well are somehow born with a special knowledge, or even just a predisposition that sets their work apart. I am not sure if that’s true or not. I’m not an expert on brain studies, but I am a researcher and have dug deep into this subject a few times.
I don’t have any of my early childhood art. I do not remember being told by anyone that I had special talent for art until I was in third grade. By then I loved to draw, maybe as much as some other kids loved to run, or loved to play baseball — things I liked, didn’t practice much, didn’t *understand* how to do better, and so wasn’t much good at — and so didn’t excel at.
Lucky for me, my art ability was recognized by a couple of teachers who asked me to draw things for their bulletin boards. I’d drawn one giant cartoon of Dennis the Menace for a group project and one of the other kids begged to take it home. Third grade is the first I can recall of anyone wanting my art. I remember working really hard in second grade to develop my art (and also to grow my hair long). The working hard on art part, I’ve done ever since. (Growing my hair long is still an issue)
I see amazing art done by very young children. Maybe they really are specially talented. Or maybe they just have smart people in their lives who value art and tell the kids why what they did is special.
I believe it’s learning WHY that makes one a better artist. And, of course, repeated concerted effort.
If you want to read more about how to become a better artist, check out Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. You’ll be astounded at her students’ growth in mere days. But it shouldn’t be surprising: They have someone telling them how to see things differently, WHY certain things work and others don’t.
You can teach yourself how to draw. You’ll learn faster with smart help.
Many years ago a friend told me she had decided artists and people with special arts talent (musicians, poets, even people who deliver great lectures) have that information/talent/predisposition whispered to them by the dead masters. I was a little offended: does this diminish my own hard work at developing my skill? How do we explain the talented artist who doesn't use their art at all, who wastes what appears to be a gift from above?
My friend's idea has spread widely. I've heard it many places. I still don't buy it.
I still don't like the suggestion that I was born with something that others weren't, that what I have developed was whispered to me, that I am lucky instead of hard working. (I realize her suggestion doesn't automatically equate to all of these; I am extrapolating. Probably proponents of the idea would say I am both lucky and hardworking.)
Brain science says once you think something, it's easier to think that thing later. Confidence or the lack of confidence can build from your thoughts.
This is why people (like me) post affirmations on their mirrors and computer workstations: to repeat good thoughts, so they grow. If you are rewarded for something -- if a teacher nods in approval, says something nice, tapes your paper to the wall for others to see, shares it with the class -- you learn to repeat. If you're rewarded for innovation, you will innovate more. If you're rewarded for being quiet, for not coloring outside the lines, for drawing exactly the way you're told to draw, you might still grow up to be an artist but it'll take extra effort to push yourself to greatness. If you're punished for doodling on your page margins, for designing varied but barely legible handwriting fonts on your school papers, for creatively mixing things a teacher thinks shouldn't go together, for ::sigh:: depicting things someone thinks you shouldn't (yeah, all that happened to me), it might stifle your art instinct. Or it might merely send it underground, where you work on it quietly but only share it when you think it's really ready. That's what I did.
I believe time (and science) will show that we are all born with an infinite palette of possibilities. We paint our own futures. The colors are dulled or brightened by other people's intrusive praise and criticism, but we can undo their efforts, remix and repaint.
WE decide if we'll be good at sports or art or science. Or all three. Case in point: My youngest kid. She's an accomplished athlete. And a very skilled artist. She has won a scholarship for engineering, which means she's really good at math and science. (All As) Of course she was born brilliant. But she also had people in her life who helped guide and encourage her. And she worked very hard to develop her little proclivities into admirable skills.
Everyone is born brilliant. Not every person has the cadre of encouraging family and friends. We ALL encounter disappointments and red herrings and false starts and obstacles, rising tension, conflict, villains. We ALL have the ability to work hard. We are the writers of our life stories. We choose the happy ending. We choose whether to succeed.
Hohepa, astride his tyrannosaur, wades across the shallows of Buckthorn Creek to parley with an invading force of shield strutters. His action prevents the destruction of the hatchery at Moss Valley, but leads to the Armakians breaking off their alliance. Hohepa later becomes the mentor of Blake Terrapin. Watercolor on board by James Gurney, 2012.
An emissary riding a T. rex faces off against a phalanx of robotic strutters. This is one of the new paintings featured in the expanded edition of Dinotopia: First Flight, which releases today.
The book tells the story of Dinotopia's origins, with dramatic stories and artwork from its Age of Heroes. It begins with an unabridged republication of my 1999 book.
The second half of the book includes a bonus of over 45 new images, including never-before-published storyboards, concept sketches, and production paintings, plus new characters, backstory notes, and a cinematic treatment all downloaded from my creative archives.
You can preorder a copy on Amazon if you like. But if you live in the USA and would like to order directly from me,you can cancel the Amazon order (as long as it hasn't shipped yet) and I'll send you a personally signed copy. I'll also be doing a quick sketch in every copy.
As an additional incentive, the 25th, 50th, 75th, and 100th copy ordered from me will receive a tipped-in original storyboard, such as the one above, which I drew in 1997 when I was planning the book.
Preorder a copy on Amazon or order Dinotopia: First Flight Anniversary Edition now from JamesGurney.com or Dinotopia.com.(USA orders only, because it costs too much to ship overseas. International customers: what most people do is to order a book to be sent to a friend at a US address.)
There’s a pretty lively discussion of Comixology’s Submit program going on in the comments of this post. And while SUbmit seems to be a very useful thing, it seems taht a lot of books that are…submitted to the program are rejected on technical grounds.
In the above post I mentioned that I couldn’t easily find the guidelines on the Submit page but after asking around I am told that you can find the guidelines for formatting here. From looking at the page I can see that it’s still a little vague on some of the specifics, but the screen shots seem pretty clear. It’s also clear that just popping your comic into the pdf format is a crocodile infested riverbank of things that can go wrong to make the book unsuitable for Comixology.
I’m told an even more comprehensive and discoverable version of these specs will be provided in the future.
First, let me ask: When did we, as a people, stop caring about doing what's right and start only thinking of ourselves?
I know I am generalizing, but I am bombarded daily with acts of selfishness and buffoonery that show no compassion or consideration. I know there are good people in this world (I try to be one of them). Still, my sense of justice is assaulted constantly by those that simply don't care.
With that out of the way, let me get to the reason I asked you here. There is a certain high school student, let's call him P, to maintain his confidentiality. P stands for Pinocchio because this student does not lie, fib, or even swear. His moral compass makes mine look like a Cracker Jack toy.
P is in a predicament. In one of his classes, it seems that the majority of classmates are OK with cheating. Over the past several weeks, they have been sharing answers to quizzes and tests, going so far as to text them or write them on the side of a coffee cup. Worse yet is that they are getting these answers from a Teacher's Aid. In case you don't know, a Teacher's Aid is supposed to be a student of strong character entrusted with helping the teacher. In this case, the Aid is helping other students cheat.
P has a problem. He does not feel he can go to the teacher or administration about this. P is worried about repercussion from his fellow students. In this age group and moral climate, repercussion could easily become physical. P also does not feel he has the support of the administration. Previous experience proves as much in a case where he tried to resolve something anonymously and then the teacher (different than the one above) singled him out to the class because that teacher had some backlash from administration. I should also mention P was a victim of bullying at a younger age. Administration did nothing in that case either, so P has little faith in them and knowledge of the capabilities of his classmates.
What is P supposed to do? What would you do, as a parent or student? It is possible that the teacher won't find out and nothing will happen. If the teacher becomes aware and P does not step forward, what happens? Is P's silence self-preservation or complicity?
I invite comments, suggestions and debate on this topic. Please post comments on this blog, share on Facebook or email me.
For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Tell It to the (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Possible titles include: “Tell It to the Hand,” “Tell It to the Judge,” “Tell It to the Six-Foot Bunny Rabbit,” and so on.
Free up your poetry with constraints!
Learn how putting constraints on your poetry through poetic forms, blank verse, and other tricks can actually free up your poetry writing skills and enhance your creativity in Writer’s Digest’s first ever Poetry Boot Camp. It will include a one-hour tutorial, personalized Q&A on a secure “attendees-only” message board, feedback on three original poems, and more. Click to continue.
Here’s my attempt at a Tell It to the Blank poem:
“Tell It to the Search Engine”
Prepare for the blood moon
7 dead babies found in home
Bear drags woman from garage
Hundreds fall ill on cruise ship
Weird new trend in plastic surgery
Naked exercise scandal
What ’80s really looked like
Bus crash kills 36 in Mexico
Gun kills people in Kansas City
Kid killed playing video game
Politicians track poll numbers
4 ways to cheat on sestinas
9 creatures that shouldn’t exist
DIY fashion ideas
When the world will end
Poll: Nobody cares anymore
Today’s guest judge is…
Kristina Marie Darling
Kristina Marie Darling
Kristina is the author of 17 books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and a forthcoming hybrid genre collection called Fortress (Sundress Publications, 2014).
Check out her collaboration, Music For Another Life, with Max Avi Kaplan (BlazeVOX Books) by clicking here.
Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo.
Poems, Prompts & Room to Add Your Own for the 2014 April PAD Challenge!
Words Dance Publishing is offering 20% off pre-orders for the Poem Your Heart Out anthology until May 1st! If you’d like to learn a bit more about our vision for the book, when it will be published, among other details.
PubSmart is a new conference for writers – but before you sigh and say “not another writer’s conference,” take a closer look. PubSmart was created to bridge the gap between publishing routes. PubSmart is about learning how to publish smarter no matter how you publish – indie, self-publishing, or traditional. Finally.
I was honored to be able to attend the first annual convention. I went in with the expectation of meeting connections and friends, and hoping to learn more about publishing. And PubSmart delivered more than expected.
Instead of focusing on the differences between publishing methods, the sessions were on topics every author needs to know about. Master classes were held to give authors an in-depth look at topics such as metadata and social media. Authors and professionals from all publishing backgrounds held sessions on authorpreneurship, getting reviews, editors, and more. PubSmart is the first conference I have ever known to focus on the business of writing.
Now that you have an idea of the concept behind PubSmart, let me give you a sneak peek at some of the sessions and keynote highlights. Due to the wealth of information at PubSmart this will be the first of six posts featuring different events from the conference, so sit back and enjoy!
IBPA’s Mini Publishing University: Publishing Smart in the Modern Age Speaker: Angela Bole, executive director of the Independent Book Publishers Association
This was a two-hour mini version of IBPA’s publishing class. The session focused on the great democratization of content and how authors can stick out of the crowd of free content online now that anyone can publish.
Tips for authors:
Create a code of ethics. This is something IBPA has done and it is a good practice for all professionals.
Pay attention to your brand as an AUTHOR; your brand is who you are as an artist.
Whatever you publish, find others who are publishing the same and learn from them.
Be generous and it will come back to you.
There are two kinds of digital content, reflowable content (ebooks) and fixed layout/static content (print books, pdfs). Therefore your ebook does not need to look like your print book.
Metadata is king! Correct metadata is vital to success as an author. Learn about metadata and how to use it. Many authors skip this step.
A detailed subtitle can help your book be found, but remember you cannot use an author’s name in your subtitle (tip via Hugh Howey).
For textual descriptions of your book, put the most important things first. Avoid complex styling, and do not copy and paste from Word.
Subject headings are NOT keywords. Use only two to three subjects from the industry approved list.
Avoid using “general.” The more specific you can be, the more your book will stand out.
For your cover, the longest side of your digital image should be 1,000 pixels or more.
We must promote publishing smarter instead of the idea that anything we write is automatically worth publishing. (It isn’t.)
ebooks is still a growing market; don’t let the “statistics” fool you.
Romance/erotic fiction is still the top selling genre in ebooks while cookbooks are last.
The competition between ebook distributors is good. If one controlled the whole market they would make the rules instead of the authors.
There has been a shift from ereaders to tablets for reading, so authors now have to compete with other forms of media as well.
Angela Bole is the executive director of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). For more information about IBPA check out there website, https://www.ibpa-online.org. If you have any questions about this article, publishing, or social media I would love to hear from you! Just leave a comment below or connect with me on my website, katetilton.com.
Kate Tilton has been in love with books for as long as she can remember. Kate believes books saved her life and strives to repay authors for bringing books into the world by serving as a dependable author assistant. A cat-lover and fan of many geeky things, Kate can likely be found curled up with the latest Doctor Who episode, plotting world takeover, or assisting authors and readers in any way she can. Kate is also a self-proclaimed Twitter addict. You will find her hosting #K8chat, her own creation, every Thursday night on Twitter from 9-10pm Eastern.
Please give a warm welcome to Kristin Miller this morning! She has a fab-o guest post to share, so grab a snack and enjoy. For a limited time, you can snag a copy of Gone with the Wolf for only .99!
Hi, Kristin! The helm is your, so please make yourself at home.
I’m so happy to be at Manga Maniac Café today, sharing with you a little bit about Gone with the Wolf!
In the Seattle-set paranormal novel, Drake Wilder is a CEO Alpha werewolf who enjoys being in control. He has given up the search for his Luminary (his one-true love), and is completely, obsessively, focused on work. Enter carefree bar owner Emelia Hudson, who demands to know why Wilder Financial has come up with the deed to her bar. Something’s not right, and she is determined to figure out what it is.
Only from the second Drake and Emelia meet, he knows she is his fated mate. Naturally, she’s shocked to learn the truth at first, but as they fall in love, she realizes there’s more to Drake than a wolf in business clothing.
The transition from enemies to lovers wasn’t easy. Luckily, I got the chance to talk with Emelia about her journey to happy-ever-after. She let me in on a few secrets of the werewolf lifestyle, and has agreed to let me share them with you. (Isn’t she a sweetheart?)
Tips from Emelia Hudson on how to date a werewolf:
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. He’s a werewolf, not a monster. He’s just like every other man you’ve dated…only he can shift into a wolf. Be yourself, and judge him for who he is, not what you think he is.
Don’t suggest going out on a night when there’s a full moon. Born werewolves turn when they’re angry (but can control the shift), while “turned wolves” shift at every full moon. If you’re dating a werewolf and you go out on a full moon night, chances are he can control his primal urges. But would you really want your date distracted by the pull of the moon, rather than focused on you? Take it from me: you wouldn’t.
Don’t wear a red hood and cape, thinking it’s cute to be play the part of Little Red Riding Hood. Believe me, wolves from the Seattle Wolf Pack get the joke a lot, and it’s growing stale.
Let your date be a gentleman. Let him pull out your chair and pick up the check. Werewolves want to protect and care for their women. By all means, buck the system and fight to do things for yourself. But when it comes down to it, males in the Seattle Wolf Pack want to do things for you. They want to treat their women like the Queens they are. If you find one willing to treat you that way, by God, let him.
Never, ever, steal food from his plate. He won’t bite you, but um, he might nip at your hand as you’re pulling it back. Seattle Wolf Pack men love their steak.
Thanks again to Manga Maniac Café for letting me and Emelia visit!
About the book:
CEO and alpha werewolf Drake Wilder has given up the search for his one true love. When he discovers that she’s a secretary in his company, Drake’s primal instincts kick into overdrive.
What he wouldn’t give to have her fingers rake over his body instead of the keyboard…
Free-spirited bartender Emelia Hudson wants nothing more than to make her Seattle-based bar succeed. But when profits decline, she slips into a dress suit and secures a nine-to-five. After learning that her bar has become property of Wilder Financial, Emelia is determined to get some answers.
Two can play the ruthless business game. If only her attraction to the boss wasn’t so intense…
When Drake’s twin brother senses that Drake has found his match—and now inherits their father’s billion dollar estate—he hatches a plan to take Emelia out. Drake vows to protect her at all costs, but he might have to pay with his own life.
About the author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristin Miller has had a passion for language and literature her whole life. Born and raised in northern California, she often made up stories about faraway places and edge-of-your-seat adventures. After graduating from Humboldt State University, Kristin taught high school and middle school English, married her college sweetheart, and had two beautiful munchkins. In 2008, she took time off from teaching to raise her children, and started writing while they napped.
She is the author of dark and gritty paranormal romances for Avon, light and snarky paranormal romances for Entangled, and is venturing into the sassy world of contemporary romance. Most of books include take-charge alpha males and independent women; all of them contain love that moves mountains.
Find more information about Kristin and upcoming titles on her website: kristinmiller.net Like her on Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorKristinMiller Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/KM_Miller
§ Beware the timeslot! It seems that the aborted single season of Beware The Batman will finish but new episodes will be shawn at 3 am. Talk about a vote of confidence. Of course there is DVR for those who aren’t night owls. Why did this show flop so badly?
§ There is a newish (two years) comics company called OSSM Comics that I got a few PR pieces about. They publish actionish comics. It is owned by Omar Spahi and Siike Donnely is also involved.
§ Here is an interesting piece about how 1951 comic from WITCHES’ TALES was bowdlerized and the original version is seen for the first time (swell sort of) since 1951. The post-Wertham version consisted of less cleavage and bigger American flags.
§ In this week’s outrage there was this extremely stupid t-shirt at WonderCon that insulted both fangirls and coffee. And pro-fangirl and coffee t-shirts have been made in response. Because..people like coffee. The above link covers the response of the t-shirt maker who is one Facebook, who said that “we hate fanboys too and blah blah.” Really, Rebecca Pahle’s piece above is a smart round-up of the kerfuffle, which included a spirited and excellent piece by Greg Rucka about his daughter. I looked at the FB page from the t-shirt maker in question and one thing I noticed — he’s a young guy. I mean maybe he looks young for his age but I’d guess early 20s. And people that age do stupid stuff. Sorry, kids. I think it’s worth remembering that a lot of the current problem stems from dumbass kids. It doesn’t make it any better but it is important to know the source of the shade.
§ I am sad to report that whether or not Almost Human has been renewed is STILL NOT KNOWN. This show will forever have a place in my heart for the scene where Kennex begs Dorian “Don’t scan my testicles.” HAS NO ONE MADE A GIF OF THIS YET? Yes they did! Anyway I’m sure no news is bad news, and this show is doomed. In the meantime, here is a fine run down of Karl Urban’s many geek roles.
The Tall Tales of Talbot Toluca aims to reignite the all-ages comic genre with exciting hidden-object games and puzzles.
Las Vegas, NV April 24,2014 – Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Kenneth Lamug makes a jump to comics while adding twists and turns to what is usually expected in a comic book.
The Tall Tales of Talbot Toluca – The Quest for the Ore Crystals combines the high-impact visuals of comics while engaging the reader with Where’s Waldo-like hidden-object games, mazes and puzzles.
The story follows a group of friends who discover an underground military laboratory underneath their school. Their break-in unleashes a series of events, which unravels secrets to Talbot’s past. In The Quest For The Ore Crystal, the evil scientist Dr. Kadoom makes a comeback to the lab with the aim of total world destruction. It’s now up to Talbot and the reader to complete the challenges in the book and stop Dr. Kadoom.
“My hope is that this unique format engages all readers to be part of the story,” says Lamug. “I take my readers on this wild adventure and make them solve problems alongside the characters. This is inspired by my fascination with puzzles as well as the classic adventure games of the 80s and 90s. Yet unlike one-shot puzzle-books, my goal is to eventually share many more of Talbot’s tales using this same format.”
Lamug’s previous book, A Box Story, garnered four awards in its first year, an unexpected accomplishment for a first title. He hopes that adults and kids alike will respond in a positive way to this new book and seek out comics as a new medium for interactive content.
Talbott Toluca’s Kickstarter campaign starts Monday, May 12th, and will run through June 10th, 2014, all funds raised will go entirely to publishing expenses.
I invited Cassandra Rose Clarke, author of The Wizard’s Promise, to share 5 reasons her heroine Hanna would find real life adventures not quite as fun as the adventures from her favorite stories -
Hanna’s Top 5 Reasons for believing adventures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be:
1: They’re kinda of boring. Anyone who has ever gone on a long road trip could testify to this. Most of us have seen National Lampoon’s Family Vacation, right? (Or Disney’s The Goofy Movie, another excellent road trip movie). So we think road trips are going to be all roadside attractions, wacky hijinks, and a chance to Overcome Some Odds. In reality, you’re sitting in a car for eight hours, feeling vaguely queasy from car sickness, and driving down a super highway where apparently no human has ventured in the last twenty years. Hanna goes through the same thing, except instead of a highway, she’s on the ocean. Imagine a cruise ship without any of the tasty food or planned activities. Pretty dull indeed.
2: They’re kind of uncomfortable. I think of it as the Bilbo Baggins effect. He had no desire to go on an adventure because he knows what they’re really about: getting dirty and not being able to eat regularly. Hanna doesn’t have that foresight, and so when she finds herself stranded on a strange island, without the right kind of money, she has to face the very real possibility that she won’t get to a hot meal or a cozy place to sleep that night. Throughout the book, Hanna gets soaking wet, freezing cold, and threatened with magic sickness—all as result of adventuring.
3: They’re kind of terrifying. Like most of us, Hanna’s ideas about adventures come from reading stories. It’s one thing to read about danger and derring-do—and quite another to experience it yourself. As with any proper adventure, Hanna finds herself in some terrifying, life-threatening situations, and that terror isn’t anything like what she expected when she was daydreaming about adventures back at home.
4: They reveal the truth about others. Hanna might have had some idea that adventures can tell you a little about yourself, but she had no idea that an adventure can also tell you so much about the people you’re adventuring with—both for good and bad. Her adventure reveals secrets about her apprentice master, Kolur, that she had never imagined; even his mysterious friend, Frida, slowly reveals parts of herself as the adventure wears on. But perhaps the biggest surprise is in Isolfr, the beautiful boy she finds swimming alongside the ship. He might seem cowardly at first, but through adventure she learns that he has his own particular brand of bravery.
5: They help you find your strength For Hanna, the promise of adventure was really the promise of getting out of her little village. She didn’t think much beyond that: not about the unpleasant aspects of adventure, and not about the positive aspects, either. Although Hanna had always practiced her magic at home, it’s not until she’s out on her adventure that she really begins to understand her full potential as a witch. Beyond that, though, Hanna learns that she can use her wits to survive, and that her fishing background wasn’t a waste of time, as she was so convinced of when she was back at home. She learns that her strength isn’t just about magic, but about all the other skills she’s picked up over the years. In short, she’s been training for this adventure her whole life.
About the book:
Hanna has spent her life hearing about the adventures of her namesake Ananna, the lady pirate, and assassin Naji. She dreams of the same adventures, but little does she know she is about to tumble into one of her own. Hanna is apprenticed to a taciturn fisherman called Kolur, and, during a day of storms and darkness, are swept wildly off course.
In this strange new land, Kolur hires a stranger to join the crew and, rather than heading home, sets a course for the dangerous island of Jadanvar. As Hanna meets a secretive merboy, and learns that Kolur has a deadly past, she soon realises that wishing for adventures is a dangerous game – because those wishes might come true.
About the author:
Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in English, and two years later she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, where she was a recipient of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.
Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.
The newest edition of Illustration magazine has the entire 80-page special issue devoted to Walter Baumhofer, who painted dashing heroes and damsels in distress for the pulps and the slick magazines. Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or at the Illustration website.
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There is a subtle shift occurring in the examination of the history of the book and publishing. Historians are moving away from a history of individuals towards a new perspective grounded in social and corporate history. From A History of Cambridge University Press to The Stationers’ Company: A History to the new History of Oxford University Press, the development of material texts is set in a new context of institutions.
The University processes in fron of the Sheldonian Theatre and Clarendon Printing House, 1733 (William Williams, Oxonia depicta, plate 6).
Recently, Dr Adam Smyth, Oxford University Lecturer in the History of the Book, spoke with Ian Gadd, Professor of English Literature at Bath Spa University and the editor of Volume I: From its beginnings to 1780 of the History of Oxford University Press, about the early modern history of the book. They discuss the evolution of university presses, the relationship between Oxford and the London book trade, navigating the division of learned and scholarly publishing and commercial work, and some new insights into the history of the Press, such as setting William Laud’s vision of the Press in the context of university reform and the role of the University’s legal court in settling trade disputes.
This is the third novel of Gwen Heasley’s that I’ve read. I enjoyed it, too, with just a few caveats. The first being that I felt Don’t Call Me Baby is written for a younger a audience than her previous works, but then again, maybe that’s because Imogen isn’t from the same privileged background that Corinne is from. Imogen doesn’t have Corinne’s sense of entitlement, or her abrasive personality. Definitely a plus! The other reservation, and this is by no means negative – I am a blogger, so I could see both sides of Imogen’s conundrum, as well as her mother’s. This made it easier for me to sympathize with both of them, but if you have no interest in blogging, some aspects of the story might bore you.
Imogen is excited to start 9th grade, and at 15, she is determined to finally take back her privacy. Her mom is a popular mommy blogger, and Imogen, AKA Babylicious, is the star of the blog. Ever since she was born, she has been the featured topic of the blog. Her mom shares every aspect of her life with her readers, and Imogen is tired of it. She’s teased at school, she has no secrets, and she doesn’t appreciate the way her mom spins every coming of age moment for the entertainment of her blog fans. Her mother’s happiness is measured in website clicks, and Imogen wants it to end. Pronto. Because her mom is so caught up in her blogging and growing her stats, there is an ever growing distance between them. Is her mom genuinely interested in her troubles, or is she going to make them the topic of her next blog post?
At least she has her BFF to lean on. Sage’s mom is also a blogger. Her blog is about healthy lifestyles and begin vegan, so Sage isn’t allowed to eat foods the rest of us take for granted. Her mom constantly tries out new recipes, feeds them to Sage, and blogs about the experience. Sage hates it. If it wasn’t for her beloved piano, she would go nuts. Instead, she’s forced to sneak off to the mall for binges in the food court.
When the girls are given an assignment in English class to write a blog, they are resistant at first. Then they realize that it’s the perfect way to get back at their moms. They will tell them how they really feel about having their privacy stolen from them, in a public place, and hope to shame their moms into immediately stop posting about them. What they didn’t count on was the backlash from their moms, which threatens both their friendship and their relationships with their mothers.
Don’t Call Me Baby is really about a young woman trying to take back her voice. Her mom is very enthusiastic about her blog and about engaging with her readers, and she doesn’t stop to think that she’s invading her daughter’s privacy. Because of the popularity of the blog, Imogen just wants to fade into the background. She doesn’t like being the center of attention. She hates it. That’s what she’s trying to put a stop to. She just wants to be a normal teenager, with normal teenage problems, without her mom’s blog subscribers being involved in every major life decision involving her upbringing. I would have balked at that, too!
There are times when Imogen’s protest goes a little too far. I was seriously concerned that she was going to make a major, major mistake near the end of the book. Because both Imogen and her mom have become deaf to each other’s words, she does make a few missteps in an attempt to make her mom understand her feelings. She has lost the ability to have a meaningful conversation with her mom, and it takes a touching moment in a public place for her to finally understand that her mom has reasons for acting the way she does. Imogen grew up so much after her mother’s revelation, and I liked her so much better for it.
I enjoyed the secondary characters, too, especially Imogen’s grandmother. I also liked Imogen’s resolve to disconnect for a while, so she can regain her perspective on life. In today’s connected world, everyone seems more interested in doing anything other than talking, which led to most of her conflict. She also had a major falling out with Sage, because Imogen realized that their tactics were not working, and she didn’t want to aggravate her mom just for the sake of aggravating her. She knew when to call it quits and launch another plan of attack. Sage was just so angry at her mother, and by extension, at Imogen, that she keep getting more and more stubborn with her protest.
Don’t Call Me Baby is an enjoyable read. Though it’s character based, it moves along at a fast clip, and I had a hard time putting it down. I kept worrying about what Imogen was going to do to get her mother’s attention, and it was nerve-wracking at times! If you liked Gwen’s previous books, you’ll like this one, and if you enjoy books about conflict resolution, this will work for you, too.
Review copy provided by publisher
Perfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, Don’t Call Me Baby is a sharply observed and charming story about mothers and daughters, best friends and first crushes, and our online selves and the truth you can only see in real life.
All her life, Imogene has been known as the girl on that blog.
Imogene’s mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. The thing is, Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her. In gruesome detail. When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online . . . until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she’s been waiting for to define herself for the first time.
As usual, some of the items I offered to the Brenda Novak Auction were rejected, and I'm forced to conduct my own auction, which, like Brenda's, will run throughout the month of May.
Here are a few of the items up for bid, just to whet your appetites.
Solid gold Egyptian funerary mask of pharaoh who resembled Evil Editor.
Trust me. Nothing can inspire you to finish that novel like a death mask hanging in front of your computer, especially when that death mask looks a lot like your nemesis, Evil Editor.
One ticket to the Evil Editor Writers Conference on the isle of Crete.
Transportation, food, lodging not included.
*Evil Editor's appearance at conference subject to availability.
A critique of your application to compete on Hell's Kitchen.
Not every heavy-smoking, loudmouthed emotional wreck makes the cut. Let Evil Editor help you book your personal 3 months of abuse.
*Winning bidder not guaranteed to appear on show.
Pressure washing of one computer keyboard.
Bad enough that dust gets in the cracks between the keys, but if you're a regular at EE's blog, you've probably spewed coffee on the keyboard a few times. Let me get your keyboard looking like new.
Name Evil Editor a character in your will.
It's one thing, having to think of all those names for fictional characters in your books. But your will needs names of actual people. I'm talking about people who are going to get your best stuff unless you stop them by specifically leaving that stuff to Evil Editor.
Ornate Picture frame with Picasso watercolor of Evil Editor
#27 in Picasso's Evil Editor series.
Take Evil Editor on a world cruise aboard your yacht.
I promise to do all my barfing over the side if you promise not to bring your unpublished novel aboard.
An evaluation of a tweet.
Once you tweet, you look like a twit if you screwed up. Let Evil Editor turn your twitness into litness.
Box containing numerous books I bought because I liked the authors' first books, only to discover they were one-hit wonders. Help me create room in my bookcases for other books by authors who started phoning it in after first-book flukes.
Breakfast with Evil Editor's Chiropractor. Who knows? Maybe EE will show up and join you!
*EE unlikely to join you.
The Evil Editor Kaleidoscopic-Image Area Rug
Give your living room a touch of sophistication and a splash of color.
*EE not responsible for rug burns resulting from spontaneous love-making sessions.
One Marine mammal.
Dolphin or whale.
Bubble Bath with Evil Editor.
Nothing beats a soothing, relaxing bubble bath. Unless it's a soothing, relaxing bubble bath with your secret crush.
Today's guest post is by Karen Blumenthal—author of YALSA Nonfiction Award finalists Bootleg and Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different—and a committed researcher. Or, maybe, a researcher who should be committed? Read her post and decide for yourself!
One evening during a research trip to Washington, D.C., I missed the hotel’s revolving-door entry and slammed into a glass wall schnoz first.
While I reeled in pain, the guests in the lobby eyed me as if I'd enjoyed the happy hour a little too much. Embarrassingly, I was suffering instead from a wicked case of microfilm myopia. I had only been researching drinking, not actually doing it.
In writing nonfiction for young people, I know the quality of the research drives the story. But that all-important work, I've concluded, may be dangerous to your health.
Other afflictions from recent research were less painful, but almost as embarrassing:
Quarter hoarding:My obsession won’t make great reality TV, but I have stashed quarters everywhere, in pockets, wallets, and tote bags, and I won’t share them with you, even for a desperately needed soft drink. They’re crucial for parking meters, copiers and lockers for stashing your stuff while you research Al Capone at the Chicago History Museum.
Research fog: An ailment closely related to microfilm myopia, this dense stupor sets in around the fifth hour of reading, especially if you skip lunch to squeeze in more work during a research library's limited hours. As you emerge from the fluorescent-lit haze, jabbering about what you have learned, it slowly becomes apparent that no one you know cares that Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and Penney founder James Cash Penney had similar backgrounds.
Library breath: What is it about libraries that makes your mouth feels like a herd of camels just ambled across your tongue? Spend too much of the day inside one of these important (and low-humidity) places of knowledge and you'll find that your newfound trivia isn't all that will knock people out.
Chronic nerditis: Finding some new gem online can lead to mysteriously intense, heart-pounding excitement that will surely bore your family to death. You mean you can read 1920s magazines online? Find newspapers stories back to the 1850s? Look at a database instead of those fat green Reader's Guides to Periodicals?
Wait—what? You've never heard of the Reader's Guide to Periodicals?
“Just one more” syndrome: Now this is when things get really ugly. Researching is fun; writing, for me, is difficult. So why in the world should I want to stop searching for good stuff? What if there’s a better anecdote out there? What if I’ve missed a great example? If only the deadline wasn’t approaching!
Of course, the paper cuts and smudges on my clothes from newspapers and fresh photocopies are all worth the trouble when I finally sit down at the computer. Having great stories and specific detail is crucial to writing for young people because the story must crackle and pop, and every idea must be crystal clear for readers who have little experience or context to bring to a subject.
Just try not to get behind me when I take a break at the coffee shop. I may be paying with quarters.
Since the month of May is the official ‘Anniversary’ month for my first published book’s release with Musa Publishing, I thought every year in May I’d do something special to give back to my readers. This year is no exception as I’m celebrating my 2nd Anniversary as a published author! Woo hoo!
Here’s a glimpse of what I’m planning:
I’ve already set up two Goodreads giveaways, one for The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis the first book in my middle grade/young adult time travel series, and for Legend of the Timekeepers, the prequel to this series. The giveaway begins May 1st at midnight and runs until midnight on May 19th, so there’s plenty of time to enter for a chance to win one of my signed paperbacks, trading cards, and bonus wrist bands.
I’m also having a book sale exclusively on Musa Publishing’s website. It’s a BOGO sale! BUY one, get one FREE! Again, this great deal starts at midnight on May 1st and runs until midnight on May 19th just like the Goodreads giveaway. Two books for the price of one? Can’t beat that!
Oh, and that’s not all! I’m going to be participating in the Children’s Book Week Kid Lit Giveaway Hop happening May 12th to May 18th. The book hop is hosted byMother-Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews and the list of bloggers and authors is growing in leaps and bounds. I’ll have a special Rafflecopter set up during this week for a chance to win signed paper backs, a Babel necklace featured in The Last Timekeepers series, a Spiral pendant featured in Legend of the Timekeepers, and other book swag like signed trading cards and rubber wrist bands.
So everyone set your time portals to midnight on May 1st, 2014 and spiral in on the celebration! And please, remember to time travel responsibly…
Now that I have a year of experience with YALSA finances, it’s become obvious to me that there is sometimes confusion in the minds of members about our dues, requests for donations, and books and other products that we sell. Why does YALSA need to do all this?
When I first became active in YALSA in the fall of 1985, we were considered a small division because we had about 2000 members (today we have over 5,100) and we were only able to cover about 50% of our operating expenses. Because of YALSA’s inability to cover all of the costs of providing member services and support, ALA gave YALSA what is called the “small division subsidy,” which covered the rest of our expenses. While ALA generously provided the financial support to meet the basic needs of members, YALSA wasn’t able to offer new selection or award committee opportunities or take on large national projects as we just did with the IMLS grant and the report that was generated. Not only that, the division had only a deputy director and 2.3 other staff positions (today we have an executive director and 4.5 other positions).
All this changed in the early 2000s when YALSA worked out a plan with ALA to gradually increase revenues and move off of the small division subsidy. Today, revenue from dues makes up about a third of YALSA’s total revenue. However, additional funds are needed by our division to continue with our dozen award and selection committees, the webinars and tool kits that enable library workers to be well prepared to serve their teens, the various events at conference where we all have a chance to rub elbows with noted YA authors and experts in the field, and more. Our strategic committees form the heartbeat of our organization and funds are needed to ensure their work is made available to aid library workers and teens. Our member awards and scholarships require a minimum of $16,000every year, hence we have the Friends of YALSA society whose donations help ensure that we are able to recognize members for their achievements and support them in their professional growth.
The other two thirds of YALSA’s revenue comes from key sources, like the sale of books and e-learning, the YA Literature Symposium, ticketed events at ALA conferences, grants, individual donations, corporate sponsorships and interest from YALSA’s endowments. All of the revenues that come into YALSA, from whatever source, are used to provide members with services and support.
Although finding room in your budget to pay for things like association dues can sometimes be a challenge, YALSA really does give you a lot of bang for your buck. The highest dues category for membership in ALA/YALSA is $193 per year (the lowest is $59). Some of the key benefits of membership add up to well over $193. For example, all of these things come free with membership:
$35 subscription to YALSA E-News
$70 subscription to Young Adult Library Services
$760 worth of webinars on-demand
$588 in live monthly webinars
And those are just a few of the freebies and discounts members get from ALA and YALSA. So, with an investment of $59 – $193, members get a minimum of $1,453 worth of resources – resources that help make your daily work easier and position you to advance your career. Are you making the most of these perks that YALSA has to offer? If not, you should be! Check out this free 30 minute webinar about making the most of your membership: http://connectpro87048468.adobeconnect.com/p34esi7r6xh/. And don’t forget one of the best values from your YALSA membership: the opportunity to be part of a group of like-minded librarians, educators and teen supporters who care about library services to teens. Now, that opportunity is priceless.
I hope this post helps explain a bit about how YALSA finds the funds to support member services and programs, as well as where dues fit into the picture. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if I can answer any questions you may have.
I just got a rejection that took me aback. It was a typical form rejection (other than one rather brusque line), thanking me for approaching the agency, but the query didn't hook them.
However the person who responded to my email wasn't the agent I queried, but an intern as identified by their signature. I've received rejections from assistants or interns before, but always on behalf of the agent or at least the agency. This response was all I statements, as in "I am frequently overwhelmed with commitments to my current clients, so in any given year I must be selective taking on any new author."
The email was signed by the intern and came from their account, no mention of the agent at all.
(1) Is this common? (2) Do interns get their own clients (3) Is this a red flag that the agency isn't very professional, or (4) am I being overly sensitive and savoring my sour grapes?
Let's go in reverse order:
(4) No you're not being overly sensitive. It's not asking too much to have the person to whom you directed your correspondence either reply herself OR direct a person to reply on her behalf. For The Correct Way to Attend to One's Correspondence it's hard to beat the example set by Her Majesty the Q, and here's how those letters from her interns ladies-in-waiting are worded: "The Queen wishes me to write and thank you for the matched set of unicorns you have sent on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee. etc."
You'll notice the letter writer makes it clear it is not The Q herself writing the letter.
(3) No, it's a sign the agency has farmed out their queries to interns without much supervision.
If an agency is not supervising their interns, or is ok with interns writing directly instead of on behalf of the agent, they deserve what comes from that: you think less of them. I do too.
Sometimes you think you can explain something, and then it turns out you really can’t. This remarkable video was posted last year but only went viral in the US in the last few weeks, approaching 5 million hits in a short time. When I first saw it, I was immediately enchanted.
Dubbed by the press as ‘the Mini Maestro’ (although to be correct, she would be a maestra), the video shows little Lara Glozou with a church choir in Kyrgyzstan. She’s the young daughter of one of the choir members and often attends rehearsal.
After watching a few times, I thought I knew what might be happening. This must be an observant child who’s mirroring the actions of a conductor standing in front of the choir, interspersed with a little improvisation of her own. I thought she was a remarkable imitator, not just able to capture the conductor’s motions, but also the emotions.
But then I found another video. It shows the choir rehearsing the same song from another angle, allowing us to see the conductor’s motions of the right hand while Lara is gesturing expressively in the far right corner by the piano.
I was amazed to see that the conductor is not making the same kinds of motions as Lara after all. Even though the conductor’s gestures may be outlining the regularity of the beat and phrasing, many of Lara’s gestures and body movements—the forward lean, the hand to the chest, the sway of the body, and the dips and turns of the head—seem to be her own.
To be fair, Lara is not really “conducting.” If she were directing, her motions would come slightly before the events in the music, in anticipation of them in order to cue the choir. Her movements are more like an expression of the music. However, as an expression or sensitive interpretation of the music, I find her gestures to be remarkable. Truly extraordinary. For instance, her gestures are fewer and more prolonged during the female solo up to 0:21 (on the first video). They are a series of poses. But at 0:22 when the choir comes in, she immediately shifts to grand sweeping gestures. The variety of shapes that she forms with her hands alone express a rainbow of emotions and tone colors.
I am in awe of this little girl’s ability not only to reflect peaks and valleys in the melody of the music, and momentum of the phrases, but also the shape of the sound. For the last note of the song, she curves her left and right hands into the widest arcs for a broad final tone — a lion’s roar — rather than the kind of ending that gradually fades away.
This small child has had so little time on earth to experience falling in love, the sting of heartbreak, betrayal, triumph, grief, pain, and the rest of the great emotional topography of life. How is she able to convey the semblance of emotional depth and angst? Where is she getting her musical sensitivity? Do some young children just have an old soul?
As a former music major, I took Conducting 101. My spine was rigid, my gestures were tiny and angular. As a music student in my 20s, I had none of the intensity and theatrical weight of this little girl. More recently, I have written about how infants begin to spontaneously respond to music in bodily ways, nodding their heads and waving arms to rhythmic music once they are able to sit freely at about six months. Later, bobbing up and down with knee-bends, and spinning around in circles to music between one and two years, after they become mobile.
However, they do so for only short bursts, and most of the movements of two- and three-year-old children don’t really match the music in time (Moog, 1976; Malbrán, 2000). Although Lara is not always synchronized with the music, her deep expressive gestures capture the musical events in a broad way, even anticipating some musical moments, as she is familiar with this piece.
Little is known about young children’s interpretation of music. In one of the few studies in this area, Boone & Cunningham (2001) showed that four-year-olds can move a flexible teddy bear in dance-like fashion, to express emotion in music through movement. However the musical emotions they recognized and expressed were basic emotions (such as happiness, or sadness, or anger). What we seem to observe in Lara is much more nuanced. How is she able to capture this depth in music?
I spoke with a grown-up maestro that I greatly admire, Andrew Koehler, Music Director of the Kalamazoo Philharmonia. He said, “It’s really astonishing. Lara moves in a way that shows that she recognizes agogic accents“ (longer durations of tones, which give natural stress to music). She often reflects this with larger, more expansive motions of her arms that mark those accents.
Her gestures also capture finer details. At 0:45 to 0:47 in the first video, Koehler points out how a higher tone of greater tension resolves to a lower tone of lower tension. The toddler reflects this: “Lara leans into the music, her right hand pushing into it with a claw-like motion [capturing high tone and high tension in the music]. Then both left and right arms make downward motions as her posture goes back to an upright position again [lower tone, lower tension].”
And then there’s Jonathan Okseniuk. Here he is at three years old, appearing to ‘conduct’ a recording of the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in his home in Mesa, Arizona.
Even if he appears to be getting some coaxing off camera, this is a remarkable three-year-old.
Here is Jonathan again at age four, conducting a live orchestra in a rousing rendition of Khachaturian’s ‘Sabre Dance’. “This is a more challenging arena,” explains Koehler, “which would require Jonathan to anticipate what will happen in the music as opposed to simply responding to it.”
April is Jazz Appreciation Month, honoring an original American art form. Across the United States and the world, jazz lovers are introducing people to the history and heritage of jazz as well as extraordinary contemporary acts. To celebrate, here are eight songs from renowned jazz singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong‘s catalog, along with some lesser-known facts about the artist.
Heebie Jeebies (1926)
One of Armstrong’s first recordings as bandleader was a series of singles released under the name Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, which were later regarded as a watershed moment in the history of jazz. “Heebie Jeebies” in particular gained fame, and historical importance, for its improvised “scat” chorus; according to legend, this off-the-cuff vocal part was the result of Armstrong dropping his sheet music during the recording.
Struttin’ With Some Barbecue (1927)
Armstrong’s second wife, Lil Hardin Armstrong, was instrumental in orchestrating his rise to prominence. Hardin was also an accomplished jazz pianist and composer, frequently collaborating with Armstrong; “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” is one of her most-beloved contributions to the jazz canon.
Long before J.K. Rowling transformed the word, “muggles” was a slang term for marijuana, a drug of which Armstrong was a lifelong enthusiast. This highly-esteemed composition by Armstrong was recorded with a group of the day’s foremost jazz talents, among them the legendary pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1929)
Although Armstrong had achieved renown among black listeners through his work in the ‘20s, it was this song, performed between acts during the Broadway musical Hot Chocolates, which arguably gained him his first crossover success. Originally written as an excuse to have Armstrong sing from the orchestra pit, its success led the producers to rewrite the script in order to bring him onstage, then send him to the studio to record the production’s hits.
Where The Blues Were Born In New Orleans (1947)
The film New Orleans featured Armstrong alongside Billie Holiday, in her only film role; the pair portrayed musicians who develop a romantic relationship. This track includes a lengthy section in which Armstrong introduces his ensemble, featured in the film, which was loaded with the day’s biggest names: Kid Ory, Zutty Singleton, Bud Scott, and more.
Mack the Knife (1955)
In the later decades of his career, Armstrong’s lip muscles no longer allowed him to perform the same kind of trumpet pyrotechnics he’d become known for earlier in his career. As a result, he began to rely more on pop vocal performances, such as this, one of his best-known songs of all time. Taken from The Threepenny Opera, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s anticapitalist stage drama, “Mack” became a major pop success (although it did not achieve the same recognition as the white singer Bobby Darin’s #1 version, released four years later).
Hello, Dolly (1964)
Probably the biggest hit of Armstrong’s career, this song, taken from the eponymous musical, took the #1 spot on the pop charts from the Beatles during the height of Beatlemania.
What a Wonderful World (1967)
Perhaps surprisingly, this song — perhaps the tune most closely associated with Armstrong — was not a hit in America upon its release, selling only about 1000 copies. Over time, owing to its frequent use in films and numerous cover versions, the song would eclipse all others in Armstrong’s discography to become his signature recording, but not until long after his death in 1971.
Grove Music Online has made several articles available freely to the public, including its lengthy entry on the renowned jazz singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Oxford Music Online is the gateway offering users the ability to access and cross-search multiple music reference resources in one location. With Grove Music Online as its cornerstone, Oxford Music Online also contains The Oxford Companion to Music, The Oxford Dictionary of Music, and The Encyclopedia of Popular Music.
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Image credit: Louis Armstrong, jazz trumpeter, 1953. World-Telegram staff photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
There is a certain element of mystery that accompanies each and every librarian preview here in New York City. When the larger publishers gather the librarians to their proverbial bosom, those same librarians walk in with just one question in your mind: How long is this going to take? If you’re lucky you’ll be out by lunchtime. But with Penguin beginning their preview by providing lunch, the day was rendered simply more mysterious. Fortunately the answer to the puzzle lay on our seats. Each librarian was given a 48-page collection of PowerPoint slides for the event. 48 pages! The length of a slightly long picture book. That’s entirely doable! And indeed, for this particular preview I was pleased to discover that we’d only be covering a sampling of the books from each imprint. Bonus!
During the course of the event a photo was taken of the librarians and posted to Twitter that day. See if you can spot me in this shot:
If you said, “Why Betsy is the woman in white imitating a small ocean liner” you would have earned yourself a cookie. There is very little photographic evidence of my pregnancy this second time around. As such, this is one of the very rare shots in existence. Credit due to @VikingChildrens.
But enough of this silliness. Onward to the previews! As per usual I’ll just be reporting on the children’s fare, with the exception of the rare YA novel here and there. And, naturally, we begin with . . .
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
To be slightly more specific, we begin with Lisa Graff. Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff has, as of this blog post, earned itself four starred reviews thus far, unless I am much mistaken. Like all her other books out there, it’s a standalone. There’s something infinitely comforting about authors that aren’t afraid to write standalone novels. Heck, in this era of ubiquitous sequels it’s a downright relief, it is. In Absolutely Almost our main character goes by the name of Albie. He’s a good kid but he thinks of himself as an “almost”. You know. He does a lot of things . . . almost well. So what do you do when you’re just almost everything? Aye. There’s the rub. Set in NYC the book is apparently for fans of Wonder, Rules, Joey Pigza books, and Liar & Spy. An interesting assortment of connections, to say the least!
Chasing the Milky Way by Erin E. Moulton
Next up? A little Moulton. Editor Jill Santopolo called her a “gorgeous under the radar” author. One must assume she is referring to her books, though I’m sure she’s quite cute. In this particular title two sisters try to take care of their mentally ill mom. A common theme this year, what with the near simultaneous release of books like Under the Egg. Lucy the eldest, however, can’t keep everyone safe. Ms. Moulton’s own mother is a social worker and took her daughter along on the job often enough that it made a significant impression. Authors Moulton was compared to included Jerry Spinelli, Katherine Paterson, and Sharon Creech. But no pressure or anything!
Brotherband: Slaves of Socorro by John Flanagan
If your library system is anything like mine then you have a devil of a time figuring out where to catalog John Flanagan. Is he Juv? YA? Well don’t expect the answers to come any easier. Penguin is planning on repackaging the first four books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series as well as the Brotherband books. Speaking of which, in this latest little novel, the Slaves of Socorro, editor Michael Green called it a “crossover episode” of sorts. Characters from the Rangers books and the Brotherband books are now banding together. It’s a fictional literary character supergroup! Expect already existing fans to be pretty stoked over the idea.
The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi
Ah. The first of the true YA novels to be mentioned here today. I might not have even mentioned it except that Jill, its editor, got so existed. “This is THE most important book I’ve ever edited”, said she. Hard to ignore enthusiasm like that. A love story set in the time of the Taliban, the book is by ABC Bureau Chief, Atia Abawi. Raised in Germany and the American south after her mother escaped Afghanistan during the Russian invasion, Ms. Abawi’s book has been getting blurbs from authors (Daphne Benedis-Grab, Trent Reedy, etc.) as well as folks in her own business (Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondant of NBC Andrea Mitchell, for example).
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Now to switch gears as far as those gears will go. Oliver Jeffers is a tricky fellow to judge. I’ve loved some of his stuff (I maintain that Stuck is a modern classic for our times) and loathed others. I think it’s fair to say that Once Upon an Alphabet is going to fall a little more squarely on the love side of the equation. Jeffers tackles the alphabet on his own this time and isn’t afraid to break out the fancy words. Calling this, “Oliver’s magnum opus” the book contains little stories for each storyline. Here’s one example: “C: Cup in the cupboard. Cup lived in the cupboard. It was dark and cold in there when the door was closed. He dreamed of living over by the window so he’d have a clear view. One afternoon he decided to go for it.” I won’t spoil the ending of that one for you. Regardless, think of this as a lighter companion to books like The Gashlycrumb Tinies and the like.
Nancy Paulsen Books
The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall
Then we’re off to the Nancy Paulsen Books side of the equation. And can I tell you how goofy crazy my librarians are about The Baby Tree right now? I tell you, the cover of this book came up onto the screen and there were universal coos from the librarians in attendance. And why not? The whole where-do-babies-come-from niche is still fairly wide open. In this story a boy asks for some straightforward explanations of where babies come from, only to be met with a flurry of ridiculous answers from a variety of elders. It’s a pretty darn good second sibling book for the older set (the 4, 5, and 6-year-olds) out there. Definitely a keeper and one to watch.
Sleepover with Beatrice & Bear by Monica Carnesi
And speaking of keepers covering well-worn topics, let us now discuss hibernation. Or not. Totally up to you. Now you may think every possible hibernation book out there has already been published but that’s just because you didn’t realize that Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear was on the horizon. Carnesi was best known to me as the woman behind that rather lovely early chapter book Little Dog Lost a year or two ago. Nancy Paulsen calls her “our librarian author” so, y’know, right there. Occupational pride. In this story a bear and rabbit are buddies but soon it’s time for the bear to hibernate. Beatrice, the aforementioned bunny, decides she will hibernate too, though she’s not entirely certain what that would entail. As it turns out, bunnies are no good at hibernation but rather than turn this into one of those books where the bear wakes up in the winter and has a spiffing good time (those storylines always bug me for some reason) the solution to Beatrice’s problem is far more charming. Good stuff.
The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
Onward to Putnam and a book that I’m just going to have to read for myself if I’m going to figure it out at all. As you can see, it has one of those non-covers and poetic titles that publishers give books when they’re super excited about their literary award possibilities. And when they start bandying about the phrase “lyrical”, you know something’s up. In very brief terms it’s a girl with a dead mom story. Elaborated upon a bit, the girl in question is ripped from what she knows and is placed with a grandma she never knew well. In time she goes on a treasure hunt, believing that her mother, in whatever form, is behind it in some way. Basically, all she wants is for her mom to be the treasure at the end. Rife with clues, it reminded me of Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur or Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. I’ll give it a go!
Dreamwood by Heather Mackey
This year carnivorous trees are quite hot. We’ve seen four different middle grade novels thus far with trees that have dark desires/appetites, and Dreamwood falls into that category. Don’t write it off as a mere example of hungry wood, though. No no, this one’s supposed to be pretty good. Set during the turn of the century in the Pacific Northwest, a girl’s father goes missing in the forest. So what else can she do but set off with a boy to find her missing father and maybe along the way find a cure for tree blight? One of my librarians who loves fantasy read it and gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up. For my part, I was just grateful that the words “eco-fantasy” were never used when describing it. Oo, I dislike that term!
Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat
I got name checked with this next book, which had me just knocking my brain try to remember the context. Perhaps it was another librarian preview in the recent past? Could have been. In any case, apparently when I saw the version of The Three Little Pigs by duo Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat I wondered out loud for all to hear why no one had ever done the same for Little Red Riding Hood. Enter the answer to my prayers (though I’ve no doubt they had the idea long before I did). Basically, this is the book for you if you ever wanted to see the wolf get the ever-loving-crap kicked out of him by a girl in a red cape.
Oh, and here’s a non-workplace safe fun activity for you: Google Image the term “ninja red riding hood” sometime and see what comes up. I was looking for a copy of the jacket of this book. What I initially found . . . wasn’t that.
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Finally, something light and frothy and VERY New York. I have witnessed firsthand the existence of the foodie child. They exist, often raised by foodie adults, so that they know the difference between flavors and can go so far as to distinguish between them for you. This, however, is not the life our heroine leads. She’s a foodie kid, sure, but her parents are fast food lovers. Still, the kiddo has prodigious talents so she gets hired to review a restaurant professionally. The catch? Her new bosses don’t know that she’s a kid, so she basically has to sneak to NYC and the restaurant in question on her own. Ms. Dairman is a bit of a foodie herself, though alas the book will not include any recipes. Ah well. The sequel is due out in 2015.
Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too by Anna Dewdney
There was a time when I wouldn’t have understood the lure of the Llama Llama Red Pajama world. But have a small child and your view of things changes. Say what you will about Anna Dewdney, the woman scans. Consistently and without fail. You can read a book of hers cold and come out looking like a pro every time. Since Llama Llama is the unofficial poster child of the single mama household, it was only a matter of time before the masses demanded a book along similar lines with but a daddy. Llama Llama’s best friend Nelly Gnu now gets her chance to shine in the sun with this latest title. Daddy Gnu, I should note, is a pretty darn good feller. He takes care of his kiddo and makes dinner to boot. This is hardly a novel idea, but it’s not like we see it in picture books as often as we might. Well played.
Starbird Murphy and the World Outside by Karen Finneyfrock
It’s a toss-up as to what I like more: The title of the book, or the name of the author? On the one hand, “Starbird Murphy” just feels right. On the other hand, who can resist a last name like “Finneyfrock”? The plot of the actual book is nice too. It stars a commune kid who lives entirely off the grid. This world is entirely normal to her, but eventually she must leave normal and travel into the city. Think of it as a girl version of Alabama Moon.
Brave Chicken Little by Robert Byrd
Now here’s a real beauty that deserves some of your time and attention. For the most part, big publishers eschew folk and fairytales. You want the latest version of Snow White and Rose Red? Get thee to a smaller company! But once in a great while a biggie will take a chance. Mind you, after reading this book I don’t think there’s anything the least bit chancey about Robert Byrd’s work. The ultimate cautionary fable gets a leg up in this updated look at the chick that went for the most extreme of explanations. It follows the usual storyline to a point, then diverges and allows the hero to come out triumphant. The moral of the old story was probably something along the lines of “don’t believe everything you hear”. The moral of the new story? “Don’t get eaten. Get even.” [This phrase, by the way, when you Google it appears to be the tagline of a popular Bear Pepper Spray. Just thought you'd like to know.]
Follow Your Heart: Summer Love by Jill Santopolo
One of these days, my children, my prayers will be answered and someone will republish those old Sunfire Romances where the historical girl had to choose between two hunky men. Them’s my youth! Until then, however, we have the next best thing. Something that sounds so obvious when I say it that I’m shocked SHOCKED that no one until now came up with the idea. Meet the Follow Your Heart series by Jill Santopolo (she edits AND writes because she is a Renaissance woman). Basically we’re talking Choose Your Own A Romance here. A girl has to choose between two boys and you help make that choice. I wonder if they’ll allow you to plug your fingers into the pages where you make the choices so that you can backtrack when things don’t start going your way (anyone else do that back in the day?). “The Bachelorette in book form” someone said. There you go.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (50th Anniversary Edition) by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Sweepstakes time. And really, was there ever a book better suited to a sweepstakes than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Because it’s celebrating its 50th anniversary, you’ve probably heard the rumors about the current Golden Ticket Sweepstakes. Well, it’s all pretty standard stuff. Before August 8th kids ages 6 and up can apply for this pretty cool prize. According to the site:
FIVE lucky winners will receive a Golden Ticket trip of a lifetime to New York City that includes:
A VIP experience at Dylan’s Candy Bar
Tickets to Matilda the Musical
A year’s supply of chocolate
A visit to the Empire State building
A library of Roald Dahl books
I love that they get to work in Dylan’s Candy Bar for a day. But how does one determine what a “year’s supply of chocolate” really consists of, I wonder. Hm.
In other Dahlian news, copies of Charlie are about to be published with golden tickets in the back of the paperbacks. Aw. There was also some mention made of the Miss Honey Social Justice Award which, “recognizes collaboration between school librarians and teachers in the instruction of social justice using school library resources.” Awesome. In my own life, I recently finished reading Danny, the Champion of the World for the first time in my life. I’m feeling pretty good about filling that gap in my knowledge now.
Grosset & Dunlap
The Whodunit Detective Agency: The Diamond Mystery by Martin Widmark, illustrated by Helena Willis
A good early chapter book is hard to find. And a good early chapter book from Sweden? Much easier to find now that Martin Widmark is being brought over to the States in book form. As a librarian of my acquaintance put it recently, this book apparently contains “A snappy little narrative that will have young readers saying, ‘I know who did it!’ right out loud.” Little wonder since the original books sold two million copies worldwide and the author is sometimes referred to as the “Children’s Agatha Christie”. Are you curious yet?
Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George
There are some authors that pass away and their posthumous novels go on and on and on until you begin to doubt that they ever died in the first place. Tupac Syndrome would be a good description of this. It tends to hit children’s authors quite often (see: Eva Ibbotson, Diana Wynne Jones, etc.) and was even mocked in a rather brilliant College Humor piece called I Think They’re Running Out of Material for New Shel Silverstein Books back in 2011. All that aside, we were assured that this final Jean Craighead George novel really will be her last. Two of her children finished it and I like that it has a kind of a Heart of a Samurai book jacket going on. Set in Northern Alaska (the same location as Julie of the Wolves, for the record) the book follows an Inuit boy who learns to bond with a whale. From the description it sounded like it would pair particularly well with Rosanne Parry’s Written in Stone from last year. And as Travis Jonker pointed out in his recent post 2014: The Year of the Whale, this book is just a drop in the ocean of a much larger trend.
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
Speaking of whales, here’s a book that gives them some full credit. I was so blown away by this title when I first read it that I immediately had to rush out and review it without considering how long it would be before it actually reached publication. Really, this is the book of the year for me. If you read no other picture book, read this one. It’s a stunner in the purest sense of the word. Really remarkable.
Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Raul Colon
And finally, a book that I would like right now please. Please. Right now. What’s that you say? It’s not coming out until August?! Well who made up THAT crazy rule? Look, I don’t care when it’s coming out, I would like to see this book in my lap pronto. I mean, first of all, it’s art by Raul Colon. I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention but the man’s been on fire this year. Have you seen his work on Baseball Is . . . by Louise Borden? Or how about the pictures in Abuelo by Arthur Dorros? Now we have 24 of his portraits in, what Penguin described as, “tawny golden tones”. Penned by 2012 California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, it covers the well known folks and the lesser know folks in equal degrees. Admit it. You haven’t seen anything like this before that came close to this level of quality. It’s going to be for the middle grade crowd too, so bonus!
And that, as they say, is that. There were plenty of other YA titles mentioned and even a guest or too, but I’ll quite while I’m ahead. Thanks to Penguin for the preview. Thanks to all of you for reading!